Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) is one of the loudest battle cries in the technology sector today. Intel, which like many big tech companies has had a spotty record when it comes to hiring women and minorities, has made it a priority to fix these problems over the last several years. Their progress has begun to show.
This week I met with Dawn Jones, Intel’s Chief Inclusivity and People Officer, to discuss the company’s efforts to bring DE&I to the forefront as well as key moves that have underscored that effort in the last year.
Setting a Bad Example
When I started working with Intel in the early ‘90s, they were often defined by bad behavior, including anti-competitive policies, affairs among company leadership, and stymied advancement for women. Intel was a showcase for the male-dominated technology industry. A few years back, Renee James joined Intel as a co-CEO, but she was driven out of the company by her male co-leader Brian (BK) Kerzanich, making the effort appear disingenuous.
James’s short tenure underscored a company culture rife with backbiting, inappropriate liaisons, and lawsuits brought about by wrongfully terminated employees. This kind of corporate drama creates substantial distrust between employees and management.
Intel’s current CEO, Pat Gelsinger, is cut from very different cloth. Instead of paying lip service to DE&I and Intel’s fraternization policies about senior executives, he has aggressively turned Intel into a company known for treating employees fairly and well. While the job is far from done, the progress is impressive.
Raising the Bar
According to Dawn Jones, Intel’s HR department has moved away from being a compliance department focused on covering up problems to one that has trained a laser-like focus on creating a safe and fair workplace for all of its employees. This includes surveys to ensure that employees understand how their programs work and to motivate and activate the workforce appropriately; and, employment measurement systems underpinned by DE&I policies to ensure that 80% of all job requisitions are posted.
While some employees may be chosen, most jobs are available to anyone qualified by background, experience, and education. Job descriptions are reviewed to assure the description doesn’t set unreasonable requirements and prevent a woman or minority from applying and getting the job. The policy also requires the interviewing panel to be diverse and that every effort is made to ensure a diverse pool of potential employees.
Jones shared that one of the exciting initiatives Intel has driven is the Alliance for Global Inclusion. I’ve mentioned Micron as a diversity leader in previous columns, and they have joined this group, which recognizes that no firm can do this alone, and that progress can be accelerated if companies address DE&I as a group. This effort can be far more effective in driving interest in technology into education so that the availability of women and minorities for tech jobs improves over time. In addition, Jones told me that currently, the Alliance for Global Inclusion’s efforts are positively impacting 100K high school students in 30 countries, with plans to expand significantly in the future to better ensure STEM readiness.
Finally, Intel has significantly diversified its board by adding more women, which should significantly weaken the firm’s glass ceiling.
Setting a Better Example
Diversity and inclusion in an industry that has been anything but for much of its life isn’t easy. It takes focus and determination, it takes more than one company, and it takes a willingness to fight through the pain of change for a better place to work. A place you’d be proud to send your mother, sister, or daughter in the future, knowing they’d be treated fairly and well.
Intel’s changes are nothing short of amazing. Still, their most significant impact may be their Alliance for Global Inclusion which is driving changes that go far beyond Intel’s corporate reach and has a decent chance of fixing an industry that desperately needed to move away from the Old Boy’s Club mentality that was crippling it.
Given that technology increasingly defines our world, having the leading tech companies get behind an effort to substantially improve DE&I is a critical milestone on the path to building a better world.
Read next: Why the Tech Industry Struggles with DE&I