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IBM Letters Reflect Difficulty Navigating Current Political Climate

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty publicly published a letter to president-elect Donald Trump. In that letter, she offered her support and she enumerated areas that she believed will help grow the American economy. These ideas dovetail with IBM’s business goals. While Ms. Rometty asserted that she and Mr. Trump differ on some issues, there was no specific identification of those issues. In sharing her open letter with her employees, Ms. Rometty stated IBM’s support for tolerance and diversity.

In response, IBM employee Elizabeth Wood wrote her own open letter that has been widely circulated on social media. Ms. Wood was a Senior Content Strategist at the tech company. In her letter, Ms. Wood referenced the president-elect’s “contempt” for “immigrant, veterans, people with disabilities, Black, Lantinx, Jewish, Muslim and LBGTQ communities.” She pointed out that IBM’s recruitment materials focus on an inclusive and welcoming culture, which she believes to be at odds with the letter sent by Ms. Rometty. In resigning her employment, she asked that Ms. Rometty provide a public clarification about IBM’s commitment to the protection and representation of all of its employees.

The Washington Post recently reported on the backlash that companies are facing after this election. PepsiCo CEO’s made a statement objecting to some of Mr. Trump’s comments and was boycotted by some Trump supporters. On the other side, a New Balance executive made a comment in support of Mr. Trump that triggered a boycott by some supporters of the left. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook made it clear to employees that Apple “is open to all…regardless of what they look like, where they come from, how they worship or who they love.” Companies are seeking to protect their business interests and opportunities with a new administration. However, these same employers have also promoted work environments that are diverse and inclusive and employees are holding them to these promises. As IBM’s letters reflect, employers may be facing continuing challenges.