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A few weeks ago, when SAP announced that we would work with Specialisterne to employ people with autism, we were deluged with requests from the media, individuals, and other groups that wanted to know more. While we expected this announcement to resonate with a lot of people, we never anticipated such intense interest from around the world. We are moved by the outpouring of enthusiasm for an idea that springs from our commitment to value diversity and welcome a broad range of talents at SAP. Our philosophy centers on creating an inclusive culture that views people, first and foremost, in terms of their potential to contribute.

Most people who contacted us wanted to know more about SAP’s future hiring of people with autism and our plans for our partnership with Specialisterne. We’re excited to get to the next step, too, but are working to balance a sense of urgency with the need to ensure that we manage our efforts effectively. We realize that it takes more than hiring to deliver on the broader promise of this program around improving the lives of people with autism: Over time we’re also thinking about how we can become a facilitator for conversation and change, helping a bigger community than SAP share ideas, make a difference, and help change minds and prejudices.

Although our efforts are still in the early stage, we have already learned a lot from the small and successful pilot that we ran in India. We are currently rolling out a similar pilot in Ireland and plan other pilots this year in Canada, the United States and Germany. We will provide updates and additional information as we move from the planning stage into implementation. Updates will be available in the coming weeks in the Diversity area of our Web site (http://www.sap.com/diversity), and on the Specialisterne Web site  We also have a mailbox for questions about this initiative:  sap-enquiries@specialisterne.com.

Hiring people with autism fits naturally with our other diversity efforts, from supporting the advancement of women to creating an “It Gets Better” video featuring SAP employees sharing their experiences with LGBT youth. We hear a deeper message in the enormous interest we are experiencing, and it’s something we know to be true: that great value is created — for both others and SAP –when we have an open and diverse community. A diverse and inclusive culture helps us better understand our customers and find innovative solutions to the challenges facing them and society as a whole.

By focusing on people’s strengths instead of their differences, we believe we are in an even stronger position to fulfill our mission to help the world run better and improve people’s lives.  Few developments could signal that we are on the right path more strongly than the response we have received in recent weeks. We want to thank everyone for their interest and invite you to stay tuned in coming months for more about how you can get involved and help us expand the SAP community.

Let me leave you on a personal note: If I’ve learned anything over the last few weeks, it is that we really do have the opportunity to empower people with this initiative and have a positive impact on their lives. The amazing personal response we have received has touched me deeply, as well as many others at SAP, because we can feel so clearly how a large company like ours can affect individuals. We see these efforts as not just a great opportunity for people in the community, but for us. I am grateful to be part of this story.

Anka Wittenberg (on behalf of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Team)

Related Media:

VIDEO: SAP Is Hiring Hundreds of Autistic Workers” in SAP Business Trends

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  1. Moya Watson

    Anka,

    Great follow-up – thanks so much.

    Really appreciate the shout-out to It Gets Better too — one big reason that message resonated was because being LGBT is just one of the many ways you can be different, and our differences are what makes us a success — but often we need the right support.  It’s so heartwarming to see SAP’s strides forward in this area to help people who are seen as ‘different’ because of autism turn their differences into strengths — which helps us all in the end.

    > it is that we really do have the opportunity to empower people with this initiative and have a positive impact on their lives.

    Thank you for doing just that!

    best,

    -m

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  2. Marilyn Pratt

    Love the idea of focusing on people’s strengths (rather than just differences).  When I participated in a course last year (sponsored by Global Inclusion and Diversity) around Gender Intelligence, it was clear that all genders can benefit from maximizing those strengths.  There was some great focus on the differences (and strengths) in communication styles, ability to handle stress, brain composition. (see example below in video).  We learned that there is 15% more blood flow in the female brain than in the male brain with a strength (or is it weakness?) being that a resting female brain was shown more active than an active male brain.

    [embed width="425" height="350"]https://www.youtube.com/embed/j9Z-xOcJT2c[/embed]

    Interestingly, Sheryl Sandberg also speaks a good deal about maximizing strengths in “Lean In” which I am reading with much interest thanks to Paula Rosenblum who pointed me to why I might enjoy and need to read it. (a great read for all genders).

    Looking not only at multigender, multicultural, multiability but also multigenerational strengths is something I pray we do more of in SAP.  Especially as I myself grow older ….and see a larger and larger age gap between me and my youngest colleagues here in SAP.  I believe both sides of the age equation can learn and mentor each other.  That’s something I’d like to see more focus on in SAP and outside of it. Reverse mentoring and acknowledgment of the strengths of multi-generations.

    Thanks!

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