19 Ways Women Have Advanced Their Careers at IBM

By | 6 minute read | March 31, 2022

IBM has a long history of supporting women in the workplace, which started in 1899 when the company hired its first female employee. Since the company’s founding, women have played a critical role in driving innovation.

We all have different personal experiences that help bring value to our jobs, whether they’re lessons from family and friendships or from organizations we’re involved in and hobbies we enjoy. At IBM, we recognize that a diverse leadership team is vital to fostering innovation and business growth. We’re proud to offer a culture rich in career and leadership opportunities for women.

We spoke with our Diversity & Inclusion Leader for Women at IBM, Julie McDougal, who shared 19 ways women have advanced their careers at IBM.

Career Acceleration Programs

As of 2020, over 4,000 women at IBM have participated in a career acceleration program aimed at growing leadership and networking skills. Below is a sampling of our global offerings, as well as some of our many geography-based programs designed to address specific regional needs.

Targeted Global Leadership Programs:

1. Building Relationships and Influence
A global leadership program for women with executive potential, designed to accelerate their IBM career through face-to-face sessions and action-centered learning. Women at IBM explore ways to advance their leadership skills, build more effective business relationships, and improve influencing skills.

2. Creating Your Leadership Journey
Also known as “Level Up”, this program is designed to develop executive potential women for leadership roles and offers participants the opportunity to learn strategies for increasing visibility and identifying ways to balance the demands of work and life.

3. Unleashing Your Leadership Potential
A book club-like learning series designed to strengthen the leadership skills of IBMers. Become an influential leader by learning how to enhance personal branding, build stronger relationships, and find better work-life integration.

4. Women in the Corner Office
This program focuses on fostering a more inclusive work environment to support the career acceleration of IBM women, featuring quarterly round tables with executives to provide career advice and networking, and opportunities for women to find a mentor, coach, or sponsor.

Geography-Based Offerings:

5. Elevate Women Leadership Development
For IBM women in Central and Eastern Europe, East Africa, and Latin America, this program is a chance to develop leadership skills through a customized and tailored learning plan around creating a leadership journey and building their personal brand.

6. DACH Women and Leadership
For IBM women in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, this program is designed to support women develop 21st century leadership behaviors. Here’s a chance to gain confidence while creating personal strategies for career development.

7. Tanmatra
For IBM women in India, this program offers a blend of academic, experiential, and reflective learning, helping participants develop personal, functional, and strategic leadership skills. Over the course of nine months, women learn how to prepare to become executives through job shadowing, mentoring, networking sessions with business leaders, and one-on-one consulting.

8. Top Women Elite Circle
For IBM women in China, this program accelerates the personal and professional growth of early career women, blending group and personal coaching activities to assist in gaining a deeper awareness and connection to oneself.

9. Europe Elevate+
This program is designed for women in Europe who want to reach an executive level in their career. During this 12-month program, participants partake in leadership development sessions, individual coaching, and sponsorship.

10. Women Advancement through Leadership and Knowledge
A female development program for early career women in Mexico that offers structured mentoring and learnings to develop leadership skills, enhance business acumen, and improve personal branding.

11. W50 Women in Leadership
For IBM women in Japan, the goal of this program is to develop and promote early and mid-career women into management roles, which are characteristically held by men in Japan. It focuses on developing leadership skills, networking, job shadowing, and sponsorship.


Mentorship and Sponsorship

Mentorship and sponsorship are at the forefront of IBM’s culture. IBM mentors and career coaches take the time to actively listen to mentees, while empowering them to build a plan to advance their careers the way they choose to. An IBM sponsor will stand up for women even when they’re not in the room. Check out these programs you could take advantage of:

12. Tech Re-Entry
Global program designed for talented, technical professionals, mostly women, who left the workforce and are looking to restart their careers and transition back into the workplace. This paid, six-month returnship enables participants to work on projects that match their expertise, interests, and abilities, providing hands-on experiences, mentoring, and workshops.

13. IBM Apprenticeship
Helps individuals, often without four-year degrees, make the shift from less flexible careers such as food service, retail, and manufacturing to become cybersecurity analysts, system administrators, digital designers, developers, and more. These roles provide the flexibility needed to excel in their careers and in their personal lives.

14. Technical Women’s Pipeline
Aligns mid-career women with an executive coach and sponsor, offering face-to-face workshops and learning labs, and creating a development roadmap to track progress and readiness for the next milestone in their career paths.

15. Women in Tech Returning to the Workforce framework
Enables women with technical backgrounds to return to the workforce after a long leave of absence, integrating them back into their professional careers. Women may need to leave their jobs to care for children and elderly parents, relocate with their family, or complete their higher education studies. This program is available worldwide and may vary by country or circumstance.

16. Business Resource Groups (BRG)
IBM offers more than 50 BRGs for women worldwide, helping to expand personal and professional networks, develop skills, gain access to mentorship and sponsorship, and advocate for issues important to women. One example, the “SWIFT” (Successful Women Inspiring Future Talent) BRG, currently has a membership of over 5,000 women from North America, provides strong support for personal growth and career development through networking and mentoring activities.

Technical Leadership Development

As a technology company, IBM has developed many programs to advance women in technical leadership roles to increase the diversity of the technical executive population. Additionally, IBM emphasis on skills over degrees has opened a route to tech for women from diverse backgrounds. The following programs and partnerships are available for IBM women:

17. Pathways to Technical Leadership
A program to recruit, develop, and retain mid-career, diverse technical leaders, where participants identify their career aspirations and develop leadership skills with self-paced education, workshops, mentoring, and personalized training. Senior leaders actively engage with participants, offering shadowing opportunities and hosting roundtable discussions.

18. AnintaB.Org
A global, non-profit organization that helps connect, inspire, and guide women in computing, as well as organizations, that view technology innovation as a strategic imperative. IBM women have access to a membership that provides external mentorship and technical education, as well as participation in events like the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women.

19. Society of Women Engineers @ IBM
A global, non-profit organization with a membership of nearly 30,000 individuals, focused on issues of interest to women specializing in engineering and technical careers. IBM has been a long-standing partner with Society of Women Engineers and sponsors membership for technical women at IBM to join.


Discover Your Potential at IBM

Consider IBM as the next step in your career journey, discover your highest potential, and make meaningful change in the world. Visit our Careers Website today to find your dream job at IBM!