Corporate Citizenship

Equality is personal, even in business

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Author: David La Rose, Managing Director, IBM Australia and New Zealand

David La RoseWho has given you career opportunities over the years? Many of us have been recipients of another person’s time, support or encouragement. These opportunities occur every day in the workplace, but the statistics show men still receive opportunities more than women.

This struck a chord with me this week as I began to reflect on the issues surrounding International Women’s Day.

As a father of two daughters – both of whom have aspirations to rule the world – my motivation to give them the best opportunities as they go forward has never been stronger.  Their strength, determination and impetus are admirable, but ultimately it will be the leaders they encounter throughout their careers who will hold the keys to unlocking their full potential.

I have no doubt they will excel when given the opportunity – and in many cases, they will create their own opportunities- but they cannot do it alone. This is because true equality can only be achieved through a concerted effort by all of us – men and women alike.

International Women’s Day, is a day that not only highlights the importance of elevating the female leaders and change champions around us but it also serves as a reminder of the need to be disruptive in our push for diversity and inclusion.

The diversity of our teams is critical to making better business decisions, and gender diversity, in particular, has been shown to be one of the key drivers of creativity and innovation in business.

I often reflect on the time when my team and I were looking to promote a young female into her first executive position at IBM. I noticed the conversation among the team quickly moved to whether she was ready for the role or not – there was a clear sense of reluctance within the group.

There was no doubt in my mind this young woman was ready for the role, so I addressed the issue head-on with my team, breaking them into smaller groups to have a transparent and honest conversation on the matter; affirming my confidence in her ability to get the job done.

Ultimately the decision was made to give her the role, and the team agreed to provide her with as much support as she needed to succeed. Fast forward to today, and she’s now flying in this role which is not only testament to her ability but also to the value in pushing our strong female leaders forward at every opportunity.

Last month, IBM launched its global Be Equal campaign at THINK 2019 – another marker on IBM’s 100-year history of work in progressing diversity and inclusion. Be Equal is an invitation – a call to action – to engage IBMers, customers and the broader community to promote the advancement of equality and fairness in business leadership.

As we approach International Women’s Day, I make a pledge to be disruptive in my push for diversity and inclusion, and I challenge you to do the same.

This call for equality and diversity is part of IBM’s DNA; ever since our President Thomas Watson Jr. declared in Policy Letter #4 that IBM would always “hire people who have the personality, talent and background necessary to fill a given job, regardless of race, colour or creed.” 66 years later, we stand by these values and go a step further, encouraging IBMers to thrive not regardless of who we are, but because of who we are.

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