Having been born both Cuban and Jewish and with Polish/Russian forebears, it is natural for me to be interested in diversity. I am proud to have been active in extending the progressive, leadership record on diversity amassed by IBM -- the place I've worked for the past 35 years. IBM's pioneering moves go back to the company's earliest years -- and they've been significantly strengthened recently. And, just this week, we received the Freedom to Compete Award from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in recognition of IBM's innovative diversity recruiting programs in universities.
In 1995 we established a set of eight executive task forces in the U.S. to address the needs of different constituencies. I was a founding member of our Hispanic Leadership Council, and continue to participate in Hispanic/Latino activities both within IBM and in organizations like HENAAC, which in 2001 did me the great honor of naming me Hispanic Engineer of the Year and in 2004 inducted me into the HENAAC Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame induction took place last October in Pasadena. It was a wonderful experience, which for me was made even more memorable because one of the giants of Latin jazz (as well as one of my very favorite musicians), Poncho Sanchez played at the event with his band.
For my talk at the induction ceremonies, I tried to point out why diversity is more than ever a critical requirement for being a successful global business, given all the many changes around us, as well as the increasingly interconnected world we live in.
The Internet has scaled the walls of research labs, markets and countries, and enlarged the notion of community to embrace hundreds of millions of people from around the globe, with different languages, cultures and values. In that environment, it stands to reason that a business that has embraced the culture of diversity within itself, as we have in IBM, will stand a much better chance of connecting with all those people as potential customers, employees and partners.
I also often think how very lucky I am to live in a country that has developed perhaps the strongest tradition of welcoming and accepting diverse peoples. I am convinced that diversity -- the fact that we are a multi-cultural society, with many different perspectives, experiences and skills growing organically within the framework defined by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution -- is the strength underlying America, and as business becomes more global and nations more interdependent, it is an ace in the hole for the U.S. and for those U.S. businesses that embrace the culture of diversity.
This is a topic that I'm going to come back to -- because I think it's not only morally important, but also foundational for any understanding of innovation.