The Labour Market Experience of Women with High Autistic Traits

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 12:00 PM-1:40 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
S. M. Hayward1, M. A. Stokes2 and K. R. McVilly1, (1)The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, (2)School of Psychology, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia

Unemployment and underemployment are asserted as issues adversely affecting the economic, health, and social circumstances of women, and in particular individuals with High Autistic Traits (HATs; including those with Asperger’s or high functioning Autism). However, little research has been published regarding the labour market experiences of women with HATs.


To compare the labour market experiences of women with HATs to women with low autistic traits (LATs) and men with HATs.


An anonymous online survey targeting women with Autism was conducted. Qualitative data was analysed using thematic analysis with an inductive process. Subsequent categories, as well as quantitative data, was analysed using chi square.


Ninety-nine women aged 18 to 62 years responded to the questionnaire: 69 with HATs aged 18 to 60 years (M=35.51, SD=10.08), and 30 with LATs aged 19 to 62 years (M=38.10, SD=10.09). Also, 53 men aged 20 to 68 years responded: 31 with HATs aged 20 to 68 years (M=44.50, SD=12.76), and 22 with LATs aged 23 to 61 years (M=38.64, SD=8.99).

It was found that women with HATs, compared to women with LATs, reported greater instances of negative employment histories (χ²(1)=16.40, p<.001, ϕ=.41) and frequent and/or being “stuck” in underemployment situations (χ²(1)=8.66, p=.003, ϕ=.40). Further, among both women and men, compared to those with LATs, those with HATs were more likely to report difficulties maintaining employment (women, χ²(1)=4.82, p=.028, ϕ=.22; men, χ²(1)=7.94, p=.005, ϕ=.39) and were less likely to describe their employment history as stable (women, χ²(1)=9.40, p=.002, ϕ=.31; men; χ²(1)=14.35, p<.001, ϕ=.52).

Notably, there was a significant difference between women with HATs compared to men with HATs regarding entry into the labour market. In addition, men with HATs reported barriers that were not significant for their female counterparts.


Both autistic traits and sex may influence labour market prospects and workplace experiences. Therefore, support for adults with HATs, including the provision of reasonable adjustment in the workplace, need to take into account both an individual’s level of autistic traits and their sex.