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  • Publication date: 2008
  • Date added: 31 July 2009



Rating: IBM stimulates career policies for women

IBM stimulates career policies for women

2008 - IBM (International Business Machines Corporation, nicknamed "Big blue") designs and sells computer hardware, software, technology and services in the ICT sector.
Diversity has been a prominent theme for IBM for several decades. The company wants to be a reflection of society and the markets in which it operates. The ICT service provider intends to respond better  to the needs of customers. The 'corporate' vision states: Diversity is the bridge between the company and the market. In addition to the general rationale for encouraging diversity within the company, IBM also believes that achieving a female friendly image is very important and that the company cannot afford to appeal women insufficiently in the current 'war for talent'. It is therefore not surprising that IBM Netherlands in 2005 was awarded the Diversity Award.

Each year, IBM Netherlands establishes concrete objectives for diversity, including methods for measuring the efforts. Division Managers and directors are responsible for achieving these objectives. All managers must have the core competence to enable them to achieve an optimum involvement and development of all employees.
IBM Netherlands has several programs aimed at stimulating career opportunities for women. These programs are initiated and coordinated by the 'Women in Blue Council' and focus on the following four objectives:

  • Creating a hotbed of female talent, both internally and externally;
  • Achieving a cultural change;
  • The introduction of measures to achieve  a better work-life balance;
  • Communicating, both internally and externally, of the objectives, approach and results of the diversity policy. 

IBM Netherlands is using a range of effective tools to stimulate the flow of talented women:

  • The use of a system for management development that can quickly identify talent for leadership roles; selected persons are intensively supervised;
  • At least one female candidate in application procedures for heavy management jobs;
  • A mentoring program for talented women (Blue Pearls).
  • Supporting of the women's network ‘Women in Blue’, that advises the Board and so has real impact on the company’s policy;
  • Development of a work/life program, intended to increase the self-steering capability of the employees. This program is set up as a pilot under "Mixed", a project of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment.

Meanwhile, the programs within IBM are no longer accessible only to women, also high potential men are eligible. To promote a high quality intake, IBM Netherlands not only focuses on the regular labor market, there is also a lot of energy put in active awareness of pupils and students. Some of these activities are specifically aimed at female pupils and students. For example in the region of Amsterdam, a summer camp is organized for girls starting secondary school. In addition, female computer science students at the University of Amsterdam can consult an IBM mentor.

At international level, IBM also has a fund of $ 50 million for work/private projects. Company crèches, summer camps for children and facilities for the elderly can apply for a grant from this fund. At the national level, IBM Netherlands is committed to flexible working hours, arrangements for care and 'sabbatical leave', and encouraging part-time work and homework.

The package of measures and actions described above, led to a marked increase in the number of women in the period 2002-2004:

  • Increase in the proportion of female managers to 17 percent;
  • Increase in number of women in the national management team to 20 percent;
  • Increase in the proportion of female entrants to 22.5 percent.

From the staff satisfaction survey it appears that more female employees feel recognized and acknowledged as a valuable talent. It was even the network Women in Blue that had nominated IBM Netherlands for the Diversity Award.
Furthermore, the Dutch Board indicated that the increased focus on corporate culture has a positive impact on the performance of individual employees and on business performance in general.

Lessons learned
The corporate culture must comply with the objectives.
Clear objectives, methods, and executives with the right core competencies are essential in a process of change.
Several programs aimed at the same goal are often the most effective and also the most convincing that the company actually wants to achieve this goal.
A higher participation of women is both beneficial to the employee and to the employer.

Additional Information
The program at IBM also results from the project "The Business Case for Diversity m/w" by Opportunity in Business. The Diversity Award is an initiative of VNO-NCW.
Opportunity in Business is a national network and expertise center for organizations who seek a balanced composition of their management. The economic value of m/w-balance and the company's interests are the starting point. The strength of Opportunity in Business is mainly in connecting research knowledge and practical experience. The tools and good practices of the network to inspire businesses to cultural and practical measures.

This case was previously published in Diversity Award VNO-NCW: Werk maken van diversteit, een renderende praktijk (Advancing Diversity and a profitable practice) (2006) Opportunity in Business. This publication can be requested via: and publications-2