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IBM "German Women's Leadership Council"

Company Description




IT-technology and -consulting



Company size:

Number of employees: 433,362
Turnover: USD 106.9 billion (approx. EUR 84.7 billion)


Contact person



Uta Menges
Diversity & Inclusion Leader Deutschland/Schweiz

Project Description

Key Facts

Project Title:

"German Women's Leadership Council"

Start of activities:

in the late 1990s

End of activities:

ongoing (to be continued)

IBM operates worldwide in the field of Information Technology and Consulting. The company, with a total of more than 430,000 employees, has an annual turnover of slightly over USD 100 billion.

Main goal

As part of its diversity strategy, IBM aims to position itself as being in the forefront of action to promote gender equality.

Group of employees in focus

The project focuses on women in leadership positions or with leadership potential, i.e. those pursuing a management or specialist career.

Initial situation

IBM recognises gender diversity as a prerequisite for the development of innovative technologies and solutions and for ensuring it remains an employer of choice. Specifically, it views raising the proportion of women in all career paths and promoting women according to merit as vital.

In order to push forward gender diversity in all areas, IBM established Women's Leadership Councils in all operating countries, including Germany.

Project goals

The German Women's Leadership Council (GWLC) is tasked with increasing the proportion of women recruited and employed and with improving career advancement for women.

Internally, this involves working on overall attitudes towards women along with measures to strengthen company structures, organisation and processes for employees.

The company also aims to influence the external mindset about IBM and its attitudes towards the women it employs.

Project activities


Through the GWLC, IBM Germany is explicitly embedding specific IBM values in the activities of the German company in a way that also unites IBM as a worldwide brand. The project establishes a framework – IBM norms for global teams – for working together in diverse teams that act globally.

To enhance women's career advancement, the project has introduced mentoring of female employees by GWLC members. It promotes training directed towards women (one example is the Women and Leadership programme) and supports job shadowing. It also distributes information on measures taken and on training and other opportunities open to female employees.

Internal communication is a priority. The project also involves moves to increase employee awareness of the GWLC and its members, for example through presentations of their activities in different sections of the company. The company also publishes a GWLC Newsletter and Executive Summary and keeps management informed.


In line with IBM's aim of recruiting and employing more women, it seeks to attract female students at school and university and encourage them to take up a career in the IT industry. For example, it provides both personal and also cyber mentoring opportunities. IBM sponsors university chairs and holds lectures at universities and other public and private institutions, activities.

Also raising public awareness of its diversity attitudes and equal opportunities policies, the GWLC project has increased the presence of female IBM employees at fairs and other events and their representation in organisations like WoMenPower, or Women @ Work.

The IBM project has established and strengthened business relationships with female customers and partners by organising "Smarter Women Events".

Initiating speeches, while sponsoring projects that position IBM as a company which fosters equal opportunities, the company has built relationship with professional associations and foundations to help establish IBM as a role model in this area.


IBM has undertaken country-specific monitoring of project activities, and these show positive results both within and outside IBM. These have been publicised, for example in the Diversity Report.

Internally, the proportion of women in the company overall and in management posts has increased. Retention rates for women employees have improved. Among management and employees, there is greater approval of and satisfaction with measures promoting gender equality.

Externally, IBM's name as an employer of choice has been enhanced, as has its corporate image vis-à-vis current and potential clients.

Challenges encountered during the project

The first challenge is to convince middle management of the full range of benefits from enhancing gender diversity. Middle management is mainly focused on other issues.

Likewise, it is hard communicating the importance of incorporating specific measures into day-to-day practice since any benefits will only emerge in the longer term.

Lessons learned

Setting gender equality targets needs to take into account specific cultural traditions and to respect how the issues and challenges involved vary from country to country.

A company must explain why promoting gender diversity matters. As well as understanding the range of benefits for each employee will have, the project management needs to explain how any benefits will relate specifically to each employee in a target group.

Manage all activities firmly as if they were a business project. This means setting clear targets, responsibilities and a timeline. Project coordinators should insist on regular reporting and establish a regular schedule for meetings and phone conferences.

Persistence and determination may be needed with the pace of measurable change likely to disappoint at first. It is important to show conviction in launching a programme and patience in allowing measures to bear fruit.


  • Since 1999, IBM Germany has continuously held the Total E-Quality rating
  • IBM is ranked among the Top Ten of the NAFE Top 50 Companies for Executive Women (2012)
  • In 2013, IBM scored 100% on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index.
  • IBM is regularly part of the "Working Mother 100 Best Companies" list


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