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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)

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