Gender matters in career exploration and job-seeking among adults with autism spectrum disorder: evidence from an online community
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Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the role of gender in career exploration and job-seeking experiences among adults with autism.Methods: The study drew on qualitative content analysis of 714 randomly sampled posts (357 by women and 357 by men) from an online autism forum. The stages of considering work: contemplation, preparation, and action informed the analysis.Results: The analysis showed several similarities and some differences. In the initial stage of deciding whether or not to seek employment, low self-esteem, rejecting paid employment as a life goal, fear of losing disability benefits and parental overprotection influenced both genders. Gender role and family responsibilities further constrained women. In the stage of defining career goals, common issues included the need for autism-tailored career-matching tools and sector-specific guidance, and lack of self-employment support. Women were further limited by assumptions about stereotypical jobs to which they should aspire. In the job search stage, overly specific job descriptions, a lack of social networks, and transportation barriers influenced both genders. While women talked more frequently about unfavorable experiences in employment support services, men recounted more difficulties with job applications and interviews.Conclusion: Gender-sensitive vocational approaches are needed to assist adults with autism throughout the career decision-making process.Implications for rehabilitationVocational psychologists, clinicians, and policymakers should help to overcome the psychological, social, and financial reasons that may lead adults with autism to decide not to pursue paid work.To assist in setting career goals, vocational specialists need to be aware of the challenges facing adults with autism across various employment sectors and provide them with tailored career-matching tests and tools.Vocational rehabilitation specialists and educators should encourage women with autism into non-traditional areas of employment.Vocational rehabilitation services should empower both males and females with autism by encouraging negotiation and self-advocacy, promoting autism-focused programs, and reducing paperwork and processing time.Vocational rehabilitation specialists should tailor their practice to the gender-specific needs of adults with autism throughout their career decision-making process.
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