Why Intel Is Working Double Time on its Diversity Goals

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich (L) and TechCrunch moderator Darrell Etherington speak onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017.

Global chip maker Intel reached the halfway mark last month in its plan to achieve full representation of women and underrepresented minorities in its U.S. workforce by 2020 through funding, training, hiring and retention. Intel has invested $300 million in its Diversity in Technology Initiative, which the tech giant launched in 2015 in response to the industry’s wide gaps in workforce diversity.

But now, in response to the racially fueled violence in Charlottesville, Va., Intel is working double time on that front after CEO Brian Krzanich announced he wants to fulfill that goal two years ahead of schedule.

The announcement came just one day after Krzanich resigned in protest from President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council on Aug. 14 to “call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues.”

Krzanich published the announcement along with Intel’s mid-year diversity report detailing the company’s progress. In his comments, Krzanich pushed his company to move up its deadline to underscore the importance of diversity and inclusion.

“intel has demonstrated a willingness to test different strategies and use data to understand what’s working and what’s not.”

“While these events have been painful to see, I ask each of you to join me in turning this tragedy into action, letting it serve as a reminder of how important it is for each of us to treat others with respect and to contribute to a diverse and inclusive workplace every day,” Krzanich wrote.

Overall, the report indicates that Intel has made great strides in closing its diversity gap. In December 2014, Intel needed 2,300 women and minority employees to achieve full representation. Now, the company needs to hire just 801 employees to fill the gap—a 65% improvement.

“Intel stands out because it has shown real improvement. Its leaders demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusion efforts, and it has demonstrated a willingness to test different strategies and use data to understand what’s working and what’s not,” says Carissa Romero, partner in the consulting firm Paradigm, which works with companies to promote inclusion in their organizations.

The report also acknowledges that representation challenges remain at Intel. The company showed some progress (0.3%) in increasing female representation since 2016, but flat or declining year-over-year trends among minorities, including African-Americans and Hispanics. White and Asian males continue to represent more than 90% of mid to senior technical roles.

The technology sector has long suffered from a lack of diversity, and research shows that when innovation and creativity are important, diversity gives organizations an advantage. “The tech industry has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to becoming more diverse and inclusive. Because the tech industry is focused on innovation, diversity is particularly important,” Romero says.

One thing that Intel has done well is that it has taken a data-driven approach to reaching its goals, including by looking at data across the employee life cycle, Romero says. She points to Pinterest and Airbnb as other tech companies that have demonstrated success by taking a data-driven approach to diversity. By analyzing its hiring-funnel data, Airbnb’s data science team doubled the ratio of women on its team. And by setting specific goals, Pinterest’s engineering team increased the diversity of its referral pool.

“(Intel’s) focus on the importance of retention, and its efforts to design strategies to increase retention, will be equally important as its focus on hiring to achieving its goals,” she says.