In its first 100 years, IBM has shown that innovation and inclusion are two sides of the same company coin. Today, IBM has 72 diversity councils worldwide. While Thomas Watson Sr. and his son shared the intelligence and determination that led to IBM’s spectacular growth, they also both cared deeply about the welfare of their employees. Watson Sr. was successful in passing along to his son a sincere respect for the individual worker. Their concern also extended to groups of employees, such as people with disabilities, women and African Americans. In essence, the Watson men introduced the values of diversity and equal opportunity to the business world, and demonstrated their practical application in the workplace.
Ronald C. Glover
Ronald C. Glover is IBM’s vice president of diversity and workforce programs. Under Glover’s leadership, IBM’s diversity effort extends across borders, throughout the company’s worldwide locations. Glover is responsible for ensuring that the principles of equal opportunity and inclusion remain intact as the company completes its global integration journey. According to Glover, twenty-first century diversity is primarily a matter of economic survival, not only for IBM, but for all companies in today’s competitive global marketplace. Today more than ever, equal opportunity means building on the talent, creativity and skill inherent in a multicultural workforce. Under Glover’s stewardship, IBM’s industrious diversity task forces, along with 72 diversity councils around the globe, are implementing local diversity initiatives. While the cultural makeup of the organization varies greatly by location, Glover and his colleagues work to ensure that increased understanding and inclusion continue to serve as universal business drivers.
Marilyn D. Johnson
Discovering how Marilyn Johnson finds time for all she does is a challenge fit for an IBM engineer. As vice president of market development, Johnson uses her expertise to attract a wide range of minority businesses to IBM. Johnson is a board director for the National Council of Negro Women; she co-chairs the Women’s Leadership Exchange Multicultural Advisory Board; and she is a Sequoyah Fellow of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. Marilyn is a sought-after mentor and coach, a member of the Automotive Women’s Association and the National Black MBA Association. She has received the Leading by Example award from the Center for Women’s Business Research, and was honored as one of Network Journal magazine’s Top 25 Influential Black Women. She is among a select few women comprising New York City YMCA’s Academy of Leaders, and was honored with the Count Me In Women’s Business Growth Forum’s Corporate Visionary Award.
Ted Childs played a critical role in advancing equal opportunity at IBM while Louis Gerstner was CEO. Childs collaborated closely with Gerstner and advised others in the company’s leadership on various diversity issues, including how to align their own behavior with the organization’s inclusive approach. He broadened IBM’s definition of minority, adding age and sexual orientation to the existing distinctions of race, ethnicity and gender. Perhaps most importantly, Childs was responsible for building IBM’s eight original diversity task forces by selecting 15 to 20 senior managers for each group. Helping to jumpstart their work, he facilitated communication between the company’s employees and the task forces, resulting in the discovery of common concerns within and between the various constituencies. Two years after launching the task forces, IBM, with Childs’s leadership, granted domestic partner benefits to gay and lesbian employees, another watershed in workforce policy.
When Samuel Palmisano took over leadership of IBM, he also took up the mantle of equal opportunity. Implicit within the president’s model for the globally integrated enterprise are the fundamental values of diversity, inclusion, equal opportunity and multicultural awareness—on a global scale. As companies undertake the process of global integration, geographic borders become less relevant, while issues of culture grow increasingly more significant. Today’s management team is responsible for developing talent, mentoring employees and fostering collaboration across borders, and cultures as well. IBM also continues expand its supplier diversity program, increasing access to economic opportunity. Palmisano emphasizes the need to “lower the center of gravity” throughout the company, placing more decision-making responsibility with individuals. This type of empowerment is created and maintained through respect for individual differences and a thriving culture of inclusion, evident in every location across the globe.
As director for
IBM® WebSphere®development, Kalpana Margabandhu leads the WebSphere mission in IBM India’s software lab. She also oversees WebSphere Partner Gateway, WebSphere Data Interchange and application integration management development in India. She was chairperson of the IBM Indian Women’s Leadership Council from its inception in 2005 until 2009, driving many professional and personal development initiatives for IBM India’s female employees. Providing encouragement to her female colleagues, Kalpana says, “The best advice I have is—you can do it. The confidence my managers and extended teams had in me has helped me grow.”
Louis V. Gerstner
Louis Gerstner was IBM’s board chairman and CEO from 1993 to 2002. Prior to joining IBM he was chairman and CEO of RJR Nabisco Co. and had previously served as president of American Express Company. The Mineola, NY, native is credited for pulling IBM from the brink of failure and returning the company to profitability. Early in his tenure, Gerstner saw that minorities were under-represented among the company’s executive ranks. He sought to correct the problem by forming eight diversity task forces. Gerstner viewed equal opportunity as a sound business strategy, strengthening ties to customers by increasing the multicultural makeup of the company. Setting an example for management, he worked closely with task force members in the development and promotion of qualified minorities. Under Gerstner, executive management became accountable for the achievement of diversity goals. For this CEO, maintaining an inclusive workplace throughout IBM meant business.
Diversity Task Forces
More than 15 years has passed since IBM’s diversity task forces were instituted, and they remain as vital to the company today as ever. While based within human resources, their reach and responsibilities are global. Each task force is composed of executives and employees who self-identify as constituents of one of eight diversity groups. The value of these industrious groups is acknowledged and understood company-wide by IBM’s leadership, management and employees. Over the years, the task forces have produced dramatic results in multicultural recruitment, advancement, marketing and sensitivity. From Asian American leadership development, to increased business relationships with black-owned firms, to the industry’s first GLBT sales team and so many more initiatives, the task forces contribute daily to the success of the organization and individually to its diverse employees.