Research shows that approximately 15-20% of the U.S. population identifies as neurodivergent, highlighting the significance of companies embracing neurodiversity. How can companies effectively support neurodiverse employees in the workplace, and what advantages does such inclusion bring? To explore these inquiries, we speak with accomplished business leaders who offer firsthand experiences and invaluable insights on the theme of “Neurodiversity in the Workforce.” As part of our series, we were privileged to interview Julia Armet.

Julia Armet is a visionary people and culture leader, workplace facilitator, and passionate neurodiversity advocate. Her unique perspective as an autistic woman and diverse experiences facilitating workplace experiences across global business contexts inform her innovative approaches to empowering neuroinclusion. As the Founder of Higher Playbook, Julia is leading a movement to create relational spaces within our professional lives for individuals to deepen their connections to themselves, each other, their work, and the world.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you ended up where you are?

My lifelong passion has been studying culture and human interest stories. In high school, I would read history chapters repeatedly until the details were vivid in my imagination. I’ve always sought to understand the inner worlds of people, why we are the way we are, and how we respond to our circumstances. 

This interest was clearly rooted in my desire to understand myself, and it guided me to NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. My concentration in Identity & Media makes a lot of sense in retrospect: I’m in a neurominority, so I’ve always looked for clues to my own identity by exploring representation in media.

Today, my company, Higher Playbook, is dedicated to facilitating the identity work that is so central to promoting self-understanding, social acceptance, and social contribution in the workplace. I’ve found that many professionals are conditioned to prioritize external demands. They train themselves to conform to the systems they are operating within, often at the cost of their values, passions and interests. 

My approach to workforce development is unique; it leverages workplace relationships to promote innovation and impact. When professionals take the opportunity to get curious about, “Who am I? Who are you? And what can we create together?,” they can discover the source of individual and collective sustainability: making a meaningful contribution.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

As an autistic leader, I’ve built my character through learning to exist in systems not designed for my brain. I tend to challenge conventional norms of professionalism and leadership, which actually has helped open doors for other people. Since it feels a bit reductionist to attribute my or anyone else’s success to three character traits, I’d prefer to share three distinctive thought processes that differentiate my approaches:

  1. Systems Thinking: My mind processes information in systems. You can think of the inside of my brain like a library. There are various levels of organization, and I’m able to pull from the catalogues of knowledge. I’ve retained a lot of information over a lifetime of immersing myself in a variety of contexts. I see the world as interconnected systems too and gravitate toward understanding complex ecosystems, which makes me effective in serving systems change.
  2. Interdisciplinary Thinking: I excel at blending perspectives to arrive at a well-rounded understanding. Sociology, psychology, history, literature, spirituality, mathematics, design. All these lenses I bring into my exploration of topics. Take, for example, a question like, “What does the business world need now to build a better world for future generations?” I’ve brought together facets from various disciplines to create thought leadership on social innovation in the workplace. 
  3. Futurist Thinking: Recognizing the inertia of trends and having an eye for detail, I’ve leaned on my ability to imagine future possibilities to inspire myself and others. When the gig economy was still becoming mainstream, I remember forecasting the future of work and knowing how important non-localized community building would be in the modernization of business. I trademarked Higher Playbook in 2018, seeing the growing importance of relationship-building and social learning in sustainable business models.

Can you share a story about one of your greatest work-related struggles? Can you share what you did to overcome it? 

Both personally and professionally, my greatest challenge- and many would say my greatest talent- is communication. I encounter what’s known as the “double-empathy problem” in everyday life, which a communication barrier that often arises cross-culturally between allistic and autistic people. When my intentions, motivation, complexity, and language aren’t fully understand, it’s like coming up against a wall and having to find a way to move through it every time. 

My commitment to neuroinclusion stems from the resistance that I’ve faced within everyday communication. I believe that, regardless of neurodivergence, every person can enhance their communication and relationships by addressing the double-empathy problem in our daily interactions. We all experience moments of misunderstanding; and collectively, we need to be more intentional in giving grace, especially in professional contexts.

This is the core of my passion for fostering deeper conversations in the workplace— to connect people who might not naturally understand each other. There’s always going to be room for me to refine my communication and facilitation skills. Additionally, our workplaces are far from dismantling the social barriers that limit me and others from experiencing our full potential. I envision that innovating for inclusion will remain my central focus for many years to come. 

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Thanks for asking! I am currently leading two significant Higher Playbook initiatives that are very meaningful to me: Unmasking Neurodiversity and Empowering Neuroinclusion. These projects embody my dedication to advancing neuroinclusion in today’s workforce. 

Unmasking Neurodiversity is a 90-minute social learning experience that I’ve hosted in various global business settings. It aims to bring together neurodiverse groups, sometimes through Business Resource Groups within companies or sponsored by community and institutional partners. I’m always so moved by the response. Participants really appreciate the safe space to represent themselves, share their stories, and strengthen connections. Additionally, the workshop introduces key vocabulary related to the neurodiversity paradigm, a vital step to fostering advocacy and allyship. Establishing common vocabulary and frames of reference is essential for any diverse team, group, or culture that wishes to understand each other better.

Building off of this groundwork, Empowering Neuroinclusion is a series of three workshops designed for conscious leaders committed to understanding neurodiversity and implementing practical neuroinclusion strategies within their companies. Beyond inclusive hiring, I see a tremendous opportunity for today’s leaders to empower self-identification, break down barriers to workplace relationships, and foster cultures of contribution. We leverage all three of these strategies in this program, prompting leaders to develop personalized action plans to innovate their workplace experience. 

Fantastic. Let’s now shift to our discussion about neurodiversity in the workforce. Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to include neurodiverse employees? Can you share a story with us? 

As I mentioned, neuroinclusion is the cause that drives so much of my work. I view initiatives as the essential format for businesses to implement, as they serve as micro-interventions in an existing operating model. Every business can benefit by integrating initiatives into their culture strategy, and I’ve actually written a book about it! 

In “Workplace Transformation: A Journey for Visionary Leaders to Reimagine the Workplace Experience & Build a Better World,” I map out a culture strategy for leaders on how to operationalize impact initiatives to build a better world. It’s a transformational narrative of a recent trip to Barcelona, infused with question prompts and practical activities. I channel the wisdom of neurodivergent architect Antoni Gaudí to offer inspiration on how to renovate the workplace experience. The book provides the key steps for innovating your approaches and launching your own impact initiatives.

This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have an inclusive work culture?

Two words are intricately connected for me in the business case for inclusion: innovation and impact.

Every professional deserves the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the world. However, not every business is prepared to embrace this ethos. To create more buy-in toward building inclusive workplaces, I find it important to illuminate the aspiration of social innovation: a culture of contribution.

In a culture of contribution, professionals are enabled and empowered to contribute through initiatives that benefit the world. They have time and space within the workweek to focus on deepening their relationships to themselves, each other, and the world. Achieving this requires leaders to provide developmental opportunities, support, and resources that allow employees from varied backgrounds to actualize their potential. Most importantly, our workplaces need to evolve into hubs for advocacy and allyship. 

We’re living in the era of social impact. For today’s organizations to live up to their missions of impact, we must innovate for inclusion. The workplace reflects the wider world, and the workplace experience is the acupuncture point for promoting a more inclusive world. By leveraging the unique skills of a neurodiverse workforce and creating spaces for meaningful contribution, companies can impact lives from the inside out. 

Can you share a few examples of ideas that were implemented at your workplace to help include neurodiverse employees? Can you share with us how the work culture was affected as a result?

As a consultant and facilitator specializing in people and culture, I’ve seen a variety of workplaces at different stages in their inclusion journeys. Given this backdrop, I believe that the learning and development function is at the crux of advancing neuroinclusion. This is why I put my focus on creating social learning experiences, where professionals get to connect and interact with each other. I design around the goal of social integration, where professionals can experience a genuine sense of belonging in their workplace relationships. 

There are two key steps to priming a workplace for neuroinclusion. The first involves identifying relational barriers, in essence, making the implicit biases and cultural norms of a group of people visible to them. As a Master Practitioner in the Energy Leadership™ Index Assessment, I utilize this transformational tool to reveal the unconscious beliefs that cause people to mask their authenticity and censor their self-expression. Through systems thinking, I assess how these beliefs could influence workplace dynamics, then personalize experiential program designs to address deeply embedded beliefs and behaviors. 

The second step centers on creating psychological safety for authentic interaction. Every person has different levels of psychological safety at work. With this in mind, I design accessible programming with differentiated instruction to give professionals options to engage at their desired level of comfort and depth. I continually emphasize safe space guidelines to establish deeper trust with participants, along with asking permission repeatedly to ensure each participant experiences autonomy in their interactions.

Ultimately, empowering neuroinclusion is the byproduct of facilitating relational space, where people get to deepen their connections to themselves and one another. Facilitating environments where individuals can show up and share authentically, explore their identities and impact, and appreciate each other’s contributions helps bring people of diverse backgrounds closer together.

What are some of the challenges or obstacles to including neurodivergent employees? What needs to be done to address those obstacles? 

Of course, the unemployment rate of neurodivergent people reflects that companies need to do more upfront to source, hire, train, and retain neurodivergent talent. Additionally, I believe there is a significant presence of undiagnosed and undisclosed neurodivergent talent in our current workforce, and with that, a need for our broader business culture to evolve its consciousness. Business culture has historically favored conformance, compliance, standardization, and scalability at the expense of individualization. 

While many companies offer opportunities for self-identification in the talent recruitment process and making strides toward neuroinclusive hiring, the decision to disclose one’s neurodivergence is ultimately up to neurodivergent professionals. The question is: do we feel safe enough to disclose our identities? Disclosure is the byproduct of psychologically safe workplaces, where people are empowered to speak up, ask for what they need, and shape career paths suited to their talents. 

I’m a firm believer that having visible neurodivergent leaders helps to facilitate safe space for disclosure. Those of us who have the privilege to disclose our identities play a huge part in normalizing neurodivergence. Beyond that, we can normalize neurodivergence through incorporating more personal development- what I call the “identity work”- into our learning and leadership development programs.

How do you and your organization educate yourselves and your teams on the concept of neurodiversity and the needs of neurodivergent employees? Are there any resources, training, or workshops that you have found particularly helpful?

There’s a motto amongst neurodiversity advocates that captures my sentiments fully: “Nothing about us without us.” The lived experiences of neurodivergent people hold the answers for integrating our workforce, so that organizations accept and embrace neurodiversity as the cultural norm. 

I cannot overemphasize the personal impact that hearing and sharing stories has had on my own self-awareness, self-acceptance, and social acceptance. This is why exchanging stories of neurodivergent people is a core part of the social learning experiences that I design and facilitate. Storytelling helps to opens hearts, bridging the empathy gaps that often leave neurodivergent people feeling isolated in the workplace.

Along with amplifying stories, I’d recommend sourcing resources, trainings, and workshops from neurodivergent suppliers, leaders, and facilitators. Engaging directly with neurodivergent perspectives enables individuals to view the world through a neurodivergent lens. The thoughtful choice of “who are we sourcing this educational information from?” is what will ensure we overcome the systemic biases and stereotypes often perpetuated in curriculum design. 

I personally expose myself to as many neurodivergent perspectives as possible by listening to people’s experiences on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. Additionally, whenever I attend a workshop or training about neurodiversity, I’m considering: Who is this person? What makes them passionate about neurodiversity? What perspective could they be missing? What perspective could I be gaining? This meta-thinking is useful to anyone who cares to bring greater awareness to the natural biases within content creation.

This is the main question of our interview. Can you please share five best practices that can make a business place feel more welcoming and inclusive of people who are neurodivergent? If you can, please share a few examples. 

1 . Soften Policy. Beyond the physical environment, the psychological safety of a workplace comes through the policy. Policy reflects the belief system of leadership. A policy like mandatory return to the office, for example, denies the preference of many neurodivergent people to work from home. Additionally, one-size-fits-all policies can be challenging for neurodivergent people, who often don’t conform to the norms of business culture. And no need to worry: Softer policy doesn’t imply more problems. Considerate policy-shaping could very well create more mutual respect and promote accountability amongst the entire workforce. 

2 . Options > Exceptions. When one neurodivergent person has a need, it’s important that you rise beyond the tendency to make it an exception. Exceptions, by nature, segregate the person who is seeking support. Instead, a company culture can provide options like “come to the office and experience catered lunch” or “work from home and experience a lunch stipend.” Similarly, performance management can provide options like “be a part of project A and deliver on this timeline” or “ be a part of project B and deliver on no timeline.” Leaders can get super creative in embedding optionality into the workplace experience in innovative and economical ways.

3 . Incorporate Identity Work. Every professional comes in with a unique set of circumstances and background. It’s incredibly connective to give people the opportunity to share (and shape) their identities through workplace programs. Starting with onboarding, you can invite all people to “create your personal ID” – where they choose from a variety of identity categories the identifiers that matter to them. While someone may be called to share their neurodivergence, another person may want to share their accolades, and another their gender identity. By simply offering touchpoints that empower self-identification, you’re telling people: We value you, and we value diversity. 

4 . Make Space for Relationships. Investing in relationship-building is another demonstration of inclusion through your actions. The common tendency to make a meeting about a goal or objective doesn’t recognize the opportunity to connect for the sake of connection. Often, miscommunication and misunderstanding happen because people don’t take the time to get to know each other’s characters, personalities, interests, aspirations, and intentions. Relational spaces— such as 1:1 meetings, team gatherings, or peer-to-peer conversations— promote empathy and understanding, which can actually enhance teamwork, collaboration, and performance too. 

5 . Cultivate A Culture of Contribution. Today’s leaders have an opportunity to leverage the higher order need of contribution, unlocking more sustainability and motivation for a neurodiverse workforce in the process. I speak for more than the neurodivergent people in saying that a great deal of the stress and anxiety of modern professionals comes from existing within performance-driven environments. While performance will always be a natural driver, this motivational structure in business will be less dominant in upcoming years. Our professional standard of time management will become less tense the more that innovations in AI shift our relationship to productivity.

Here is where a culture of contribution can emerge— where people are empowered to be creative, discover their talents, initiate tasks that interest them, and ultimately, contribute to long-term projects. I enjoy partnering with companies and their teams to activate cultures of contributions through special projects and impact initiatives. These experiences serve as micro-interventions and help to unite diverse professionals in a shared aspiration: to make a meaningful contribution in the world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

“Why do you write like you’re running out of time?”… Just kidding. I actually love the play Hamilton though, and the songs encapsulate so much of the urgency that I feel in using my voice for impact. Music moves me and influences me deeply, and you can find me on most days listening to the same songs on repeat. One lyric often speaks to me and becomes the basis of a whole day’s work. My hope is that my writing moves others just as the music moves me.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am inspiring a modern labor movement of Webmakers, leaders distinguished for their talent in connecting diverse people from distinct places and purposes to orchestrate large-scale systemic impact. 

Webmaking, a term that I coined and teach to the leaders I partner with, is an emerging function of modern business. Similar to how a spider constructs an intricate yet nearly invisible web through a non-linear process to ensure its own survival, today’s leaders are enhancing the interconnectedness of the workplace to support sustainable development goals. We’re seeing more and more leaders in emerging roles, whose innovative approaches to social impact are modeling what’s possible when businesses do their part in advancing humanitarian and environmental causes. 

Ultimately, there is a window of opportunity right now for leaders to rise to their role as facilitators, and in the process, facilitate a systemic shift in how we relate to each other, our work, and our impact. We have the power to reimagine the workplace experience, mobilize our workforce, and foster the cooperation of diverse stakeholders to create a better future. 

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you! To discover more about Higher Playbook partnerships, impact initiatives, and identity work with socially conscious leaders and teams, people can visit There’s a comprehensive resource section there as well that explores some of the topics in this article in more depth. Additionally, my book “Workplace Transformation: A Journey for Visionary Leaders to Reimagine the Workplace Experience and Build a Better World” is now available on Amazon and Audible.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!