Building on Our Inclusive Heritage: How IBM Advocates for Diversity

We are dedicated to the success of all IBMers worldwide, through an inclusive workplace experience that supports their growth and well-being.
Nov 19, 2019 2:00 PM ET

Diversity of thought, experience and personal identity among IBMers improves our company’s innovation, agility, performance and engagement. This principle drives our efforts to have all IBMers feel safe and confident being their full selves at work — and to advocate for inclusion outside our company.

IBM’s first nondiscrimination policy was groundbreaking for 1953, when CEO Thomas Watson Jr. formalized an existing, progressive practice to hire “regardless of race, color or creed.” IBM later added sexual orientation (1984), gender identity and expression (2002) and genetics (2005) to the policy. Today, we feel responsible not only for maintaining that heritage, but also building upon it.

Our support of LGBT+ IBMers includes a formal program to support transitioning transgender employees in the workplace. IBM supports gender affirmation treatment benefits in nine countries and in 2018 we released Gender transition in the global workplace, a first-of-its-kind white paper developed with the Human Rights Campaign to share our approach and detail the benefits of transgender transition support and inclusion. Also in 2018, we launched the commercially available LGBT+ Ally Championship Badge for allies who have demonstrated advocacy and support for the LGBT+ community.

Neurodiversity is an emerging aspect of our persons with disabilities (PwD) programs, because neurodiverse IBMers can offer different perspectives valuable to product development and client service. Working with nonprofit agency Specialisterne, we launched the IBM IGNITE employment program in the U.S. and through it have hired six IBMers with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We are expanding the initiative to Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Canada in 2019, with the goal of creating 300 jobs for individuals with ASD by 2020. Also in 2018, we launched People with DisABILITIES education to challenge preconceptions about PwD and help managers and employees be “disability confident” while advocating for a more inclusive workplace.

Continuing our focus on the advancement of women, the IBM Institute for Business Value surveyed 2,300 organizations about gender equality in their leadership, identifying obstacles to change as well as the advantages of establishing gender parity as a formal business priority. In March 2019, we published the study as Women, Leadership, and the Priority Paradox and launched Be Equal — inviting IBMers, clients and society to make #BeEqual pledges of support for gender equality in business leadership. Be Equal will continue to expand to promote equality for all. Learn more and make your pledge at

Public advocacy

IBM advocates for inclusive public policies because we want IBMers and their families of all backgrounds to be engaged, productive and safe in the communities where they live and work.

In 2018, we continued to stand with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients — children raised in the United States after their parents brought them into the country without legal immigration status — by asking Congress to find a solution for Dreamers to stay living and working in the United States. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and 100 other CEOs signed a letter sent by the Coalition for the American Dream, urging lawmakers to pass legislation protecting Dreamers. IBMers who are also DACA recipients were in Washington, D.C., to stand with the coalition. IBM continues to work with the Coalition for the American Dream to provide Dreamers a permanent solution.

IBM is a leader in advocating for the fair and equal treatment of the LGBT+ community. In 2018, we opposed legislation in Israel that would discriminate against same-sex couples that want to have a child through surrogacy, and expressed support for marriage equality in Taiwan, Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic. In the United States, IBM opposed efforts in Massachusetts to roll back transgender rights, and has remained one of the strongest corporate advocates calling for passage of the Equality Act to extend civil rights to the LGBT+ community.

In 2019, IBM supported passage of the Equality Act, which would amend existing laws to provide consistent, explicit protections for LGBT+ employees in the United States. Ginni Rometty stated IBM’s position in a letter to the U.S. Congress, and IBM Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Tia Silas testified before the House Judiciary Committee — IBM was the only company invited to testify.

Learn more in IBM's 2018 Corporate Responsibility Report