Microsoft And IBM Are Fighting Over A Chief Diversity Officer

Eric Lieberman | Associate Editor

IBM is suing the latest big name hire for Microsoft, one of its top competitors, for allegedly leaving the company with proprietary department secrets — potentially showing how serious some tech companies are in addressing complaints over a lack of workplace heterogeneity.

Filed Monday, the lawsuit claims that if allowed to start too quickly, Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, who joined IBM in 2006, will inherently take confidential data about diversity and certain initiatives to Microsoft, according to The Seattle Times.

“I am excited to join Microsoft, a company that has not only adapted well to rapid change in the business landscape but elevated the standards of what we can expect in a technology provider when it comes to diversity and inclusion,” McIntyre said in a Microsoft press release announcing her hiring.

IBM wants to enforce a one-year non-competition agreement, meaning McIntyre would have quite some time before she’s able to start working again in that capacity, to avoid “real and immediate competitive harm.” A year to IBM, and many other companies who have completed the same sort of contract, is apparently desirable because it allows for a sufficient time to pass for their own organic programs and strategies to develop, and perhaps materialize.

Along with the added example of how much competing firms can care when executives leave one for another, this imminent legal battle shows how much competing firms are starting to care about having a leader to represent internal diversity endeavors.

In other words, most heated confrontations over top talent and their first-hand acquired knowledge usually center on engineers, or more traditional senior managers like CFOs and CTOs. Now, CDOs are part of the struggle.

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