IBM sues Microsoft’s new chief diversity officer to protect diversity trade secrets

IBM sues their ex-diversity chief after she gets hired at Microsoft, shedding light on the bizarre competition surrounding diversity in the tech industry.

February 16, 2018

Last Sunday, Microsoft announced they low-key poached IBM’s chief diversity officer, Lindsay-Rae McIntyre.

Now IBM is suing, alleging the move is in violation of McIntyre’s one-year non-compete agreement. Their chief concern: McIntyre could expose “confidential and sensitive information” regarding IBM’s “diversity analytics” that could put the company at a “competitive disadvantage.”

Diversity trade secrets?

While Microsoft denies they have any interest in IBM’s confidential info, McIntyre, who served as IBM’s human resources VP and chief diversity officer, doesn’t get the big deal.

“It’s common for companies… to share information about their diversity initiatives, as the goal is to engage in best practices,” McIntyre declared.

Ya, one would think…

But Microsoft has also done this in the past

According to the suit, IBM’s just following in Microsoft’s footsteps: in a past court case, the computing giant argued that its diversity data and practices needed to be kept private (“both what works and what does not”), in order to keep competitors from using insights.

Why are companies going to such great lengths to make inclusivity so exclusive?

We need all the help we can get

Over the past year, tech’s lack of diversity has been a hot-button issue. Studies show that the race gap is much higher in Silicon Valley than the gender gap, and has actually gotten worse over time.

While the tech industry has made occasional strides, these two cases with IBM and Microsoft conflict with those efforts by making diversity a business strategy.

In other words, instead of taking the “we’re all in this together” approach to learn and improve across the entire industry, companies have turned the initiative into a proprietary pissing-contest.

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