Neurodiversity Awareness: A Women’s History Month Conversation with Sam Martin

In honor of Women’s History Month, BroadFutures interviewed  Samantha “Sam” Martin, a guest on our 2023 Intern Lived Experience Panel. Sam is a driven and passionate self-advocate and young professional who will be graduating from Gettysburg College this spring with a degree in Political Science, Public Policy, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is looking forward to starting her Political Science Ph.D. program at Syracuse University in the Fall. Sam interned at the National Women’s Political Caucus and Public Religion Research Institute here in DC.

Sam reflected on her experiences as a neurodivergent woman in the workplace in an insightful conversation with BroadFutures. Read some of the highlights from their conversation below.

BroadFutures (BF) : This year BroadFutures is focusing on uplifting and supporting the many diverse voices within our community. Could you share more about what that means to you and what community looks like from your perspective?

Sam Martin (SM): [Community] is something that is very important to me. Something I’ve realized about community is that it can be really hard to find when you have autism, especially in these formalized settings like in school and in the workplace. 

I’ve struggled a lot with [finding community] historically; I struggled all throughout high school [but] when I got to college there was a really big change in that regard. I started meeting people that I had more in common with and I was able to grow a network beyond what I could ever imagine.

BF: You mentioned the power of community when you were finding it on your own through college; can you talk more about your experience finding community in the workplace? 

SM: When I got to DC I worked a number of internships that really helped me build my professional network. [During] my internship with the Public Religion Research Institute [I met] another neurodiverse person in my workplace. Meeting someone with those same neurodiverse traits [as me] who was interested in the same thing I was was so important. It’s been really special finding people, especially other neurodiverse people.

That’s something that I’ve really noticed about BroadFutures and that I really appreciate. The ability to create this neurodiverse network of people who are interested in politics, hospitality, and human social services fields and creating this network of people from across the country [is] such an important thing because connecting with other neurodiverse adults is really hard […] because there aren’t many formal resources. It’s important to build those kinds of networks regardless, but especially among women and non binary people. 

BF: You shared that in the past year you interned at the National Women’s Political Caucus and the Public Religion Research Institute. What helped you navigate the workplace as a neurodivergent woman at these internships?

SM: My internship with the Public Religion Research Institute was completely in person and my internship with the National Women’s Political Caucus was completely virtual, so I had to adopt two very different sets of strategies for it. Finding an alliance [and] friendship with [my coworker] was really important and having an employer that understood neurodiversity and was willing to be accepting of it was also super important. 

Being able to ask for help and being able to ask for the accommodations was something I had to learn how to do. Also with my boss who was remote, it was a little bit more difficult because I wasn’t [seeing] her on a daily basis, so one of the strategies that I really had to adopt was reminding myself it’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to ask if you don’t understand something. 

Another strategy was my excessive planning and alerts. I often forget when things are due especially when I get into these perfectionist cycles. I really like my work a certain way [and] I want it to be as detailed as possible. And because of that, I sometimes forget about deadlines so I set those reminders so that I can look at my schedule and know exactly how much time I’m going to have to work on something.

BF: Can you share more about your perspective on intersectionality and how you feel that your identity as a neurodiverse person and as a woman have intersected?

SM: I found out [that I had autism] when I was 13 and prior to that, I had only heard of like one or two women who had ever been diagnosed with autism. I honestly saw it as a thing that primarily affected boys and men. That’s how the media represents it, to be frank. It’s represented in a very specific way like we all have the same interests and the same affect. 

I saw autism as this very specific diagnosis [before] finding out that it can also look the way I do and the way that a lot of other women and nonbinary people that I’ve met do. 

BF: Is there anything that you wish people knew more about neurodiverse women?

SM: We have this very specific stereotype of autism that was the norm for a really long time. This idea of the very “unemotional”, “straight faced”, “logical” man who is either completely non verbal or a brilliant science genius.

I’ve met a lot of autistic people in my life and to say that that is not representative of most of them is an understatement. It’s such a diverse community. We all have such diverse interests and we have diverse passions and we have diverse ways of communicating with other people.

There is no one kind of autistic personality. 

And so I’ll describe things that worked for me as an autistic woman in politics and while it might be useful to some people who are also autistic women in politics, it might not be as useful [for others]. Autism is not like a one size fits all personality, it’s something that impacts all aspects of your life, but not in the same way for everybody.

BF: How would you say you practice resilience at work and what’s made you feel empowered to advocate for yourself?

SM: Realizing that I need help and realizing that I can’t be [perfect] all the time is something that I had to learn. You are not going to be perfect all the time especially in a world [that] is not set up for you. And also realizing you are not going to meet everyone’s expectations all the time; that is so important. If you keep on working, if you keep on meeting new people, and you keep on making those connections, you’re going to eventually meet somebody whose expectations fit you and you’re going to find a company where you fit in well with the work atmosphere. 

BF: Thank you so much for sharing that wonderful piece of advice. In honor of Women’s History Month, can you share any particular women leaders or trailblazers that have been influential to you in your personal and professional lives?

SM: This is perfect timing actually because I’m visiting my friend, Grace, right now and I want to talk about this story because it’s a really special one. As I said earlier, I got to college at the height of the pandemic and it was very weird because I had spent so much of my life in isolation, and then to be [in college] after that was a weird time, but I had this professor, her name is Professor Douds. She wrote one of my recommendations. She’s one of the reasons I’m going into the field of Public Policy and Political Science; she’s amazing. 

I was in her class my first semester and she noticed that I was very talented in the classroom, but that I might struggle a little bit [socially] and she wanted me to be more connected with campus life, so she approached one of the older students, [Grace], and she gave her my phone number and was like “text this girl and go out to lunch with her.” 

I started hanging out with her and she introduced me to all of her friends. We would just sit around the table and talk about current events, musical theater, and just whatever we were thinking about. For the first time, I connected with a group of people and Grace really helped me [do that]. 

I had some really difficult times my sophomore year of college, but that’s another thing about resilience: having support. It’s so important to have support, and I had this incredible support in Grace and she helped me get through some of the hardest times of my life, and I will always be grateful. 

BF: What’s one thing that you love about being neurodiverse? 

SM: My ability to [delve into] my special interests. I like being able to be really passionate about something and just being able to whip out random information about different social movements. Honestly, it’s helped me connect with people.

BF: If you could sum up one piece of advice that you would give to other young neurodiverse women starting out in their careers, what would you want them to know?

SM: Don’t put yourself in a box and don’t ignore what your brain needs. You will find somebody who will connect with you over [your special interest]. They’re always out there. And, even if you have to do it over the internet, you will find someone who you can connect with, so don’t ignore that aspect of yourself. 

Listen to your brain, listen to what your brain needs, ask for help, and ask for those accommodations. Every time you listen to your brain, you only grow stronger. You become a stronger individual, you become a stronger employee, and you become a stronger student.

BF: Thanks so much for sharing your insights and experience with us, Sam. We loved speaking with you and sharing your story!

We are hiring an Admissions & Outreach Director!

Based in Washington, DC, BroadFutures is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering neurodivergent young people through innovative training, mentoring, and internships. With approximately 1 in 5 Americans being neurodivergent and less than 50% employed or completing post-secondary education, we strive to disrupt the status quo. Our programs promote independence, self-advocacy, and successful workforce and higher education preparation. As the sole program of its kind nationally, we have successfully served 350+ individuals directly, reached hundreds more through outreach, and partnered with 65+ employers.

Position

As the Admissions & Outreach Director (AOM), reporting to the CEO, you will collaborate with the team, playing a crucial role in our operations and serving as a key ambassador for our mission. The AOM establishes and strengthens partnerships, contributes significantly to outreach events and culture, and leads the admissions team. Success in this role requires the ability to balance multiple tasks, experience in outreach and admissions, and a passion for working with neurodiverse young people.

We are looking for a highly motivated individual with keen attention to detail, a strong commitment to outreach and engagement, and a mission-driven approach. The ideal candidate excels in cultivating meaningful connections and garnering support, thriving in a dynamic and adaptable organizational environment.

Responsibilities

  • Develop a comprehensive outreach plan with goals, methods, measurable outcomes, and timelines for sustainability and annual budget goals. Lead the team to achieve these objectives.
  • Manage the entire outreach process, from identifying to executing events.
  • Lead outreach initiatives by connecting with potential educational institutions, professionals, and community partners. Sustain and expand existing relationships for collaboration and engagement.
  • Supervise the admissions process and lead the admissions team in assessing and selecting program participants.
  • Participate in daily events, programs, and organizational processes as required. Represent BroadFutures at networking and outreach events.

Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in public administration, nonprofit management, or related field, or equivalent experience in disability or special education roles. A Master’s Degree is highly desired.
  • Minimum 7 years of experience in admissions, outreach, or sales with direct experience with neurodiversity.
  • Proven success in outreach/sales and admissions
  • Excellent communication and organizational skills, with an ability for both the big picture and details.
  • Demonstrated effective time management, ability to manage multiple projects and meet deadlines.
  • Initiative-driven, creative problem solver, capable of working independently and collaboratively.

Attributes

  • Mission-driven. You turn objectives into social impact effortlessly.
  • Results-oriented. You navigate ambiguity, prioritize effectively, and thrive in an entrepreneurial environment as a self-starter. .
  • Collaborative. You work effectively with others, understanding organizational needs and engaging confidently at all levels.
  • Strong communicator. You convey information articulately and passionately, actively listening and implementing feedback.
  • Highly organized. You diligently track details and ensure efficient follow-up.
  • Customer-oriented. Stakeholders respect your knowledge and find you approachable, making you an effective ambassador for BroadFutures.
  • Curious and business-minded. You continuously learn, analyze needs, and understand our business model and strategy. Your adaptability, passion, and attention to detail make you a valuable team member.

What’s Attractive to the Right Candidate?

  • Your work will have a direct impact on the success of BroadFutures and its participants.
  • We are a small organization where you will have the opportunity to work directly with the founder and play an important role in helping our expansion efforts and it will be an exciting time to be part of the growth
  • Our staff is enthusiastic and highly motivated by the mission.
  • Our work environment is collaborative and flexible.
  • Our board and advisory board are skilled, engaged and supportive.
  • We offer a competitive salary, commensurate with relevant experience and skills, and an excellent benefits package.

Salary: $75,000-$100,000

In addition to our competitive salary, we offer 20 days paid time off and 13 paid holidays, health insurance including dental and vision, and participation in a 403(b) plan with matching. We also offer the flexibility of a hybrid work schedule.

To Apply:

Email your resume and cover letter articulating your interest and qualifications for the position to Carolyn Jeppsen at cjeppsen@broadfutures.org. Please include BroadFutures Admissions & Outreach Manager as the subject of the email.

We are hiring a Summer Mentor!

Would you like to have a fun summer working for an innovative non-profit in
Washington, DC and change a life?

BroadFutures is revolutionizing the way young neurodivergent people enter the
workforce through an innovative training, mentoring and paid internship program. We
employ mentors to support our interns to reach their inherent potential. They serve as a
first line of support to our interns throughout the program.

Who We Serve: young neurodivergent people between the ages of 18-26. Our
participants have graduated from high school and are either on their way to college,
taking a break from academics, in college, or recently graduated.


Overall Duties and Responsibilities

  • Participate in the intake process, helping interns to set goals and strategies for our
    program.
  • Participate in all aspects of the training portion of our program, including, administrative duties, as well as curriculum delivery.
  • Support interns 1:1 outside of their internships as well as during our group training sessions.
  • Participate in employer calls with coaches, as needed.
  • Participate in weekly planned social activities with interns.

Desired Background and Qualifications:

  • B.A. or master’s candidates in the areas of special education, social work, counseling,
    psychology, or other related fields. Will also consider very recent college graduates
    with similar areas of interest or expertise.
  • An interest, lived experience, or academic or professional experience with
    neurodiversity
  • Experience or interest in workforce preparation or vocational support.
  • Strong verbal, written and analytical skills
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Detail oriented, and able to take initiative.

Dates and Pay:

  • June 1- August 16: 35 hrs a week/$20-$25 an hour or credit for a degree

APPLY to: cjeppsen@broadfutures.org with a resume and detailed cover letter outlining
interest and skill set in the position.

Image shows numerous hands holding a white cutout of a face with brain waves on a purple background.

Neurodiversity As An Asset: Changing Employer’s Perspectives

Image shows numerous hands holding a white cutout of a face with brain waves on a purple background.
Image shows numerous hands holding a white cutout of a face with brain waves on a purple background.

Who We Are: 

BroadFutures believes in the power of employment to change lives. Our entire mission is focused on creating access, opportunity and support for neurodivergent young people, as well as employers looking to diversify their workplaces. 

Our innovative program combines internships with a supportive mentor/coach model and an interactive curriculum that incorporates the arts, stress reduction techniques, individualized support and peer empowerment. 

Instrumental to our program is developing the right partnerships. We endeavor to create lasting connections with employers that will be fruitful for future interns as well as the employer partners themselves.

We know that workplaces are enriched when a diversity of perspectives are nurtured. Employers benefit when they look to new avenues to recruit talent. At BroadFutures we are passionately focused on ensuring that employers become aware of the significant value that neurodivergent talent brings to the workplace. 

Neurodivergent people embody the concept of “thinking outside the box.” By linking employers to neurodivergent interns they may otherwise not connect with, BroadFutures is helping change the workplace and creating awareness of how disability is a part of the diversity conversation. Most importantly, we are helping employers to understand how neurodiverse talent is an asset to business. With proper training and support, our employer partners feel empowered to recruit, support and promote neurodivergent talent.

Our Employer Partners:

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), a longtime partner of BroadFutures, and one of our 2022 Champion Award Recipients (join us to celebrate their commitment to disability at our Fall, New Opportunities, New Impact Gala on 10.22 HERE) has consistently proven to be an employer dedicated to creating a more accessible workplace. IHG has hosted 12 interns since 2018!!! 

When asked to reflect on her work with BroadFutures thus far, Kathryn Markey, Director of Human Resources at The Intercontinental Washington D.C. – The Wharf remarked that, “The Wharf values its partnership with BroadFutures as part of our ongoing commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workplace. The Summer 2022 BroadFutures interns made a positive impact at our hotel – not only did they show up ready to work and eager to learn, but they consistently demonstrated a strong work ethic consistent with the level of service that we portray. We look forward to continued opportunities to work more closely together.” 

Another long term partner and 2020 BroadFutures Champion Award recipient, The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), is passionately committed to our mission and recognizes the value and talent that neurodiverse individuals bring to the workplace. 

When asked to reflect on her experience with BroadFutures, Megan Zsorey, the former program manager for The CSIS Economics Program states that “[we] have had a phenomenal experience with BroadFutures. We are fortunate to be able to host such talented individuals interested in our work, and ourBroadFutures interns have contributed to our program in meaningful ways. We always receive tremendous support from the BroadFutures staff and look forward to partnering with them each time they have a candidate interested in the world of foreign policy.” 

National Disability Employment Awareness Month:

Although October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, our work on behalf of disability employment is something we are committed to every month. BroadFutures currently partners with over 60 employers and is always looking for new employer partners who are committed to working with neurodiverse talent. If interested in our employer programs, learn more about our work HERE and/or contact Carolyn Jeppsen at cjeppsen@broadfutures.org.