Diversity as a Business Strategy

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“Diversity as a Strategy” by David Thomas discusses IBM and its initiative toward diversity as a strategic business plan. When Lou Gerstner became the CEO of IBM in 1993, he felt that the corporation did not reflect the diversity in the market and launched an initiative involving a different tasksforce for each demographic such as Asians, blacks, gays/lesbians/bisexual/transgender individuals, Hispanics, white men, Native Americans, people with disabilities and women (Thomas, 2004, p. 1). Gerstner developed this effort to get closer to its customers and become more externally focused as well as focus on a more diverse corporation which would attract, develop, promote and retain the best people (Thomas, 2004, p. 10).

IBM’s approach was not to be blind of the differences in demographics but to call attention to the differences in hopes of learning and appealing to a broader set of employees and customers. Each taskforce included senior managers, some middle managers, and members of a demographic constituency and were chosen by Ted Childs, the vice president of Global Workforce Diversity and Tom Bouchard the senior vice president of human resources (Thomas, 2004, p. 2). An executive sponsor was charged with learning about each constituency’s concerns but the sponsor was not a member of the constituency which meant they had to learn from their differences and would have to concentrate on issues relevant to the taskforce to represent it to the World Management Council (Thomas, 2004, p. 2).

Upon launching each taskforce, Bouchard emailed every US employee detailing the missions and the importance of this initiative to IBM but also asked employees to respond with suggestions. The suggestions from other employees led the task forces to focus on: communication, staffing, benefits, workplace flexibility, training and education, advertising and marketing, and external relations (Thomas, 2004, p. 3).

The initiative was not without problems, and dissenting opinions...
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