Since its beginning more than a hundred years ago, IBM has understood that diversity is the bridge between the workplace and the marketplace. We know that success with our clients begins with success in the workplace. And as we innovate and grow, we continue to focus on our core corporate values to guide us.
Over the years, IBM has responded to the kinds of challenges some parts of the world are still grappling with today, where women continue to struggle for a safe and harassment-free work environment; where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people lack legal recognition and feel unsafe; and where people with disabilities are denied equal access to employment opportunities due to lacking accessibility standards or discrimination.
As we approach decisions and negotiations regarding expanding IBM operations around the world, our client teams and business leaders are clear about how we conduct ourselves in the world of business and the global community. Rather than be deterred by different cultures or beliefs, we share our beliefs so that we can conduct business within any country that is aligned with our global corporate values and employment policies. IBM’s willingness to take on issues of equity, fairness and equal opportunity in the United States and around the world not only sets us apart, it makes us a magnet for the smartest and most talented people. And we have a long history of precedent-setting action in this regard. For example:
- 1899—IBM hired three women (Emma Manske, Nettie Moore and Lilly Philp) 20 years before women were given the right to vote.
- 1899—IBM hired Richard MacGregor, IBM’s first black employee, 10 years before the founding of NAACP and 36 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
- 1914—IBM hired its first employee with a disability, 76 years before the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- 1934—IBM hired its first professional woman, 29 years before the Equal Pay Act.
- 1953—IBM wrote its first Equal Opportunity Policy that called for equal opportunity in hiring regardless of race, color or creed.
In each of these cases, IBM leadership chose to manage employees in line with our values and beliefs and to engage governments, communities and other corporations in our effort to change, even if unpopular or disruptive to normal business relationships. "Diversity is good business. IBM’s strategy is designed to help all IBMers appreciate how our differences are unique factors that help spur innovation," says Ron Glover, IBM’s vice president of Diversity and Workforce Policy.
In 2012, IBM continued to demonstrate leadership in its support of constituent groups. The following are a few examples.
“Diversity is good business. IBM’s strategy is designed to help all IBMers appreciate how our differences are unique factors that help spur innovation.”
IBM’s Vice President of Diversity and Workforce Policy
LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) workplace equality
IBM has a long history when it comes to LGBT workplace equality. As early as 1984, IBM included sexual orientation in our nondiscrimination policy. In 1995, an LGBT executive task force was established. Today, that task force is known as the Global LGBT Council and is focused on making IBM a safe and desirable workplace for all people.
IBM is a sponsor of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a group that works to protect and empower employees to be productive and successful so they can support themselves and their families while contributing to a world free of discrimination. Harry van Dorenmalen, chairman of IBM Europe, won the 2012 Out & Equal Champion Award, which recognizes a non-LGBT person who has played a pivotal role in advancing equal treatment of LGBT employees on the job. Van Dorenmalen was recognized for his significant commitment to LGBT workplace rights, such as the structure he created within IBM to drive progress on LGBT issues and his numerous initiatives leading to significant improvements both within IBM and in the broader business and LGBT communities outside IBM.
In addition, for the 10th consecutive year, IBM scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, the national benchmarking tool for corporate policies and practices related to LGBT employees. The index, released each fall, provides an in-depth analysis and rating of large US employers and their policies and practices pertinent to LGBT employees, such as equal employment opportunity policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, employment benefits for all benefits-eligible US employees, and ongoing LGBT-specific engagements that extend across the company.
Advancement of women
In 2012, IBM was recognized by the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) as a Top 50 Company for Executive Women. Through innovative programs like Building Relationships and Influence for Women, designed to help high-potential women leaders develop skills in building and maintaining business relationships, we demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the development of women.
IBM has achieved many milestones in support of the advancement of women. In 1943, Ruth Leach, IBM’s first female executive, was promoted to vice president. In 1989, Fran Allen was named IBM’s first female Technical Fellow, and in 2011 Ginni Rometty was elected president and CEO while Jeanette Horan was appointed IBM’s chief information officer. More than 22 percent of IBM’s global executive population is made up of women. About two thirds of IBM’s women executives across the world are working mothers—clearly demonstrating IBM women do not have to choose between a career and motherhood.
T. J. Watson, Sr.
“Men and women will do the same kind of work for equal pay. They will have the same treatment, the same responsibilities and the same opportunity for advancement.”
People with disabilities
In 2010, IBM’s People with Disabilities (PwD) Council leaders sat down with eight IBMers with disabilities from around the globe for a “reverse mentoring” session, in which the executives learned about the opportunities and challenges of the PwD constituency. The small session was then opened up to IBM employees from Canada, China, Brazil, France, Germany, India and the United States to share their employment experiences with PwD council leaders—both the positive aspects and the areas for improvement.
The first-of-its-kind seminar addressed some of the actual and perceived barriers PwD employees face as they enter the workplace. Attendees were also asked tough questions resulting in a powerful PwD initiative called In Their Shoes, which includes video modules on accessibility and innovation, client attitudes toward people with disabilities, mentoring and career advancement and recruiting—all geared toward highlighting both existing and future ways IBM can help our PwD community thrive.
We plan to conduct a similar seminar in 2013 with additional focus on hiring, mentoring, coaching and development. IBM has implemented simplified global hiring approvals for qualified PwD candidates and will focus on educating managers to ensure PwD employees succeed at work. Similar programs will be conducted at targeted recruiting events to match job opportunities with skilled veterans who have served their country.
Leadership in work-life flexibility
If IBM is to maintain its leadership position as one of the world’s top globally integrated enterprises, it’s important to create an environment that offers employees not only financial security but also flexibility. In fact, that understanding is a cornerstone of our employment value proposition; we know that IBMers need time to cultivate personal interests and integrate the demands of the job with the demands of their personal lives.
To address both employee and business needs, IBM follows six flexibility principles. These principles can be adapted by each country as needed, based on legislation, local custom and other factors.
IBM’s six flexibility principles
- The Enterprise does not stop: In a globally integrated enterprise, the enterprise never stops working. Somewhere in the world, IBMers are working on solutions for our clients.
- Balancing of needs: IBM is committed to providing its employees the greatest degree of flexibility while balancing the needs of our clients, our business, team effectiveness and the individual IBM employee.
- Trust and personal responsibility: Consistent with our core value of “trust and personal responsibility in all relationships,” IBM expects managers and employees to make decisions, including those about flexibility options, consistent with this value and to demonstrate personal responsibility to ensure business commitments are met.
- Range of options: Flexible work options are a vehicle for IBM to meet the needs of our global clients and can be employee- or management-initiated and approved based upon the needs of the business, clients or individuals.
- Understanding differences: IBMers must consider the needs of our global stakeholders—clients, customers, colleagues and the communities in which we operate. Each of us must take responsibility to explore, understand and reflect differences in culture, customs, time of day, holidays, language, business requirements, the personal needs of stakeholders and the impact of our decisions on business dealings.
- Focus on results: IBMers must focus on results, setting goals and measuring performance with an eye toward providing an outstanding experience for IBM customers, clients and employees.
Every IBMer is considered a global IBMer. That means each employee must be able to seamlessly collaborate across borders and business units. Leading and working in multicultural teams to solve complex client problems has become the norm as IBMers do business around the world.
IBM sponsors an annual Cultural Adaptability Awareness Week to increase the cultural adaptability of the entire organization—from the most senior executive to the recent hires. The focus of the 2012 Cultural Adaptability Awareness Week was to highlight the programs, activities and resources we’ve developed to help IBMers cultivate deeper cultural knowledge and insights. We asked all IBMers to join the Global IBMers Community in our internal social business intranet and spend at least one hour of their time participating in activities to broaden their understanding of cross-cultural challenges and improve the way we do business across borders. These included a cultural webcast series focused on more than 11 countries, a podcast series on becoming an IBM global leader, opportunities for global cultural mentoring to gain expertise from their global colleagues and the n.Fluent language translation contest, which allows IBMers to take an active role in improving IBM’s strategic machine translation system.
Business Resource Groups
As we refine our employment and leadership practices to continuously attract and develop global thought leaders, it is imperative that our diversity strategy enables us to meet the company’s business objectives and talent requirements. As part of the Global Diversity & Inclusion Summit 2011, participants concluded that we needed to expand the role of Diversity Network Groups in helping drive business and talent success. And so, in the fall of 2012, we began transitioning our 236 global Diversity Network Groups to Business Resource Groups (BRGs), talented groups of diverse IBM professionals whose mission is to engage with our constituencies and communities to better support IBM’s people, clients and the business. These BRGs consist of IBM employees who voluntarily come together with the goal of enhancing the success of IBM’s business by helping their fellow IBMers succeed. We have asked the BRGs to ensure their programs and initiatives are aligned to support at least one of four IBM business and talent work streams: recruitment and hiring, talent development, employee retention and market development. The BRGs have chosen their focus areas and have begun to share best practices across the company.