So IBM’s ConnectingWomen@IBM womens network had come a long way since its inauguration back in the early 2000s – the network was solid and had its respected place internally in UK & Europe but what was the next step? How were we to keep it going? What would be the key to its longevity?
I felt we had to have more affect on everyday business so how could we be more integrated into the fabric of how the company operated? How could we sustain the network and the engagement even further?
After a few brainstorming sessions it was decided the regional ConnectingWomen@IBM leaders, the Diversity Champions in each business internally and the Execs in each UK location would reach out to clients. They could offer Diversity Consulting, setting up Women in Leadership programmes (an offering from Kenexa, an HR software and consulting acquisition) and take our thought leadership of how IBM had moved forward in producing a more equal playing field for all to our clients – share our best practice.
Wow we had no idea what we had hit on – boy was it successful! We invited C Level women in our clients to small, exec lunches with an IBM speaker and had 5-6 lunches a year by industry. Feedback from clients said they loved it – it worked and IBM invested for quite a few years really making these events fly.
Often clients especially in SME market and in Public Sector were keen to understand how IBM was reflecting and leading its clients’ diversity strategies and thought direction – it gave us an edge over our competition and enhanced the feeling of client/IBM partnership.
Furthermore IBM was one of the founder UK companies of a cross-Technology sector network, called Connecting Women in Technology (CWT) established by @EileenBrown at Microsoft with another 6 IT companies (HP, Dell, Intel, Avaya, Google, Cisco plus IBM and MS). Competitive companies networking together for the development of their female staff was quite a rarity 12 years ago.
At one CWT event, Theresa May, then Minister for Women, came to speak – meeting her was inspiring and how self-effacing she was when asked if she would like to be Prime Minister one day – little did we know she was planning her moves even as we spoke!
Recently Womens networking in the Technology sector is still a big thing – and as more companies joined IBM on the Times Top 50 Best places to work for Women, I felt we were having a bigger impact but still sadly a long way to go as there are still only 24% women in IT so all those STEM ambassadors and Careers Days at schools are still so essential - even more so today.
So today ConnectingWomen@IBM continues to work with women of all ages, colours and creeds to build on the foundations that the network established twenty years ago – but continue to have that eye on our value to our clients from all angles. The bolder we can be, the confident in our space and the more we #choosetochallenge the easier it will be for generations to come!
Vicki Cooper, Client Experience Consultant, Belonging Pioneers