Making the Business Case for Hiring Autistic Workers

By Susan Ladika

Jul. 16, 2012

If a company wants to make a push to hire autistic workers, it often takes someone in management championing the cause.

At the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association and College Retirement Equities Fund, or TIAA-CREF, it was Heather Davis, senior managing director and head of global private markets for the financial services organization based in New York.

In Davis’ case, her passion was driven by her personal experience as the mother of a son, 12, with the developmental disorder.

By having a child with autism, Davis was well aware of the strengths of such people, such as an impressive ability to concentrate, loyalty and dedication.

She first did due diligence for nearly a year, visiting various companies and organizations that have hired autistic workers, and consulted with Temple Grandin, a renowned professor of animal science at Colorado State University who is autistic and was the subject of an eponymous award-winning HBO film.

“It’s a daunting task. You really have to want it,” Davis says.

She then had to present her idea and findings to the company’s investment committee, and explain why it was worth TIAA-CREF’s while to invest its time and money hiring those with autism. “Without an economic benefit, you wouldn’t do it.”

The economic benefit would come in the form of a reliable workforce. Still, there was silence after Davis made her presentation.

“You could have heard a pin drop for the longest time. No one wanted to say ‘no.’ They didn’t know what to say.” Finally one committee member suggested they do it as a social investment—doing it to benefit society, while aiming to make money.

“This would not be the method you choose unless it makes economic sense,” she says. “We had motivation. We had a workforce we wanted to replace.”

Susan Ladika is a writer based in Tampa, Florida. Comment below or email

Susan Ladika is a writer based in Tampa, Florida.

What’s New at

blog workforce

Come see what we’re building in the world of predictive employee scheduling, superior labor insights and next-gen employee apps. We’re on a mission to automate workforce management for hourly employees and bring productivity, optimization and engagement to the frontline.

Book a call
See the software

Related Articles

workforce blog


Slow rehiring of child care workers may stymie employers’ return to workplace plans

For parents of young children, a full return to the workforce means having to find quality, affordable ...

child care, compensation, COVID-19, employee engagement, hiring, human resources

workforce blog


Jushi Holdings builds its workforce in the cannabis industry despite pandemic

A broad assortment of talent is finding a new home at Jushi Holdings and in a cannabis industry burning...

cannabis industry, hiring, Jushi Holdings Inc., pandemic, Safety, training

workforce blog


Regulating recruiting amid constant technological innovations

As the competition for talent rages, complex recruiting systems using AI face compliance questions of t...

artificial intelligence, bias, business ethics, data privacy, HR Tech, talent acquisition, tech ethics