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March 2014

Women in IT according to IBM

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With more than twenty years at IBM, Joanne Collins-Smee saw and sees many businesses evolve within this American company. Today, as the General Manager of IBM Globally Integrated Capabilities, she follows 80,000 IBMers worldwide and is for diversity within the company.


1. Could you tell us briefly how and when you joined IBM and what were the different steps that brought you to your actual position? 

I have been with IBM for over 20 years, and I’ve been very lucky to have held a variety of different roles. I started out working for IBM in New York as a Software Developer, after receiving my MBA from New York University. I’ve had the opportunity to lead technical teams in the development of information technology strategy, architecture, application development, system integration, project management, infrastructure management, and client sales and support.

Throughout my career I’ve realized that one of the most important keys to success is to constantly learn and always look for opportunities, both formally and informally, to expand my understanding of the way technology is changing our world. As the General Manager of the Globally Integrated Capabilities organization, I am surrounded by some of the most talented teams at IBM, and I challenge them, and myself, to explore, innovate and create new ideas that wouldn’t have been designed otherwise. Our world is changing so rapidly. We must not be afraid to embrace those shifts.


2. We understand that you have a specific interest in the subject of “Women in IT”. Can you explain to us in a few words what IBM has done and will continue to do regarding women in this sector?  

IBM has had a history of inclusion. In Watson’s Policy Letter #4, dated September 21, 1953, President Thomas J. Watson Jr. wrote to his managers, “It is the policy of this organization to hire people who have the personality, talent and background necessary to fill a given job, regardless of race, color or creed.”  IBM recognizes that the most important investment we can make is in our talent, and our people. We recognize that the skills needed today are not necessarily the ones that are going to be relevant tomorrow, and we are making conscious decisions about recruiting and promoting those individuals who are able to meet the needs of the future.

IBM has designed programs specifically to encourage top female talent, and we have seen success stories coming from these groups. Some of our programs include:

  • Leadership in Action Video Series – A video series designed for women, by women, to address important issues and topics for women in the workforce.
  • Building Relationships and Influencing (BRI) - A leadership course for High Potential Women that mixes face-to-face and virtual learning approaches to encourage and empower our women leaders.
  • Super Women’s Group Call – Monthly calls for women, focusing on advice and topics specifically designed for women at IBM, and encouraging collaboration and interaction across geographies and executive levels.
  • Graduate Hire Roundtables – Small group discussions with IBM female leaders designed for recent and pending graduates, to develop the pipeline of female talent at IBM.

IBM is deeply committed to the advancement of women in the workplace. We realize that diversity is key to ensuring we have top talent, bringing fresh creativity, new perspectives and innovative ideas to IBM. We will continue to pioneer programs and policies to ensure the legacy Watson has envisioned.


3. What are some of the actions that could be set up in the Lille environment to attract more young girls and women interested in a career in IT and to facilitate their access to more high-tech jobs?

We have already hosted a number of events in Lille that have received positive feedback amongst young women. We’ve held the “Ecole & Entreprise” (School & Business) session with school principals and education leaders to discuss the role of education in developing skills for the workplace. Additionally, we’ve had a roundtable with high school students where we spoke about the importance of diversity in the workplace. The roundtable discussion was a huge success. We had immediate feedback from the participants, with many of the girls saying that they have now a different image of IT based on our conversations.

We also have programs in place to help encourage more women and young girls to pursue a career in the IT business. We are currently working to fill our March / April internship positions with local female recruiters and interviewers. We also have an apprentice program with a local high school that helps educate young women on analytics. The teacher is provided to the program through our IBM partnership.

We continue to pursue relationships with local schools and organizations to ensure, and encourage, all interested young women to pursue a career in IT.

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