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Željka Tičić, Chief Operating Officer, IBM Hrvatska

Željka Tičić, Chief Operating Officer, IBM Hrvatska 1 - hrpsor Hrvatski poslovni savjet za održivi razvoj

Diversity and inclusion is a transformational journey, that requires leadership, hard work, and the ability to make brave decisions. While IBM has a rich heritage in diversity and inclusion, we are still learning, growing, and making progress.

Could you share with us some key milestones in the D&I journey of your company?

IBM has been a leader in diversity and inclusion for more than a century, and our employees represent a talented and diverse workforce. Achieving the full potential of inclusion is a business priority that is fundamental to our competitive success. Over the 100-year history at IBM, we have been able to set some ground-breaking achievements.  The journey started with representation and equity: the Computing-Tabulating- Recording Company, later renamed IBM, included Black and female employees from its founding in 1911, people with disabilities from 1914, paying women the same as men for doing the same job from 1935, adding sexual orientation to our non-discrimination policy in 1984, gender identity and expression in 2002, starting same gender partner benefits in 1996. Adaptable workplaces for disabled employees globally in 2010, first female CEO in 2012, to adapting our corporate logo to support diversity from 2017.

The COVID-19 pandemic and events in 2020 forever changed many things. As a society and within IBM, we are just beginning to comprehend the implications of these changes. It's more evident than ever before that how we support communities and employees is of extreme importance.

In 2020, we increased our transparency and reporting of diversity and inclusion data. We are holding executives accountable for progress in this space and have tied this directly to their bonuses and compensation.

We continue to advocate globally on policies to promote diversity, equity, and fairness in our society. IBM supported equal marriage provisions in Northern Ireland, Japan and Taiwan. We also signed an important, multi-year partnership with Australia’s Victoria Pride Center, which provides vital services to LGBT+ citizens. In the United States, we were at the forefront advocating to extend essential civil rights protections to the LGBT+ community through passage of the Equality Act.

Diversity and inclusion is a transformational journey, that requires leadership, hard work, and the ability to make brave decisions. While IBM has a rich heritage in diversity and inclusion, we are still learning, growing, and making progress.

What aspects of diversity management have the highest priority in your company?

At IBM, we are channeling what 2020 taught us into outcome-oriented, rigorous actions focused on four strategic areas:

  1. Advocacy - IBM works to drive systemic change that creates opportunity for diverse communities.
  2. Allyship - IBM provides training and support to help every IBMer be an upstander through inclusive behaviors.
  3. Employee experience - IBM champions all diverse communities of IBMers and supports every employee to thrive and bring their authentic selves to work.
  4. Accountability - IBM harnesses data transparency and AI to enable accountability, action and outcomes for increased diversity representation and inclusion at every level of our company.

Which D&I activities have been implemented in your organization so far?

IBM is dedicated to support people with diverse disabilities. For example, we are hiring neurodivergent people through our Neurodiversity (ND) @ IBM program, which  includes neurodivergent friendly hiring and development opportunities and neurodiversity training for all employees. Today, we are hiring neurodivergent talent in eight countries, with ND enablement available to employees in more than 30 countries. I think this is extermely important to support the communities and provide equal access to opportunities for all. Only this way we can advance as a society and make a difference.

I come from the Finance industry and in this role,  I still work a lot with suppliers. Diversity is important in this field as well. I am proud that in 1968 IBM established , our Supplier Diversity program which provides opportunities to diverse suppliers in 170+ countries—every country in which IBM operates including Croatia.

For example in Croatia we cooperate with Hedona – social enterprise and integrative workshop; ZagrebO5 – social enterprise, organizations which supports disable people and they are our supplier for specific products, this is just one way how we want to help and show the equality.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by the industry sector in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce?

Attracting, retaining, and developing female talent is a business imperative. We see the impact of pandemic on the workplace while impact on women becomes more apparent. Many women leaders are experiencing challenges at this moment.

A recent IBM Institute for Business Value study revealed that despite heightened awareness of the challenges facing women in the workplace driven by the pandemic, gender equality is still not a top priority for 70 percent of global businesses, according to business professionals surveyed. Moreover, fewer women surveyed hold senior vice president, vice president, director, and manager roles in 2021 than they did in 2019.

It's important we focus on creating an environment that supports women and acknowledges the multiple demands they experience daily—often taking the lead as caregivers at home. At IBM, we have placed a major focus on empathy throughout the pandemic— training 30,000 managers check-in regularly on how their teams are doing

We ended 2020 with women making up nearly 34% of the IBM workforce, an increase from 2019. And, in 2020, 36% of IBM promotions were women. For me personally, mentorship and sponsoring young female colleagues is of extreme importance. I remember how my mentors inpired me and broaden my perspectives. I am always trying to do the same for my team, transfer the knowledge and all I have learned about equality, carrer growth, work life balance - I am a mother of three kids.

We have a lot of to do in this field as a society, but I am proud of all the initiatives we do at IBM across the world and in Croatia.

What business benefits do you see as a result of increasing D&I?

When people are free to be themselves, they are more productive, they can develop better relationships with their colleagues and with clients, and that accelerates innovation and business performance. IBM works with people all over the world. Having learned how to solve things together and accepting differences in thought, creativity, and experience, has positively distinguished our company as one of the world’s leading companies and made us a ‘magnet’ for the most talented people in the world. We have always been at the forefront of diversity and inclusion and our policies and strategies directly support our business objectives, values, and practices. At IBM we value the attributes of our diverse employee mosaic to fuel innovation and reflect the multicultural character of our customers across the globe.

Can you name three diversity challenges that companies have to pay attention to?

Those three words would be: hiring, skill development and careers. I believe one of the strongest actions businesses can take to promote equality and inclusion is to focus on skill-based hiring and prioritize skill development for the entire workforce. This leads to innovation for your company and for the world itempowers employees and leads to a better society.

According to insights from 3,000 CEOs across 26 industries and nearly 50 countries gathered in IBM IBV study employee well-being is highlighted as a major priority for many CEOs of high-performing companies. Many employees' expectations of their employers have significantly changed. The 'anywhere' workforce can require leaders to provide agile technology, to adopt more empathetic leadership models that prioritize employee well-being and to champion flexible and inclusive cultures. IBM recommends that leaders carefully consider the longer-term challenge of a hybrid work environment, which can include things like providing employees with digital, cloud-enabled tools for collaboration, preventing employee burnout or sustaining company culture with focus on diversity and inclusion.

What do you do to convince your colleagues to see the value in diversity management, or even more to truly get them on board?

I will give you an example. IBM achieved the most patents of any company for 28 consecutive years and our employees solved the hardest problems in business and society. And they are still doing this. This required a highly skilled team of diverse IBMers around the world.

So, I must admit that IBMers are very open and aware of the importance of diversity and inclusion. It’s a part of the DNA of our people and I would say people feel proud in the cases when they are selected as D&I ambassadors or to join the team dedicated to further improve management policies or strategies related to this filed. What is important is to live diversity and inclusion, led by example and the results will not miss.



This interview was produced with the financial support of the European Union (project Workplace Inclusion Champion WIC). Its contents are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

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