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IBM, Microsoft Duke It Out Over Chief Diversity Hire

Sarah Thomas
2/15/2018

IBM has filed suit against Microsoft for hiring away its Chief Diversity Officer Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, alleging it violates a non-compete agreement. The resulting war of words between the two companies raises an interesting question: Should improving diversity be a proprietary process?

Seems disingenuous to me. Here's what Axios reports IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) had to say, as it threw some shade over the hire:

"As IBM's chief diversity officer, Lindsay-Rae McIntyre was at the center of highly confidential and competitively sensitive information that has fueled IBM's success in these areas. While we can appreciate Microsoft's need to deal with mounting criticism of its record on diversity, IBM intends to fully enforce Lindsay-Rae's non-compete agreement -- just like we do with all of our senior leaders -- to protect our competitive information."

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) responded that it has "no interest in any of IBM's confidential information."


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Let's be clear, the entire tech industry has a problem with diversity and inclusion and fixing it should be a priority for all. So, shouldn't we all be sharing our best practices and helping each other improve the problem? It's not a competition; it's a "rising tide lifts all ships" scenario more than anything. McIntyre said as much in her court documents response to the lawsuit.

Apparently, Axios notes, that IBM is calling Microsoft out for arguing in previous court cases that its diversity data and methods were proprietary and should be kept out of public view.

First of all, I don't think any company in tech is excelling at diversity and inclusion. There are still rampant issues and large companies, including IBM, still have plenty of work to do. But, the bigger issue is, why would any company want to keep their successful diversity strategies a secret? That doesn't help anyone and only adds to the bigger problem.

This will be an interesting lawsuit to watch unfold. The ruling will be interesting, but I also hope IBM's diversity "secrets" are unveiled in the process.

— Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms

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Phil_Britt
Phil_Britt
2/19/2018 | 11:51:17 AM
Re: Wonder how long its for
Some non-compete clauses can be ridiculously restricting. Of course, the person signing it should read it (or have a lawyer read it) so he or she knows what they are getting into. Unfortunately, if the company with the contract wants to be unrelenting, there's not much the person (or the other lawyers) can do.
Duh!
Duh!
2/16/2018 | 10:36:27 AM
Re: loopy lawsuit
Lawyers will be lawyers. It's what they do. How much of a real threat this is to IBM's business is quite beside the point.

HR execs are ordinarily generous in sharing best practices. Check out any of their trade rags or conference programs.
jerehada
jerehada
2/16/2018 | 9:31:05 AM
Wonder how long its for
But the question is about a non compete clause not her role in diveristy. Should diversity leaders be afforded different rights to spread the good work? Don't think so.
Heleeess
Heleeess
2/16/2018 | 7:13:39 AM
Interesting
Well, it may be an interesting collaboration. I am looking forward for effects!
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
2/15/2018 | 2:05:08 PM
loopy lawsuit
This lawsuit seems so strange to me. It's not uncommon to sue over non-compete clauses related to employment, but they're actually alleging she'll reveal their diversity initiatives. How can they claim an authentic commitment to diversity if they aren't even willing to share how they accomplish it? Doesn't reflect well on them. 
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