International Men’s Day is a time to focus on male health issues, improve gender relations, promote gender equality and highlight positive male role models. Yet while we celebrate men’s achievements, let’s not lose sight of the discrimination faced by many individuals.
Here we meet an inspirational man who has beaten discrimination to become one of our biggest success stories.
Arran, a senior consultant in our Construction division, was diagnosed with autism four years ago. Initially Arran, 60, found the diagnosis hard to accept – but then many of his previous workplace problems started to make sense.
He explains: “During my working life I have had various jobs and found some a challenge. In fact I have been made redundant four times, been encouraged by employers to leave and on two occasions had to change career.
“So I was not discouraged by my autism diagnosis; I viewed it as an opportunity! Even though my family tried to dissuade me, I shared the news with Interserve colleagues and was met with great understanding.”
A different view
With the news out, Arran realised the value of his own unique perspective. He could spot problems and devise solutions that were not even being considered by his colleagues. By embracing his autism, Arran and his team went from strength to strength in their working relationship.
With his confidence at an all-time high, Arran began researching the condition and found that only 16 per cent of those with autism are in full-time employment. He was inspired to make a compelling business case for the value that autistic people can bring to a company.
“While I’m now in a good position and feel respected for who I am, what I am and the way I think, I know that many autistic people aren’t so lucky − they’re struggling to find work or to stay in work. There’s so much wasted talent.” Arran said.
“That’s why I want to help employers understand the diversity of the autism spectrum and the huge benefits autistic people can bring to the workplace through diverse thinking”.
With so much wasted talent out there, Arran feels a duty to open the door to the next generation of autistic people, which will make businesses stronger and more competitive.
Spreading the word
Arran works closely with The National Autistic Society (NAS), sharing his experiences in the media and has joined the charity’s National Forum. He has also been active at work, becoming an Interserve diversity champion, supporting employee awareness training and helping to develop work placements for autistic people. He has also taken his crusade to a national forum, speaking at the Construction Summit to an audience of industry leaders.
As part of his work with the NAS, Arran spoke at the Parliamentary launch of an employment campaign, encouraging businesses to build more diverse workforces.
Mark Lever, NAS chief executive, said: “With a little understanding and small adjustments to the workplace, as Arran’s time at Interserve shows, autistic people can be a real asset to businesses across the UK.”
Arran and the NAS are encouraged that they are making progress towards ensuring that the workplace of tomorrow is a more inclusive environment.
If you would like to find out more about autism or help close the autism employment gap, please visit: www.autism.org.uk/TMI
Watch a short film on the barriers autistic people can face in the workplace.