Recognizing the Power of Multicultural Women

Recently IBM hosted the Multicultural Women Leadership Forum in New York and invited Leaders of the local Business Resource Groups (BRGs) to attend. IBM Black BRG Leader Brandi Boatner attended and recapped her experience.

By Brandi Boatner, President of Black Networking of New York BRG

The key to any company’s success is dependent on the high performance of its employees and for women at IBM, the key may be in harnessing the right mix of programs, resources, and support both at IBM and at home and balancing that with the needs of the business.

According to a survey conducted by Working Mothers Media, women of color make up 22% of all the employees but fill only 4% of the corporate executive positions. Multicultural women could be at a disadvantage because of both gender and racial biases, whether overt or unconscious, and are often not recognized for their skills – and IBM is being intentional about addressing this gap.

What will help move women of color into the top echelons of leadership?

On July 11, several multicultural women from IBM gathered to answer this question during the IBM Multicultural Women’s (MCW) Leadership Forum. The theme of the event was Race to Trust.

MCW leadership

During the luncheon, IBM was recognized as one of the top five companies for Working Multicultural Women. Angelica Galve, IBM Director for HR Delivery Services, accepted the award on behalf of IBM and shared a fun fact about IBM’s breastfeeding program as she complimented the organization for its commitment to multicultural women, career advancement, and the importance of work life balance.

After the luncheon, the IBM MCW Leadership Forum continued. We had the distinct pleasure of hearing insights from three of our female executives:

Rene Bostic, Vice President North America, IBM Cloud discussed the topic “Paying It Forward.” She shared examples both professionally and personally about how important it is to pay it forward and the impact it has in enriching one’s life. As she shared her story, Rene’s enthusiasm, positivity and compassion were infectious. Rene was recently featured in Working Mothers magazine on “Paying It Forward” and shared her experiences with the group.

Following Rene, was Tia Silas, HR Director for Watson Health. Tia shared a “New Perspective” as a new external executive hire to IBM. Tia shared her personal journey as to how she made the decision to join IBM, leaving her familiar position with her previous employer for an exciting albeit scary opportunity within IBM Watson Health.

Tia, an expectant mother (with baby number 2) said she rose to the occasion with the new opportunity and has an amazing leadership team, another female executive, and is excited about the work the Watson Health team is leading.

We ended our executive perspectives with Radha Ratnaparkhi, VP of Research Impact for IBM Research, on the topic of “The Future of Research.” Given her expertise and experience, Radha shared that she believes the future for IT lives with quantum computing and solutions for life sciences. On a personal note as a multicultural mother, she shared an entertaining story about her two children and how they have embraced multiculturalism.

Attendees shared challenges, opportunities, success stories and ways to better collaborate. Each attendee shared their insights and perspective about the visibility of Business Resource Groups (BRG) and the importance they drive for IBM. And during the discussion, something wonderful emerged – attendees leveraged their collective wisdom in developing a plan to spotlight BRGs and work together as multicultural female leaders to drive change in the engagement model as to how BRGs are recognized and how BRGs can become more visible.

The MCW Leadership forum concluded with a speed mentoring session among the executives and attendees. Speed mentoring provided an opportunity for attendees to not only expand their professional network, but also improve diversity of their network. It is essential to get to know and learn from others as well as allowing them to get to know and learn from you. The added benefit is that networking increases motivation and job satisfaction by allowing you to share experiences to help each other grow.

Overall, the MCW Leadership forum was powerful, impactful and inclusive. Companies that are inclusive have lower turnover, their pick of top talent, and are more productive, innovative, and successful.

Going back to the original question we had at the start of the forum – What will help move women of color into the top echelons of leadership? It will take accountability, training and better strategies for recruitment and professional development among our leaders and the support of the IBM family. I am excited to be a part of this process and connected to this group of IBM women.


Follow our campaign #InclusiveIBM to learn more about diversity and inclusion at IBM and read other cool stories about the richness of diversity at IBM. If you want to learn more about how IBM promotes women empowerment, read the stories about #WomenAtIBM.

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