IBM CEO Ginni Rometty addressed both Donald Trump’s travel ban and her continued participation on his White House business advisory council in an email shared internally with staff, obtained by TechCrunch and confirmed by IBM. In the email, Rometty points to IBM’s history of attempting to remain more apolitical than some of its tech industry peers, while also noting the longstanding tradition IBM CEOs have of engaging directly with the U.S. president.
Rometty says in the email that she also believes, contrary to received criticism, that the best course of action is to continue to engage with Trump and his administration, and she says she’s used that access to raise concerns about his executive order on immigration. Rometty also closes with the assurance that the company has and will maintain corporate values including a commitment to diversity.
It’s the first comment we’ve seen from Rometty directly on the order, though a statement issued by company spokesperson Adam Pratt on Friday echoed the aspects of the internal letter which say Rometty offered Trump and the secretary of the DHS suggestions about using tech to support both national security and legal immigration. IBM also previously released a general corporate statement about its commitment to diversity in response to the order.
Both Rometty and fellow Trump council member Elon Musk have faced criticism from both external and internal sources regarding their decision to continue to work with Trump’s administration, and many do not seem to agree with a strategy of maintaining open ties as an effective means to change his stance on issues like immigration. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down from the business advisory council following customer and employee backlash against his decision to participate.
Here’s the email from Rometty in its entirety:
I’m writing you from the United Arab Emirates, where I’ve been meeting with leaders from business, academia and government. Tomorrow I will have similar discussions with leaders in South Africa. Last month I met with heads of state from European and Asian nations.
And last Friday, as many of you know, I met with President Trump. IBM leaders have been engaging directly with every U.S. president since Woodrow Wilson, and this was my ninth such meeting since becoming CEO. Like my predecessors, I’m invited to these discussions because of the trusted perspective IBM offers in solving problems.
At the White House, we discussed a wide range of issues – from smarter infrastructure investments, to increasing the number of women in the workforce, to cybersecurity, to jobs. And, of course, we spoke about the president’s recent executive order affecting immigration and travel.
Into this discussion I brought IBM’s perspective as a truly global company. We employ people serving clients in more than 170 countries, and we embrace people of all faiths and backgrounds. We would not be the company we are today without the benefit of immigration and the flow of talent across all our markets. From this great diversity, we draw strength as a company.
Because we are so large and so global, our perspective is also special. IBMers and their families have been touched by terrorist attacks, from New York, to Paris, to the skies over Egypt. And IBMers have been touched, too, by the executive order put in place two weeks ago. In every case, my first priority has been to support and care for the employees and families most directly affected.
As elected leaders make decisions on national policy, we seek to provide ideas and solutions grounded in our values and technological expertise. Both. So on Friday, I discussed with the President and the Secretary of Homeland Security ways that advanced technology could address national security imperatives while also permitting lawful immigration and travel. I explained that this is not an either/or choice. Our points were heard, and we will continue to engage to find solutions that align with our values.
Some have suggested that we should not engage with the U.S. administration. I disagree. Our experience has taught us that engagement – reaching out, listening and having authentic dialogue – is the best path to good outcomes. IBM does not espouse a partisan or political point of view. Alone among our major competitors, we do not make political contributions, and we do not endorse candidates for office. We never have.
But if IBM does not have politics, it does have values. IBMers believe in helping our clients succeed beyond even their own expectations; in innovation that matters to the world; in building relationships based on trust and personal responsibility. And we have always led the world of business in diversity, inclusion and tolerance. Inspired by those values and that legacy, I offer every government leader with whom I engage innovative ideas to address national challenges.
This is what we do. It has been our ethos for more than a century. And it’s why so many of us chose to become IBMers. Where others see the unsolvable, we see solutions. I could not be more proud of what you do every day to live our Values and to make the world a better place. It is what makes IBM, IBM.
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer