IBM Canada and Specialisterne – Championing Diversity & Inclusion in Tech

By and Steven Astorino | 2 minute read | May 18, 2020

Illustration graphic of diverse workplace employees

As businesses adjust their hiring and employee management practices to a COVID-19 world, it’s become more important than ever to prioritize diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

At IBM Canada’s software development labs (Canada Lab), diversity and inclusion are key pillars to the success of our Lab, our clients, and critical components of driving innovation. One of our proud affiliations is with Specialisterne Canada, which helps businesses and employers understand, value and integrate the unique perspective and capabilities of people on the autism spectrum, or those who face similar barriers to employment.

In 2019, IBM hired several co-ops who identified as being on the autism spectrum into areas of our Lab like quality assurance and software development. We’ve just made the same commitment for 2020, as this year’s Specialisterne co-ops began their first week at the Lab in May.

IBM has been fostering this relationship for several years. In 2017, we partnered with Specialisterne to deploy IGNITE Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The IGNITE ASD program covers areas such as planning, sourcing, staff awareness workshops, and ongoing support for new hires and current staff. The goal is to empower and enrich our employee experience while enabling IBM to make unbiased and equitable candidate skills assessments and hiring decisions that we can then scale to all of our business-as-usual hiring.

For some deeper insights into the work IBM Canada has done with Specialisterne, check out this great series on our IBM Careers Blog.



IBM completed a documentary about some of the individuals in the IGNITE ASD program, shining a spotlight on their work and daily experiences.

As Canada Lab Director, I know that hiring and skills assessments are just one step in ensuring we foster a culture of diversity and inclusion. Across our Lab sites and business units in Canada, IBM also supports an employee-run People Enablement Network Group, which works in partnership with our teams from coast to coast to promote a barrier-free IBM. Programs like these are critical as group members coach and support peers and managers on accommodations and accessibility to create a greater sense of belonging. It’s critical that our people and our clients to see this commitment reflected across the organization in the way we work.

COVID-19 has brought into focus the need to increase awareness and understanding of how we can improve the workplace for everyone. As businesses in tech — and across all industries — become more responsive to the needs of neurodiverse employees, IBM will continue to take a lead role. Neurodiverse employees are part of the IBM Canada family and our proudly diverse workforce.

At IBM Canada, we welcome all applicants to check out our employment opportunities and read more about our deep history of supporting diversity and inclusion across the world.


Portrait Steven Astorino

Steven Astorino
VP IBM Data & AI Development, Canada Lab Director