Freddie Mac partnered with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) in 2012 to create an Autism Internship Program designed to match our business needs with the unique capabilities of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), an umbrella term for a group of disorders impacting communication, behaviors and social interaction. The program allowed us to reach into a largely untapped source of talent – young adults with ASD who have college degrees in fields such as computer science, mathematics and finance.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 59 children lives with ASD. Individuals with ASD may communicate, interact, behave and learn in ways that are different from others. As a result, most adults with ASD lack advocacy and support, and are unemployed or underemployed. In fact, according to advocacy organization Autism Speaks, nearly half of 25-year-olds with ASD have never held a paying job.
Freddie Mac works with a network of organizations to identify these talented candidates, place selected candidates in roles that help them realize their potential and allow them to positively impact the business, and train managers to aid with the interns' adjustment to corporate life.
Creating an environment where people can contribute at their fullest potential is what makes Freddie Mac's program innovative and successful. The program began in May 2012 with four summer interns who participated in different roles throughout the company and received support from ASAN and our Office of Inclusive Engagement throughout their internships. Since that first class, Freddie Mac has engaged nearly 20 individuals with ASD, and the majority of those who converted into full-time roles still work at the company today.
Freddie Mac’s neurodiversity efforts have evolved through the years and the company is using its learnings to expand its efforts further. For 2020, the program has been rebranded to Neurodiversity at Work and is being operationalized full time as well as expanded to be inclusive of forms of neurodiversity beyond ASD, such as dyslexia. Freddie Mac is committed to fostering a stigma-free, inclusive culture to support neurodiverse individuals in building their careers.
"I was out of college for nearly four years and still had little to show for my education. I just wish that more companies would open up to the idea that having autistic employees isn't a liability. It can be quite an asset. Anyone out there with autism who thinks they don't have hope anymore or thinks they don't have a chance in the workplace they should reconsider and know that it's been done."
Aaron, application services
"I've definitely come to enjoy being at the computer and doing the various types of work. Doing something repetitively has always been kind of rhythmic to me. A lot of the things I do … require you to pay very close attention to what you're going through. You have to make sure you're catching every detail. Because of my autism, I kind of have an advantage in that."
Bertram, business process associate
"My experience coming through the Freddie Mac Autism Internship Program was great. I really enjoyed getting to meet my manager and co-workers before I started. It also really helped that I got to see where I would be working before moving down to the D.C. area."
Kristen, loan processing senior
"Before I came to Freddie Mac, I had struggled to find employment due to my autism in spite of being a highly qualified entry-level candidate. Freddie Mac recognized everything I had to bring to the table, and that autism was a difference, not a detriment. I was able to prove my worth as an intern and became full-time after only a few months. I am grateful to Freddie Mac for seeing past my disability and giving me this opportunity."
Greg, quantitative analytics associate