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Ted Childs Jr. will give keynote talk at Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast

Ted Childs Jr.
Ted Childs Jr.

Ted Childs Jr., the former IBM vice president whom Fast Company called "the most effective diversity executive on the planet," will be the guest speaker at MIT's 33rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast to be held in Walker Memorial at 7:30 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 16.

The annual celebratory breakfast, organized by the Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee, features a keynote speaker, remarks by President Susan Hockfield, student speakers and music by the MIT Gospel Choir. Past keynote speakers have included Coretta Scott King, Tavis Smiley, Gwen Ifill and Donna Brazile.

A native of Springfield, Mass., Childs was responsible for IBM's worldwide workforce diversity programs and policies; he oversaw a campaign to increase the number of woman and minority executives at IBM during his tenure.

Between January 1996 and December 1999, the number of women executives at IBM soared from 185 to 508, and the number of minority executives increased from 117 in 1995 to 270 by the end of 1999.

"I'm intensely proud of that," Childs told Fast Company in June 2000.

Childs, 61, is currently principal of his own diversity consulting company. He has also served as executive assistant to Benjamin L. Hooks, executive director of the NAACP. He served on the New York State Governor's Advisory Council on Child Care and co-chaired the Jewish Women's Work Family Advisory Board.

During his time at IBM, Childs took an approach of "constructive disruption," organizing task forces to look at IBM from the perspective of different groups--African-Americans, Asians, disabled people, gays and lesbians, Hispanics, Native Americans, white males and women. That work focused on developing employee talent and strengthening recruiting and mentoring strategies.

Childs approaches diversity as a requirement for global competitiveness. "We've moved beyond the moral imperative to the strategic imperative," he told Fast Company. "What I want most is what's hardest to get: for business to see the link between diversity and competitiveness. Because if we don't understand that, we're not going to win."

Childs, who grew up in Springfield, Mass., is a graduate of West Virginia State University and is now a member of the university's board of directors. He is a member of the Executive Leadership Council, the Conference Board's Work Force Diversity Council, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Board of Directors.

He has been highly involved in childcare and aging issues: In 1995, he served as a delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Aging, and in 1997, he was appointed an advisor to the U.S. Treasury Secretary's Working Group on Child Care.

In 1998, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2003, the Human Rights Campaign presented Childs and IBM with its Corporate Leadership Award, and the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund awarded Childs its Alumni Leadership Award.

Childs was installed as a fellow in the National Academy of Human Resources in 2001, and he has received honorary doctorates from Pace University, West Virginia State University and Our Lady of the Elms College. He holds life membership in the NAACP, the National Council of Negro Women, the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, the National Organization of Women, the Sierra Club and the Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society.

Topics of Childs' talk will include the link between diversity and global competitiveness, the business case for diversity, the promise of diversity and changes in the American marketplace, and success in the global workplace.

The registration deadline for the breakfast is February 13. For more information please go to:

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on January 24, 2007 (download PDF).

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