Oracle Diversity and Inclusion Champion Jon Ford has been a lifelong diversity advocate. He connected with his wife over a shared passion for equality, and they’ve worked together to fight racism, build gender equality, and ensure inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community for years.
However, the importance of supporting neurodiversity really emerged through their eldest son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. Jon is channelling his passion and experience through the launch of the Oracle UK’s Neurodiversity Network.
Life with Asperger’s
As Jon explains, neurodiversity refers to how “people’s brains are wired differently,” and aims at bringing more widespread appreciation and acceptance of these differences. He sees this through his own son, but recognizes that having a neurodiverse—autistic—family member can be a challenging experience. “It hasn’t always been easy—it still isn’t—but in many ways, we’ve treated it as part of who he is, as part of his character,” Jon shares.
Jon’s son is currently in the middle of a PhD thesis in human rights law, but his negative experiences in trying to find work led Jon to wonder about how inclusive Oracle is as an employer in this area. “In the UK, it’s estimated that about 1% of the population is autistic; when you include other types of neurodiversity, such as dyslexia and ADHD, that figure rises to 10%,” he adds. It made him realize how many other people may be struggling with career opportunities, especially when you scale the numbers globally.
An untapped talent pool
Increasing evidence and media articles show how neurodiverse people can bring new ways of approaching problems with deep thinking, creativity, and true innovation, challenging the status quo. There are famous, historical change-makers who were probably neurodiverse, and it is exactly what modern business needs.
Yet, most organizations employ recruitment and performance review processes geared towards neurotypical people—the 90%. “So, you can see this as an untapped talent pool,” Jon says. “As a result, many organizations are now actively recruiting neurodiverse people to get access to their unique skills and abilities. I want Oracle to be a part of this, hence creating the Oracle Neurodiversity Network in the UK.”
Going beyond neurodiversity
To get help and guidance in planning its strategy, the Oracle Neurodiversity Network joined the Business Disability Forum (BDF), a not-for-profit membership organization that makes it easier and more rewarding to do business with and employ disabled people. Ultimately, their aim is to transform the life chances, and experience, of disabled people as employees and consumers. “Our objective for working with the BDF is to obtain formal accreditation for Oracle UK as an inclusive employer; this may extend beyond neurodiversity to all types of disability,” Jon explains.
From the UK to the world
It honours Jon to pioneer neurodiversity in Oracle UK, and to connect with people across the company to further efforts, whether it is developing formal programmes, advising on workplace accommodations, or just helping adjust cultural acceptance. “I see that teams actively support and celebrate diversity here; I think part of that is the age span we have in our staff—for younger colleagues, diversity and inclusion are natural,” Jon says. “I hope that around Oracle, individuals become inspired to start thinking about inclusion for neurodiversity in their location.”
Jon leaves us with one final quote, which captures why he thinks neurodiversity is important: “What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool? You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.” – Dr. Temple Grandin
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