IBM has been an advocate for equality for many years. Since 1984 it has spoken out about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) equality and inclusion and has fought discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation:
On September 21, 1953, Thomas Watson, Jr., the company’s president at the time, sent out a controversial letter to all IBM employees stating that IBM needed to hire the best people, regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or gender. He also publicized the policy so that in his negotiations to build new manufacturing plants with the governors of two states in the U.S. South, he could be clear that IBM would not build “separate-but-equal” workplaces. In 1984, IBM added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination policy. The company stated that this would give IBM a competitive advantage because IBM would then be able to hire talented people its competitors would turn down.
Today IBM released its 2010 IBM GLBT Inaugural Annual Report. It’s remarkable that one of the most significant corporations on the planet has taken this positive step in demonstrating that everyone of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity in its workplace is valued and respected. There are many organisations in which people are not encouraged to feel comfortable to be who they are and it’s in these workplaces where both the employee and employer suffer.
I’m confident IBM’s GLBT Annual Report will help lead the way for other organisations to show how they are also making their workplaces just as inclusive, productive and safe.