Part of supporting a just, global society involves advocating for cultural, geographic and gender equality. In 2016, IBM continued to play an important role in supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through our employee volunteerism initiatives, and in encouraging and providing opportunities for girls, women, people of color and those from low-income backgrounds to participate in education and the global economy.

Promoting action and understanding

Supporting the U.N. SDGs

IBM joined Ritz-Carlton, SAP and UPS as founding members of IMPACT 2030, a global, private-sector-led collaboration dedicated to mobilizing corporate volunteers in service to achieving the SDGs by 2030. As the only business-led effort designed to marshal the power of human capital to address the U.N.’s 17 SDGs in developed and developing nations, IMPACT 2030 continues as a first-of-its-kind collaboration of corporate volunteering initiatives.

Teaching diplomacy

Housed in the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Diplomacy Center will be the first museum and education center “dedicated to the history, practice, and challenges of American diplomacy.” The center’s mission will be to help visitors understand the critical role that diplomacy has played in American history. As a key technology partner and IBM Impact Grant recipient, the U.S. Diplomacy Center leveraged IBM expertise in social media, technology infrastructure planning, as well as digital strategies and virtual experiences during its development.

Supporting the next generation of global leaders

In 2016, IBM launched a new pan-African program to identify and develop the continent’s next generation of ethical leadership. The “Values-Driven Leadership in Action” initiative is a partnership with the Academy of Business in Society (ABIS) — a 15-year-old network founded in part by IBM to focus on sustainability as a core competency for executive leaders. First established in Europe, ABIS’s rollout in Africa is a collaboration among IBM, GSK and Unilever. The program encompasses eight business schools across Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa — each a partner in developing a shared values-driven leadership curriculum.

Two essential differentiators of Values-Driven Leadership in Action will be cross-sector learning, with senior business and government leaders participating together, and the involvement of an active alumni community to build and sustain ethical organizational practices across the continent. Courses at the participating schools will involve managers from IBM, GSK and Unilever in addition to governmental representatives. We believe that public-private partnerships such as these will encourage innovation, cross-cultural understanding and a shared sense of core values throughout a global network of emerging leaders.

Women and diversity

While there has never been a better time for women to pursue STEM careers, and for girls to include STEM careers in their lifetime goals, the unfortunate fact remains that only 24 percent of STEM workers are female, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For many girls, the challenge is lack of encouragement and role models, not lack of ability. For women, the challenge can be maintaining patience with an industry that — while changing for the better — is changing too slowly. IBM is working to help enable greater change, to make change happen faster, and to ensure that the women and girls currently fighting on the front lines of change are encouraging and bringing more women and girls into technology and engineering.

Youth empowerment

In South Africa, IBM volunteers have been teaching STEM, independent living, leadership and entrepreneurship skills to young people with cerebral palsy. The goal is multi-faceted. On the personal level, skills-based volunteering enriches the contributor as much as the recipient. Talented employees who believe in service join IBM because of the company’s legacy of contributing to the communities in which it does business. These employees also tend to make their careers at IBM because of the availability of ongoing opportunities to serve. And from a broader perspective, services programs such as those for disadvantaged learners inspire others — fellow IBMers, business partners and clients — to serve.

For disadvantaged learners, IBM’s skilled volunteers provide the chance for these young adults to live well-rounded, independent lives. For girls in grades 8 through 10 — to cite another example from South Africa — it means the opportunity to make the most of their aptitudes in math and science before moving into careers in science, engineering, commerce and IT.

Download the 2016 report