IBM Named Top Gay-Friendly Employer

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IBM has been named as the best place to work in 2010 for lesbian, gay and bisexual people by campaigning group Stonewall

In a move that appears to show IBM has eschewed some of the stuffy, conservative image which characterised the technology giant in its early days, the company was praised earlier this month for its flexibility and diversity. According to campaigning group Stonewall, this year marks the second time in four years that IBM has been named the most gay-friendly employer in the UK.

Commenting on the award, IBM’s chief executive for the UK and Ireland Brendon Riley said that 2009 marked the 25th anniversary of the company’s non-discrimination policy. “At IBM, we pride ourselves on delivering a working environment which reflects equality of opportunity and experience for all. Diversity constitutes our character, our identity and ultimately our success – it is in our DNA.”

According to Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill, the campaigning group said that the minimum score to win a place on the 2010 Top 100 list was ten percent higher than the previous year. “Competition was fiercer than ever to secure a place on the 2010 Top Employers List,’ said Ben Summerskill, Stonewall chief executive. “We received more entries than any previous year from employers who understand and have benefited from Stonewall’s research which found that gay people are far more likely to buy goods or services from companies they know are gay-friendly. The index is a powerful tool used by Britain’s 1.7 million gay employees and 150,000 gay university students to decide where to take their talent and skills.”

Other companies that featured highly in the report include Hampshire Constabulary, which came second, and Ernst & Young, which was placed third.

As well as tackling gay rights, IBM has also made moves to tackle disability discrimination. In December 2009, the tech giant hosted an event at its Hursley Lab, in Hampshire, for fourteen 16 to 22 year olds with a wide range of disabilities. The young people met with a group of IBM employees, also with disabilities, in an attempt to show that a career in technology is open to everyone. 

But despite its apparent commitment to being inclusive, IBM has run foul of anti-discrimination rules in the past. In 2000, IBM and a technology partner faced a damages claim for failing to make a website they developed for the Sydney Olympic and Paralympic games accessible to disabled users. In 2006, a US federal appeals court ruled in favor of IBM in an age discrimination suit over a change to pension plans. 

Late last year, IBM announced the creation of a new UK centre for business analytics which the company’s chairman says will help create a substantial number of new technology jobs – a strategy supported by business secretary Lord Mandelson.