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Opportunity Miami

Building a Neurodiverse Workforce for Miami

This is the August 23, 2022 edition of the Opportunity Miami newsletter written by Matt Haggman, which we send every Tuesday. Click here to subscribe to get our weekly updates in your inbox.

Featured Content

Q&A with Commissioner Raquel A. Regalado
How the neurodiverse can help shape Miami’s economic future, starting in tech and hospitality

Podcast with Ian Harris of BlocPower
Decarbonizing American cities, one building at a time
Listen or watch on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube.

Diversity is our great differentiator across Miami.

But it’s not only about gender, race, or ethnicity. It’s about neurodiversity too.

Increasingly, employers are seeing the untapped potential of our vast neurodiverse community of workers — namely, people with autism and other related challenges. To give an idea of the potential number of people, the prevalence of autism today is one in 44 children.

Large tech companies are finding that employees with autism can be exceptionally high performers in software development, animation, and data analytics. It has prompted a whole rethink in terms of how we approach diversity in the workplace and how, for instance, human resource departments interview, hire, and onboard neurodiverse workers. J.P. Morgan, Microsoft, and SAP, among others, have programs to do this.

To be clear, this is not new.

Five years ago, Harvard Business Review published an article, “Neurodiversity as a Competitive Advantage.” A former partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins has launched a fund called Divergent Capital, focused on investing in neurodiversity-focused startups. Accelerators, such as Multiple Accelerator, have been established to stir more company creation in the space. Schools such as Exceptional Minds have emerged to enable artists with autism to launch careers in animation and the digital arts. The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, under Dr. Michael Alessandri, has been leading the charge here in Miami.

But, increasingly, there is the sense that neurodivergence needs to be more central to the conversation as we talk about building a uniquely diverse, highly skilled workforce across Greater Miami.

“Neurodiversity presents a huge opening for leaders to bring in unique talent with different skill sets to ultimately drive progress in the tech industry and beyond,” it was asserted in TechCrunch late last year. “And unless we’re tapping into this pool of talent, companies are missing out.”

With that in mind, for our latest Q&A, we sat down with Miami-Dade County Commissioner Raquel Regalado. She has two autistic children and has launched efforts to focus attention not just on autism during childhood but during adulthood and a person’s working and professional life.

Commissioner Regalado said at a time when there is such a focus on equity and inclusion, “I would like folks to consider intellectual diversity and what neurodivergent children and adults bring to our community and bring to our workforce, just like all other forms of diversity.”

As we think about Miami’s economic future, a full embrace of neurodivergence in the workplace is another meaningful way for Miami to differentiate itself and make good on the promise of building a uniquely diverse, skilled workforce.

“I want to make Miami-Dade County the center of this movement,” Commissioner Regalado said, “so that we can prove the concept and show people that this can actually be done, how we can do it, and how other communities can emulate the work that we’re doing here.”

Commissioner Regalado formerly served on the Miami-Dade County School Board and is a current board member of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council.

Read the Q&A here.

Read Now: How the neurodiverse can help shape Miami’s economic future, starting in tech and hospitality ▶

As always, we want to hear from you. We would love to hear your ideas on people, organizations, and trends that are pivotal to Miami’s economic future that we should be highlighting. You can email us at next@opportunity.miami or engage with us on social media and find us at opportunity.miami. Please invite friends to subscribe to the newsletter here.

Hope to see you.

Matt Haggman
Opportunity Miami



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