The Future of the Workforce and Diversity at IBM


At IBM, work is more than a job — it’s a calling to lead in this new era of technology and solve some of the world’s most challenging problems. For Warda Afzal and Dmitri Stupak, that includes making the workplace a safe, inclusive, accessible, and more diverse environment for all IBMers by championing equality in the workplace and while recruiting.

Warda Afzal
Warda Afzal
Diversity & Inclusion leader, IBM

Warda is the Diversity & Inclusion leader at IBM and she has a vision.

“At IBM, every employee is valued and set up to thrive – not in spite of who they are but because of who they are,” she says. Warda works with employee resource group members and the senior leadership team to help drive programming, initiatives, and communications to make sure that every employee feels like they belong at IBM. 

Dmitri Stupak
Dmitri Stupak
North America Talent Acquisition Programs Manager, IBM

Dmitri is IBM’s North America Talent Acquisition Programs Manager. He runs various talent acquisition programs for IBM Canada and the U.S with a focus on diversity hiring. This includes empowering recruitment teams to locate, attract, and hire a diverse population to IBM Canada jobs.  “We strive to have our teams look and think as diversely as possible, in order to bring more innovations for us and our clients,” says Dmitri.

We asked Warda and Dmitri to share some of IBM’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, and tell us how they’re shaping the future of IBM’s workforce. Learn what students, new grads, and entry-level professionals can gain from joining IBM’s team:

What does Diversity and Inclusion mean for IBM?

“A diverse and inclusive workplace leads to greater innovation, agility, performance, and engagement, enabling both business growth and societal impact. We know this from our company’s long, proud history as a pioneer in diversity and inclusion,” says Warda.

From expanding their non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation (1984), gender identity and expression (2002), and genetic makeup (2005), to employing their first women and Black employees in1899, IBM has been a leader in driving an inclusive workforce. 

What are some of IBM’s recent diversity and inclusion initiatives, and how are they implemented?

Recently with the ongoing issues of race and justice at the forefront of the national conversation, IBM launched Emb(race), an initiative that seeks to help transform this moment of clarity into lasting change through education, events, and ongoing dialogue.

As a start, individual employees have been making pledges to reaffirm a commitment to allyship and advocacy — not just today, but every day. The Emb(race) pledges are:

  • I pledge not to remain silent.
  • I pledge to better understand the Black experience.
  • I pledge to fully embrace race and ethnicity with empathy.
  • I pledge to demonstrate equality through action.
  • I pledge to create safe spaces to speak.
  • I pledge to be an upstander in every environment.
  • I pledge to become an ally.

IBM also has over 250 Employee Resource Group chapters globally with 50,000 members who are using their passion for equality to co-create the future of diversity and inclusion at IBM. In Canada alone, IBM has 10 business resource groups (BRGs) with thousands of members!

IBM also offers many different types of education programs for its employees with the goal of strengthening advocacy for women and minorities by addressing sexism, racism, bias mitigation, allyship, leading with inclusivity, and other related topics. These are regularly refreshed to ensure employees are always up to date. 

Even while recruiting new IBMers, diversity and inclusion initiatives like these have been implemented in recent years:

  • The IBM Tech Re-Entry program helps women who have been out of the IT field for a period of time, return back to work via a structured learning and mentorship program
  • The IBM New Collar program looks at non-traditional pathways to IT jobs that don’t necessarily require a traditional University degree. As long as candidates can show that they are willing and able to learn new skills quickly, they can be admitted to “Apprenticeships” for various IT roles like software developer or project manager.
  • Neurodiversity@IBM hiring program is a new initiative through which IBM has already hired 12 neurodiverse individuals in 2019 and 2020. There are plans in place to continue the program’s success in the future.
  • IBM’s returnship program helps people from a wide variety of backgrounds change or reignite their careers by joining IBM for on-the-job learning to build highly valued tech skills in areas such as cybersecurity

What kind of diversity and inclusion initiatives does IBM have for students and the wider community?

IBM Skills is an initiative that helps students, professionals, job seekers, and small businesses build critical skills through free online courses, programs, and badge credentials created in partnership with governments, NGOs, and schools from all over the world. 

IBM employees have also logged thousands of volunteer hours by helping local community organizations. More recently, IBM launched a Reignite program that will help companies across the world get back to business after COVID-19. 

Learn more about IBM’s initiatives in the community here.

What is IBM’s vision for the future of a diverse and inclusive workforce?

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have had to become more flexible to help employees and interns adjust to a ‘new normal’.  As we continue to deal with uncertainties of the pandemic, it’s critical now more than ever that companies enable new opportunities that help employees with various work-life challenges – whether it’s with their mental health or providing care to family members.

Prior to the pandemic, most of IBM Canada’s workforce was set up to work remotely when necessary. This allowed employees to move to working entirely from home quickly, but it wasn’t so easy for those caring for young children or elderly. As a company that honours diversity and inclusion, it was critical for IBM to maintain its commitment to provide work flexibility for employees where possible, while also providing a number of support channels and services, including regular employee surveys, focus groups, online forums, mental health resources, and new employee benefits.

IBM also recognizes that the forces of systemic racism, sexism, and bias have contributed to a lower representation of women and minority groups in the tech industry, and diversity and inclusion cannot be changed overnight. 

“This is why IBM invests heavily in helping people outside of IBM gain ‘new collar’ skills and we’re committed to taking bold steps to ensure equity at IBM and in our communities because it’s the right thing to do, and the right thing for our business”, says Dimitri.

Want to know more about opportunities at IBM? Visit their employer page for the latest opportunities.