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Challenges for females with high functioning autism in the workplace: a systematic review

journal contribution
posted on 2018-01-01, 00:00 authored by Susan Hayward, K R McVilly, Mark StokesMark Stokes
PURPOSE: Individuals with High Functioning Autism (HFA) experience high levels of underemployment and unemployment, resulting in negative economic, social, and health outcomes. Given what is known about labor market participation difficulties experienced by women generally, and the paucity of research concerning women with HFA, this systematic review synthesized what is known about the labor market experiences of women with HFA. METHOD: A systematic review of the literature concerning adult females with HFA in relation to the workplace yielded 1947 results; 11 met inclusion criteria being based on original data, but not necessarily focusing solely on women. RESULTS: The total number participants with HFA across all studies was 731 (M = 66.45, SD = 95.44, Mdn = 18.00) aged between 18 and 70 years (M = 34.38, SD = 7.71); females represented 38% (n = 279) of those sampled. The principal challenges reported for individuals with HFA at work were communication, social interaction, and stress, together with negative mental and physical health. CONCLUSION: These results should be interpreted with caution. Of the studies found, 73% were qualitative and based on small samples. Only one paper differentiated female data in analyses. These factors combined suggest large-scale mixed method research focused on females with HFA is required to gain an accurate insight into the challenges faced in the workplace, to in turn inform intervention and support. However, implications for rehabilitation based on what is known are discussed. Implication for Rehabilitation Unemployment and underemployment of persons with High Functioning Autism (HFA) poses social, health and economic issues for both individuals and the wider community. Those with HFA have the intellectual capacity to make a substantial contribution to the workplace. Based on what is known, some of the challenges for females with HFA might be similar to those experienced by men with HFA, however it is possible that there are gender-based differences (in both type and severity of challenges) that require attention.



Disability and rehabiliation






249 - 258


Taylor & Francis


London, Eng.





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

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