IBM and Black History: Innovation Through Diversity

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IBM and Black History: Innovation Through Diversity

by Darryl K. Taft

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IBM becomes the first corporation to support the United Negro College Fund. A half century later, IBM donates $10 million to the Fund's Campaign 2000.

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IBM hires its first black salesman, Tom Laster, and four black data-processing trainees. In 1948, Laster joins the IBM One Hundred Percent Club, an organization honoring quota-reaching salespeople.

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IBM hires Lionel Fultz as its first black marketing representative.

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IBM hires Harry Cochrane as its first black engineer.

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IBM actively recruits black employees at Howard University, Tennessee State University and West Virginia State College. By 1965, the number of black colleges and universities in the IBM Recruitment Program grows to 30.

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One year before the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education, and 11 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Thomas J. Watson Jr. issued a policy letter to his employees. The letter, known as Policy Letter No. 4, stated that IBM would hire people based on their ability, regardless of race, color or creed. This letter was the first U.S. corporate mandate on equal employment opportunity. Watson later used the letter as a foundation of company policy in negotiations with the governors of Kentucky and North Carolina to build plants in their states.

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Calvin Waite is appointed as IBMs first black engineering manager.

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IBM is one of the first companies to join President Kennedy's Plans for Progress program, which promotes equal employment opportunity.

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IBM joins the National Urban League to launch on-the-job training for unemployed black people. NUL President Whitney Young calls IBM's efforts "a classic example of a company accepting its social responsibility." While IBM is celebrating its centennial this year, the NUL held its centennial celebration in 2010.

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IBM launches the Negro College Summer Hire Program, which brings black faculty members to work at IBM and sends IBM staff to teach at their colleges.

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Lionel Fultz, hired as IBMs first black marketing representative in 1951, becomes IBMs first black branch manager.

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IBM appoints George Carter as its first black executive and that same year creates a Corporate Equal Opportunity Department, headed by Carter.

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Engineering programs in predominantly black universities receive grants from IBM. A year later, IBM launches 15 Ph.D. fellowships for minorities and women.

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Black IBM researcher Mark Dean designs the PC/AT, the follow-on to the original PC, setting the standard for all IBM-compatible PCs. Dean became the first African-American IBM Fellow in 1995. He was the third African-American inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and holds three of the nine patents on the computer all PCs are based on. Additionally, he and colleague Dennis Moeller invented the Industry Standard Architecture systems bus, which allowed devices-such as printers, displays, hard disks, networks and audio/video-to be connected to a PC. Dean later led the design team that created the first 1GHz processor. Today, Dean is the leader of worldwide technical strategy for IBM Research.

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IBM becomes the largest employer of INROADS students, a program for black and Hispanic college interns.

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IBMs Mark Dean was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, becoming the third black after Percy Julian and Dr. George Washington Carver.

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The first black Distinguished Engineer, Kerrie Holley later became an IBM Fellow in 2006. Holley is CTO of IBMs SOA Center of Excellence and was appointed to Fellow, IBMs highest technical leadership position, by its CEO in 2006. It is the highest honor a scientist, engineer, or programmer at IBM can achieve.

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Sandra K. Johnson is named IBM's first black woman member of the IBM Academy. Johnson is the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in electrical engineering in the United States, and is a member of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), the Association for Computing Machinery, the Society of Women Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers. She is also an IEEE Fellow and an ACM Distinguished Engineer.

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Al Zollar became general manager of Tivoli software in July 2004. He is responsible for the strategic direction and ongoing operations for the Tivoli software brand, which enables customers to manage resources and risks, optimize human capital and manage service levels and business processes. Zollar joined IBM in 1977 as a systems engineer trainee. Today, in addition to his role as GM of Tivoli, Zollar is prominent in IBMs Smarter Planet ad campaign on network TV.

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In 2008, Dale Davis Jones was named IBM Distinguished Engineer, given to her for her technology and leadership accomplishments in the fields of hardware product data design and engineering change management, complex international business transformation projects, and development of server consolidation and virtualization service products. She is a member of the IBM Academy of Technology, GTS Architecture Board, and IBM Smarter Cities Technology Advisory Council, and co-authored the IBM Cloud Reference Architecture Standards.

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Rod Adkins, senior vice president of IBMs Systems and Technology Group, is seen by analysts as a potential successor to CEO Samuel J. Palmisano. If appointed, Adkins would be the first African-American to lead IBM. IBMs STG, which encompasses all aspects of IBMs semiconductor, server, storage, system software and retail store solutions businesses, had 2010 revenues of more than $18 billion.

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Lauren States, vice president of cloud technology, is leading one of the companys key strategic growth areas outlined by Palmisano. As vice president of cloud technology and client innovation on IBMs Corporate Strategy team, States is responsible for the technology strategy for IBM's growth initiatives, including cloud computing, Smarter Planet, business analytics and emerging markets.

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Focusing on diversity beyond IBMs walls, Michael K. Robinson is program director of global supplier diversity for IBMs Integrated Supply Chain. He is responsible for leading IBMs supplier diversity initiatives in the United States, Latin America, Canada, Europe, Asia and South Africa.

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Ron Glover, vice president of global diversity and workforce programs, helps ensure that the company lives up to its reputation for diversity.

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