Intel is one of the oldest companies in Silicon Valley. It’s also been among the most transparent about its shortcomings as it seeks to address one…
Intel is one of the oldest companies in Silicon Valley. It’s also been among the most transparent about its shortcomings as it seeks to address one of Silicon Valley’s oldest problems: the tech industry’s lack of diversity.
Today, the chipmaker released its annual diversity progress report examining how it did in 2015—and the results are strong, at least by Intel’s own measure. The company met most of its retention goals, exceeded its hiring targets for underrepresented groups, improved the promotion of diverse candidates within, and invested in programs and partnerships designed to improve its culture. For the first time, Intel also conducted a compensation analysis that examined gender pay for all of its US employees, finding parity among men and women across its ranks. But the company acknowledged weaknesses, including retaining employees of underrepresented minorities, particularly African-Americans.
“We have a fundamental belief that transparency is important,” says Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. “As an engineer, transparency of the data, of the issues, of the progress … transparency, in general, is how problems get solved.”
Even as it seeks to present itself as one of the most aggressive companies when it comes to meeting diversity goals, however, Intel is still struggling mightily to become truly diverse. The number of women at this company of more than 107,000 employees rose by more than 5 percent in 2015, but men still make up more than three-quarters of the workforce. Meanwhile, the proportion of underrepresented minorities at the company barely moved in 2015, rising a mere 0.1 percent.
But more than nearly any other big company in Silicon Valley, Intel appears to be making a genuine effort to improve. Its lengthy report describing its metrics and various intiatives follows a mid-year review released in August, as well as pledges to pour $300 million into improving diversity in the tech industry and investing in startups with diverse management. By 2020, the company says, it wants its workforce to mirror the overall American workforce. And earlier this year, Intel announced a joint effort with the media company Vox Media to launch a project focused on finding solutions to online abuse.
But the data itself shows Intel’s workforce composition today mirrors that of most other tech companies, and even trails some. Yes, the company’s strategy of adopting an forcefully transparent stance is admirable. But in truth, like everyone else in tech, Intel still has a long way to go.
Moving the Needle—Slowly
Intel’s 53-page report seeks to cast its workforce changes in a positive light. According to its report, more than 43 percent of its 2015 hires were members of a diverse group—a rate that exceeded its goal of 40 percent. (Intel defines its “diverse population” as women, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.) The company says the number of women in its ranks grew by 5.4 percent. And according to Intel’s analysis, no pay gap exists between its male and female employees in the US, at all levels of the company. Overall, the company says, it spent $52.4 million on initiatives to improve diversity in 2015.
Still, focusing on hiring rates can obscure the real distribution of groups within its workforce, and drilling into the actual numbers, Intel similar to its Silicon Valley counterparts. That 5.4 percent increase in women amounts to only a quarter of the company’s workforce in total, the report shows—which is below the industry average of 29 percent. Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon all have better representation of women within their companies than Intel.
The company didn’t make much progress adding members of other underrepresented groups to its population year=over-year, either. At the end of 2015, Intel’s numbers show, the company was 3.5 percent African American, 8.4 percent Hispanic, and 0.5 percent Native American. Compared to 2014, the company increased representation of each of these group by less than a full percentage point.
For 2016, Intel says its its upping its goal for diverse hires to at least 45 percent, including at least 14 percent of new hires drawn from underrepresented minorities. It wants to improve retention. And it wants its non-technical employees to fully reflect the US population.
Notably, however, Intel didn’t apply this same standard to the female portion of its technical workforce; as the company explains, it aims for “full representation” of women population among its technical workers based on “market availability”—in other words, the percentage of women in the US labor market overall who have the skills to fill available technical jobs. According to Intel, that number is 22.7 percent. In 2015, 20.1 percent of Intel’s technical jobs were held by women—a 5.8 increase over last year. By that measure, at least, Intel is nearing its goal.
The Way Forward
As with so many other stories about diversity in tech, Intel’s is one of incremental progress. By advancing its commitment to transparency, Intel is seeking to stand apart from the rest of the industry. But the data shows the tough reality: the company has as much work left to do as the rest of the tech industry.
Laura Weidman Powers, co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit CODE2040, which aims to increase participation of blacks and Latinos in tech, says that Intel at least seems to be acknowledging it isn’t living up to the culture it wants to have—and that’s a good thing, because that shows the company knows it needs to fix the problem.
“I think there’s two ways to think of (company) culture—as reflective or aspirational,” says Weidman-Powers, who was pre-briefed on Intel’s diversity report. And a culture seemingly content to mirror society at large can instill a sense that not much can be done to make change for the better.
“If a culture is more aspirational, it’s easier to pick a north star, and say, ‘If we’re not there right now, it’s not wrong—it’s just a process.’ It feels like Intel is adapting more of that mindset.”
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