By Prachi Rastogi, Diversity & Inclusion Leader,
"IBM thinks about diversity the way we think about innovation both are essential to the success of our business. When we innovate, technology becomes smarter for clients and creates new opportunities for growth. When we incorporate diversity into our business, we create better innovations and out-comes."
- Ginni Rometty.
Inclusiveness is not just a moral imperative but a business imperative, diverse teams drive innovation. So, we must foster an environment that enables individuals to bring their whole self to work and deliver their best.
Exclusion is the enemy of innovation and mere policies and programs are not enough. There is a need to show strong leadership, to value inclusion, to improve ourselves and our society.
In its 100+ year old journey, IBM has constantly been at the forefront of inclusion. Whether it is recruiting our first women and African-American employees in 1899, or people with disabilities in 1914. These were business imperatives before any civil rights acts or legislations. We established our "Equal pay for equal work" policy in 1935.
At IBM India our prime D&I focus are advancement of women in leadership roles, engaging and developing women across the organization and work-life integration. We also focus on wholesome inclusion on all other dimensions which allows our employees to work without facing any kind of bias.
The achievement of gender equality cannot sit on the shoulders of women alone. When we take shared ownership, men and women, that's when we stride forward together.
Making Inclusion real at IBM is a threefold process:
1- Women's Advancement is everyone's business at IBM!
IBM provides an environment rich in career and leadership opportunities, with many programs and resources available to women to advance their career. Through learning programs and courses offered through the IBM Leadership Academy, women specific development offerings, rotational programs, mentoring and stretch assignment opportunities, all women have access to tools to help them in their career journey. With the IBM Leadership Academy, we offer world-class development experiences for all employees at all levels and markets in the organization. Regardless of where employees are in their career, we make the training, tools and networks to help them gain the skills needed to accelerate careers. Women are encouraged to access and leverage the programs & benefit from the following opportunities:
- Inclusive policies & benefits: Transport for Pregnant women, Post-maternity part time work policy, Flexible work options, subsidized child care and dependent care, nursing rooms,
- Access to a company-wide network of peers and advisors to exchange ideas and gain insight,
- Increased business acumen, speaking, and leadership skills through in-person and virtual events,
- Self-paced e-learning modules enable ongoing skills attainment - IBM's YourLearning is a Watson-AI powered learning platform capable of delivering individualized learning based on role, skills and interest,
- Social networking platforms to stay connected and collaborate with colleagues,
- Career planning framework and tools to guide career velocity. IBM has launched a tool called MyCA (my career advisor) which is a Watson-AI powered career advisor.
- Membership in WW organizations supporting the advancement of women and advancing their network
- Formal and informal mentorship opportunities to foster individual development and career guidance
- Health and well-being sessions conducted from time to time on subjects such as financial acumen, safety, health, fitness and parenting.
- We acknowledge Pink October as breast cancer awareness month, and March as International Women's month, to use the opportunity for month long engagements on these topics.
- We have women specific leadership development programs specific to the needs of the business, such as consulting, infrastructure, labs and in specific markets.
2- Bias & Decision Making
As an IBMer, Managers, irrespective of gender, demonstrate fairness, empathy, impartiality and objectivity. They make sound business decisions and juggle many tasks. Each of us, however, is human, and we come with ingrained biases that may be conscious or unconscious. Our objective is to create a discrimination free workplace, where we can bring our whole-selves to work.
We ensure all managers attend the Unconscious Bias training to be aware of how it impacts decision making. As an outcome, the male leaders, who are currently more in number become inclusive and understand how we can lead in a competitive environment without any biases on the grounds of gender, religion, language, caste, nationality, ethnicity, generation, ability/disability or any other physical or intrinsic attributes.
The male allies do all they can to strategize and execute inclusion which leads to an environment where women explore their talent, creativity and capability.
One of the many testimonials we have received from women for their male mentors is "As a working mother my bleakest period was when I tried getting back to work post maternity - guilt ridden about leaving an infant at home, out of touch with happenings at work place over the 6 months when I was not in and pretty much unsure about events in general. It took 3 people to help me out of my rut at that point and to instill in me the belief that I can manage it. One of those 3 was Anand" Senior Engineer, IBM
3- AI and Biases
Today, Technology is moving rapidly, it is impacting our lives, how we work, live, entertain, communicate etc. We are faced with challenges- from climate change to social disruption to cyber security and so on. And we are relying on technology to find solutions to our challenges - to transform our business, to find the next cure, to mitigate loss from the next calamity or disaster. And since humans and technology are working together, it matters who is working on it.
When we talk about Data and AI, for new innovations, solutions, decision making - these AI systems are only as good as the data we put into them. Data has no gender, no agenda, no politics, it does not discriminate. But there is a potential for human biases to be coded into AI algorithms. From languages, to faces that get recognised to which problems get solved and how they get solved. Hence it is important who is training the AI system and with what data and how.
- More than 180 human biases have been defined and classified, and any one of which can affect how we make decisions.
- Bad data can contain implicit racial, gender, or ideological biases and if systems are trained using bad data, we may not get desired outcomes
- Bias in AI systems could erode trust between humans and machines that learn.
Today, human biases could easily creep into AI systems, but we predict and believe that in the next five years bias in AI will be tamed and eliminated by people and companies that really care about the responsible use and development of AI.
AI systems that will tackle bias will be trusted, adopted and more successful. IBM researchers are working hard to achieve this vision, - we have published reports on how to detect and mitigate bias in training data, how to recognize and rate bias in an AI system.
A crucial principle, for both humans and machines, is to avoid bias and therefore prevent discrimination- by encouraging a multi-disciplinary environment. The more we learn about AI bias, the more we recognize our own bias.
IBMers are being given special education on the dimension of biases -caste, religion, etc. And in this moment, we have to correct our biases by inviting more diverse and interesting perspectives into making of technology that guides other decisions in our lives. It is a choice that we have to make - to correct those biases or repeat them for generations to come.
A concluding thought for all readers
While the Male Allies will change work environments, and women are learning to acknowledge their space, the progress will be slow till we don't change the informal social structures that sits around us and exist within our own families.
We need to harness the talent, creativity and capability of over 50% of the world's population.
We have the beginnings of change, a path to a more equal future, but it starts with us - each and every one of us.