Raising the bar on inclusive employment

Prof. Charmine Hartel

Raising the bar on inclusive employment

By challenging privilege, Professor Charmine Hartel is helping find sustainable employment solutions for the unfairly marginalised.

Having lived experience of being atypical, Professor Hartel knows only too well the psychological trauma of bias and unfairness.

But the Associate Dean of Research Impact and Director of the Opportunity Tech Lab says she finds inspiration from her upbringing.

“I grew up in a community that was truly inclusive … so I know that a healthy, positive community is possible,” she says.

“It’s a basic human need and right to live an authentic and dignified life, to feel belonging, where an ethic of care is observed.

“I speak out against unfairness and unkindness, and promote the voice and advancement of people who are unfairly marginalised or excluded.”

This includes working with research students from disadvantaged groups and on topics that promote equity and inclusion, as well as mentoring employees who are unjustly maligned or disadvantaged.

“My autism employment research stream aims to address the high rate of unemployment for autistic adults, which currently is the highest of any subgroup,” Prof Hartel says.

With her co-investigator, the Distinguished Professor of Inclusive Leadership and Entrepreneurship has conducted the first global study to examine the most effective practices for the sustainable employment of autistic adults.

"This leads to systems and practices that perpetuate the advantages of the most privileged in society."

The comprehensive survey targeted autistic adults and other relevant stakeholders to create a 360-degree perspective of the most effective practices of, and hidden challenges in, inclusive employment.

By studying sub-populations rarely considered in current employment research, Professor Hartel hopes to identify new practices that improve inclusiveness.

“Much of the evidence base on employment and entrepreneurship is based on samples that are dominated by the most privileged in society, whether that be gender, neurodiversity, sexual orientation, culture, education, occupation, social class and the like,” she says.

“This leads to systems and practices that perpetuate the advantages of the most privileged in society, and makes invisible and un(der)valued those who are atypical.”

In addition to her academic research partners, industry and governments in Australia and overseas have been key collaborators.

The work has featured in SBS' diversity training program, included in the 2021 strategy submission to the Australian Government Department of Social Services for the National Disability Employment Strategy consultation paper, and Autism Spectrum News, an online media outlet in the US with 200,000 readers.

Prof Hartel is the recipient of this year’s Dean's Award for Equity, Diversity and Social Inclusion Research Excellence.

“I am grateful for every opportunity I get to share research findings that raise awareness and promote practices that support inclusion and recognise the wonderful diversity of the human species,” she says.