Pride and Belonging: LGBTQIA+ Inclusion and Neurodiversity at Work

The LGBTQIA+ pride flag side by side with a rainbow infinity symbol representing neurodiversity.

By Louise Stone

June is Pride Month, a time to uplift and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. Pride takes place in June to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, which marked a turning point in the fight for LGBTQIA+ civil rights. Another more recent observance that takes place in June is Autistic Pride Day on June 18. At auticon, a company where the majority of our employees are autistic and many are LGBTQIA+, we celebrate both Pride Month and Autistic Pride Day. We also recognize how important it is for companies to prioritize both LGBTQIA+ inclusion and neuroinclusion in order to be truly welcoming and inclusive. 

Prevalence of LGBTQIA+ Identities in the Autistic Community

Research has found that autistic people are significantly more likely than non-autistic people to identify as non-heterosexualexperience gender dysphoria, and be transgender. This is reflected in our team as well, where 77% of employees are autistic. For comparison, Gallup reported in 2023 that 7% of Americans identify as LGBTQIA+. On our team, 36% identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual/pansexual, asexual, or queer; 7% identify as transgender, and 5% identify as non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, or intersex. This shows us that in order to create a truly autism-friendly workplace, it’s essential to be truly LGBTQIA+ inclusive as well—and vice versa. 

As we talked about in a previous blog on myths about neurodiversity, media portrayals often spread the stereotype that autistic people are all straight white men. But autistic people are extremely diverse group in general, cutting across every age, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, and more. That’s why it’s so important to take an intersectional approach to inclusion at work that considers the overlap of autism/neurodivergence and other identities. 

The Importance of Belonging & Authenticity at Work

Creating a workplace where employees feel accepted and can be their authentic selves is crucial for fostering a positive and productive work environment. According to APA’s 2023 Work in America workforce survey, 94% of respondents said belonging in the workplace is somewhat or very important to them. However, another study by WebMD found that 65% of LGBTQ employees reported their companies needed to do a better job of fostering belonging. 

Additional studies have shown that a sense of belonging in the workplace can lead to numerous benefits:

  • Increased Engagement: A global study of nearly 12,000 employees found that a sense of belonging was the strongest driver of employee engagement. Higher engagement, in turn, leads to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover
  • Enhanced Performance: When employees can focus on their work rather than masking their true selves or worrying about discrimination, that has a positive effect on their productivity and overall work performance. Employees who feel a strong sense of belonging at work demonstrate a 56% increase in performance compared to those with a low sense of belonging.  
  • Better Mental Health: Feeling accepted and able to be oneself at work can significantly reduce stress and anxiety. BetterUp found that a strong sense of belonging can lead to a 75% reduction in sick days and overall improvement in mental well-being.

At auticon, our internal employee surveys show the positive impacts of a neuroinclusive environment. Among our autistic employees, 84% say they feel valued for who they are and 78% report improved well-being. In addition, 77% say they can be their authentic selves at work—compared to only 44% of autistic employees in general. These findings underscore the importance of fostering a culture where everyone can bring their whole selves to work every day.

What True Inclusion Looks Like for LGBTQIA+ and Autistic Employees

For both LGBTQIA+ people and autistic people, this theme of being our authentic selves at work and feeling a sense of belonging is extremely important. One major component of authenticity and belonging is feeling empowered to be open about who we are. According to the Human Rights Campaign’s LGBTQ+ Workplace Climate Survey, 46% of LGBTQ+ workers are closeted at work. And according to a global survey commissioned by auticon, only 30% of autistic workers have disclosed to HR. 

For both groups, coming out/disclosing doesn’t always feel like an option. This could be for fear of being stereotyped, misjudged, harassed, ostracized socially, discriminated against, or even fired. This is why it’s especially crucial for workplaces to take steps to ensure they are being truly inclusive and supportive of both LGBTQIA+ and autistic employees. 

An LGBTQIA+ inclusive workplace is one where employees feel able to: 

  • Be out and speak openly about their spouses and partners of any gender, as well as any participation in LGBTQIA+ community organizations and activities, without negative social or professional repercussions. 
  • Trust that their preferred name and pronouns will be used without question, including if they differ from what’s on their legal documents, and including if they change at any time. 
  • Dress, wear their hair, and speak in a way that feels authentic to them, without having to hide or “tone it down” for fear of judgment and discrimination.  
  • Feel that the company’s commitment to LGBTQIA+ inclusion is real, and not something hollow they only bring up in June for the optics.
  • Bring their whole, authentic selves to work. 

Similarly, an autism-inclusive workplace is one where employees can: 

  • Be open about being autistic without negative social or professional repercussions.  
  • Receive the needed accommodations and supports to help them thrive in their roles. 
  • Communicate in a way that is authentic to them without being perceived as less professional. This could include not making eye contact, speaking in a flat tone, preferring to remain off-camera in video calls, or preferring written over verbal communication. 
  • Share openly about their interests, talents, and passions outside of work.
  • Celebrate autistic strengths in addition to acknowledging challenges.  
  • Bring their whole, authentic selves to work. 

Advice and next steps for companies

To truly foster inclusion and belonging for LGBTQIA+ and neurodivergent employees, companies need to go beyond surface-level gestures like changing their logos for Pride Month or Autism Awareness Month. Make it clear through actions and policies that your company values inclusion year-round, not just during designated months. It’s about sustained commitment and genuine allyship.

One important step is to ensure representation: are LGBTQIA+ and neurodivergent employees in leadership positions at the company? Representation at the top can significantly impact workplace culture and policies. It’s also essential to create an environment where employees feel safe disclosing their identities, whether they’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community, neurodivergent, or both. This requires building trust and showing consistent support.

Another action companies can take is to establish and actively support Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). These groups can provide vital peer support and advocacy within the company. 

By embedding these practices into your company culture, you signal to current and potential employees that your commitment to inclusion is genuine and lasting.

Creating an inclusive workplace requires continuous effort and genuine commitment beyond symbolic gestures. Companies that prioritize both LGBTQIA+ inclusion and neuroinclusion not only support their employees but also drive innovation, collaboration, and success. As we celebrate Pride Month and Autistic Pride Day, let’s commit to fostering a culture of belonging year-round, ensuring that every individual feels valued and empowered to thrive. Together, we can build truly inclusive and supportive environments for all.

About the Author

Louise Stone leads recruitment and neuroinclusion services for auticon US. Since joining auticon in 2020, she has been at the helm of the company’s autism-friendly recruitment process and led the development of a “ready to work” community of autistic job seekers. Louise is autistic and frequently writes and speaks on autism and employment issues from both her personal and professional experience.

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