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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: IBM’s focus on diversity isn’t a fad. It’s central to the company’s history

IBM
A sign outside IBM’s corporate headquarters in Armonk, N.Y.
(Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images)

To the editor: I’m writing as IBM’s global sales leader and senior executive champion of IBM’s black employee community. We are deeply troubled by the suggestion in an op-ed article that IBM is anything but the gold standard for a global commitment to diversity. The fact is IBM has been well recognized by the black community as a progressive leader in diversity, advocacy and equality for generations.

In 1899, we hired our first female and black employees, followed by a public commitment to “equal pay for equal work” in 1935. Less than 20 years later, IBM wrote history’s first corporate equal opportunity policy, more than a decade before the Civil Rights Act. Since that first policy, IBM leaders have advanced the work of previous generations of leaders to address the pressing issues of our time.

Black employees have long contributed to IBM’s success at top levels. The company has worked to address the root cause of low black representation in tech -- educational inequality. We sponsor innovative inner-city high schools in places like Brooklyn, Chicago and Baltimore, where students can earn an associate’s degree in a technology field and receive business mentorship and internships while still in high school, putting them on the road to a job in our industry. Without the requirement of a four-year traditional college degree, our New Collar program is widening the aperture to entering careers in tech.

As a member, IBM has pledged support to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Braintrust and to ensuring black students have the skills to succeed in the tech industry, with training for jobs in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and blockchain technologies. In an industry that has very little diversity at the board-of-director level, IBM has had distinguished black leaders on our board for decades.

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Diversity and inclusion have been at the core of IBM since our founding. We will continue to build on that leadership and set the example for other companies to emulate.

Martin Schroeter, Bedford, N.Y.

The writer is IBM’s senior vice president for global markets, marketing and communications.


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