Watson Women's Network Leadership: A Best Practice at IBM Research for Innovative and Effective Recruitment and Retention

We address how the Watson Women's Network (WWN), a community of technical women at IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center, provides business value and positive internal and external visibility for the IBM Corporation. The WWN is focused on reaching all women in technology at our Yorktown and Hawthorne, New York sites, giving them opportunities to reach beyond their daily routines, to connect with others, ask questions, find solutions, identify mentors, and feel part of a bigger community. The network’s mission is to encourage a workplace environment that advances women’s professional effectiveness, individual growth, and recognition. Community activities leverage technical expertise, work/life experience, and technology in innovative ways to generate business impact to IBM, and to provide effective means for recruitment and retention. The WWN has grown from 170 members in 2005 to over 270 members in 2007, the largest diversity-related affinity group at IBM Research, and serves as a model community hosting nearly 50 events annually.

A dynamic group of leadership catalysts organize activities including: i) community outreach; ii) professional networking; iii) technical vitality programs, through a wide spectrum of seminars and career discussion panels and executive roundtables; and iv) work/life flexibility discussions. The WWN provides an environment that fosters mentoring relationships and international collaborations. Executive roundtables, in particular, provide an opportunity to hear about remarkable career paths and facilitate intimate discussion on career advancement. Community outreach and professional networking events bring together women from multiple divisions. The positive feedback from these events confirms our success in fostering new cross-divisional technical collaborations. The network helps professional women position themselves as leaders both within IBM and in their professional community, thus positively impacting both their careers and IBM business. This presentation discusses the established methods and the lessons learned that may benefit other organizations, diversity groups, and professional networks.

By: N. Burke, T. Chao, J. Chen, C.-H. Chen-Ritzo, C. A Chess, S. Chiras, D. Da Silva, E. Duch, E. Duesterwald, M. Eleftheriou, M. E. Helander, H. Hunter, C. Lasser, S. Mahatma, I. Nnebe, K. Penchuk, A. Sailer, V. Salapura, L. Sekaric, J. L. Snowdon, M. L. Steen, A. Topol, C. K. Tsang, M. Zhou

Published in: RC24467 in 2008


This Research Report is available. This report has been submitted for publication outside of IBM and will probably be copyrighted if accepted for publication. It has been issued as a Research Report for early dissemination of its contents. In view of the transfer of copyright to the outside publisher, its distribution outside of IBM prior to publication should be limited to peer communications and specific requests. After outside publication, requests should be filled only by reprints or legally obtained copies of the article (e.g., payment of royalties). I have read and understand this notice and am a member of the scientific community outside or inside of IBM seeking a single copy only.


Questions about this service can be mailed to reports@us.ibm.com .