Accelerating the Journey of Diversity and Inclusion

April 13, 2021

By Carla Grant Pickens, Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer

In 2020, the convergence of racial injustice and the global pandemic amplified the stark need for swift and greater progress in the quest for equality and equity from society and businesses. COVID-19 disrupted all our lives, though not in equal measure. Working women were challenged by the pandemic, causing millions to leave the workforce. Moreover, we witnessed social injustices that sparked a global movement, bringing conversations about racism and discrimination to the forefront. 

Sustained progress starts by understanding and acknowledging economic inequality and then taking action to combat those inequalities. Recently, IBM’s Institute for Business Value (IBV) reported that in 2020 in the U.S. alone, more than five million women were pushed from their jobs, putting female participation in the workforce at its lowest rate since 1988. Additionally, this January, Latinas in the U.S. faced a 9.2% unemployment rate, with Black women at 9%, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the current trajectory, it will take about 95 years for Black employees to reach talent parity (or 12% representation) across all levels in the private sector according to research by McKinsey & Company. 

Discrimination is an issue that challenges most underrepresented minority groups. In IBM’s IBV study, “Untapped potential: The Hispanic talent advantage,” 87% of Hispanics say they have experienced professional prejudice because of their race, and more than a third of Black and South Asian men say the same. Furthermore, 69% of women say they have experienced discrimination due to their gender according to IBM IBV’s latest study, “Dismantling the glass ceiling: Actions to advance gender equality in the workplace.”

These inequities and statistics on discrimination have brought us to accelerate our journey of diversity and inclusion at IBM. We are channeling what 2020 taught us into outcome-oriented, rigorous actions focused on four strategic areas: 

  • Advocacy that drives systemic change which creates opportunity for diverse communities 
  • Allyship where we provide the training and support to help every IBMer be an upstander through inclusive behaviors 
  • Employee experiences that champion all diverse communities of IBMers and support every employee to thrive and bring their authentic selves to work 
  • Accountability that harnesses data transparency and AI to enable action and deliver outcomes for increased diversity and inclusion representation at every level of our company 

Today, IBM released our 2020 Diversity & Inclusion report, which outlines key actions in these areas. We also share stories of IBMers that illustrate how life-changing diversity and inclusion in action can be. 

This report is the next step in our journey of transparency—it is focused on relevant data and our plans to continue to act on these commitments. While IBM has a rich heritage in diversity and inclusion, we are still learning, growing, and making progress. We are focused on driving systemic change for IBMers, our industry, our communities, and beyond. 

This is a critical moment where we all must do better in our efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion. Employees are expecting our leaders to step up to shape a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable workforce. The time is now for all of us to commit to a diversity and inclusion agenda. In particular, leaders need to act and lead with conscious inclusion to realize a workforce that reflects the world in which we live and work.

Carla Grant Pickens
Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer