The Importance of Building Diverse Teams

By | 3 minute read | June 12, 2019

IBM Be Equal

This month I was honored to be named as one of 20 IBM Partner Executives on CRN’s 2019 Women of the Channel, and featured on CRN’s 2019 Power 100 list. I am proud to be recognized among so many high-performing female leaders at IBM and across the industry. It caused me to reflect on how much I appreciate being part of a company that is committed to creating a diverse workforce. Diversity doesn’t just create better work cultures; it’s also one of the key drivers of creativity and innovation, which ultimately leads to better economic returns for everyone–it is well-documented that diverse teams perform better.

I’ve been at IBM for two years now, and I’m continually impressed by our commitment to diversity. Our executives are measured by the diversity of their teams, and we ensure that we are developing future leaders across the company that reflect the many colors, capabilities and orientations of society at large.

IBM has a long history of commitment to diversity. In 1899 we hired our first female and African American employees, and in 1914 our first disabled employee. We established an equal pay policy in 1935, named our first female executive in 1943, appointed our first woman to the Board of Directors in 1956, established a non-discrimination policy on the basis of sexual orientation in 1984, a non-discrimination policy on the basis of genetics in 2005, and we named our first female CEO in 2012.

IBM is also a four-time recipient of the Catalyst Award, which recognizes companies that advance women in business. And most recently, IBM launched an initiative focused on proliferating greater gender diversity called Be Equal. IBM has led the way in championing for diversity in technology for over a century, and it’s incredible to see how many other technology companies are highly committed to diversity as well, as evidenced by this year’s Women in the Channel awards.

Yet it wasn’t always this way.  When I started my career in technology in the mid 1990s, it was typical for me to be the only female on all-male (and often all-white) teams. Even as recently as nine years ago, I was hired as the first female on an all-male team with a male leader.

While I didn’t have an issue with this, and even came to expect it since I worked in technology, when I had the chance build my own team, I naturally started hiring women, minorities and diversity in sexual orientation, background, and thinking.  I found that diversity does indeed create stronger teams–more ideas, more ways of working, broader points of view, and an opportunity to learn more from each other. Building teams that are a true representation of the spectrum of our society helps us tap into what our customers really need so that we can create better products and services. Interestingly, as I’ve created diverse leadership teams that are strong and high performing, I’ve found that most nonminority, high-performing men want to join these teams as well.

Having a record number of IBM women recognized as leaders in the CRN Women of the Channel this year is a reflection of all the managers, mentors, and colleagues who have created and sustained workplace environments where diversity is prioritized. These are workplaces where ALL employees are heard, valued, and rewarded for their contributions—places where employees can bring their whole selves to work, where women no longer have to hide the fact that they have children, where men can be involved and engaged dads, and where same sex partners can come to the company picnic.

Our CRN recognition is also a reflection of all the people in our personal lives—our family, friends and spouses—who enable us to be successful at work. We don’t succeed in a vacuum; we thrive when we have encouragement and tangible support. I recently wrote an article, “In Praise of Lead Parents,” about my own experience and how I would not be able to have both a successful career and children without a very supportive, “Lead Parent” husband.

So I first want to say thank you to all of you who are committed to diversity. And I’d also like to remind all of us—men and women alike—that we still have a long way to go in creating greater diversity on our teams and in our executive ranks. We should continue to look for ways to hire and elevate women and minorities, and create work cultures that enable them to thrive. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s also good business.