Kat T. details how she’s been able to thrive at Schwab—the first role where she’s been transparent about her neurodivergence.
Kat T. joined Schwab in August of 2022. She’s one of the first employees hired through our Neurodiversity at Work program, which is focused on closing the employment gap in the autistic community and providing neurodivergent talent with career opportunities and community awareness at Schwab.
An eye-opening diagnosis
Kat wasn’t diagnosed with autism until the age of 47 - a phenomenon that is not uncommon. Women and girls with autism present differently than men and boys, and because the parameters for diagnosing autism are based on the male presentation, women are often not diagnosed, misdiagnosed, or diagnosed much later in life.
In fact, Kat essentially diagnosed herself. As a lifetime gamer, she was researching females with autistic traits to aid in the design of an autistic character she was creating for a role-playing game. As she learned more, she found that she identified with every trait she came across, which led her to seek a formal diagnosis through the Southwest Autism Center in Phoenix.
“Since being diagnosed, all my eccentricities, or my ‘whole ball of weirdness’ as I call it, is explained,” says Kat. “Now I know it’s sensory processing and biophysical stuff.”
Taking pride in our unique differences
Preferences across the community vary, but Kat prefers to be called autistic or neurodivergent rather than being referred to as “a person with autism.” It’s a preference becoming more common as part of a movement to celebrate neurodivergence and take pride in the differences and opportunities it provides. In connection with this pride, it’s the first time Kat hasn’t hidden her neurodivergence at work.
“I came in with everyone knowing I was neurodivergent,” Kat explains, who says she found the opportunity at Schwab on an autism-friendly job board. “Everyone has been really understanding, even when I ask a gazillion questions.”
Kat landed her role as a cost-basis tax associate at Schwab after a skills-based interview where she was asked to put together a presentation about herself in Power Point and create a budget in Excel. It allowed her to showcase her skills without what she calls the “dreaded behavioral questions.”
And since she’s been at Schwab, she’s thrived in her role. “I wanted to find a good job that pays well, do my job and hopefully excel,” she explains. “And once I got here, I was like, ‘where has this job been all my life?’”
Building a neurodiverse community
While Kat is an open book about her neurodivergence, she wants to make sure that people understand that her experiences aren’t representative of all autistic people. She admits the community is alike in their tendency to have quirky interests—hers are role-playing games, history, and art—but, she says, “Not everyone is a math genius. And we certainly aren’t all male.”
Schwab is continuing to grow our Neurodiversity at Work program by hiring new talent, expanding manager trainings, and spreading neurodiversity awareness. Through the program, new hires have brought our firm their unique insights, including how to adjust communications to be more inclusive and attainable for neurodivergent individuals. By implementing changes like this, we take another step toward making the world of finance more inclusive and transformative for Schwabbies, clients, and our communities.