Opinion: Intel has it in for Silicon Valley’s white male culture

Opinion: Intel has it in for Silicon Valley’s white male culture

Intel Corp., the world’s largest computer-chip maker, is shaking up its workforce inside.

In January, Intel INTC, +0.81% surprised Silicon Valley when Chief Executive Brian Krzanich announced at the Consumer Electronics Show a big effort — backed by plans to spend $300 million — to diversify its workforce. The company’s goal is that by 2020, its workforce will be less white and male-dominated and more reflective of the broader U.S. working population.

Intel has already made progress in hiring more women and people of color, and it intends for its initiative to influence other tech companies. Last week, Krzanich was the keynote speaker at a PUSH Tech 2020, a conference in San Francisco organized by the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition. The theme of the conference was to get Silicon Valley to look more seriously at diversifying its workforce and to expand its hiring horizons.

Krzanich offered attendees an update on what Intel has achieved so far in its diversity effort

“We are treating this like an Intel problem,” Krzanich said, adding that the company is using a typical engineering-centric approach to attack a problem that Silicon Valley has, up until now, not tried hard to solve — namely the lack of women and people of color in the tech industry. Intel itself still has a ways to go. Like many tech giants reporting employee diversity data in 2014, Intel had a male male-dominated workforce: 76% of its employees worldwide are male, and 56% are white.

Krzanich said Intel employees, like typical engineers, wanted to achieve some immediate goals. Intel is also linking manager pay to reaching diversity goals.

So far this year, Krzanich said, 41% of new hires were women and minorities, up from 32% last year. Intel has made a radical change in the way it recruits, for example, by attending events sponsored by the National Society of Black Engineers and having diversity among employees who recruit at conferences and colleges.

But a larger obstacle facing diversity proponents in tech is that the number of women graduating with computer science degrees has dropped by half in recent years, as pointed out by another speaker.

In an effort to address the education problem, Intel plans to invest $5 million in a program for high-school students in the Oakland, Calif. Unified School District. The intent is to fund a pilot computer science program over the next five years that creates a pathway to working in technology. Students who study computer science in college can become Intel “scholars” and are guaranteed a job at Intel upon graduation. “The goal is that 600 students will graduate and become an Intel scholar,” said Intel’s Chief Diversity Officer Rosalind Hudnell, after Krzanich’s keynote.

Intel hopes this type of program can be repeated in other schools and that Silicon Valley will follow suit. Intel is currently talking with other tech companies about creating similar programs in other San Francisco Bay Area schools. It is also going to allocate part of the funding at Intel Capital to minority-owned startups, and aims to spend $1 billion on minority-owned suppliers — an effort already embraced by Apple Inc. AAPL, +0.00% which has spent around $3 billion in each of the last two years to support small, diverse businesses.

Trying to change the complexion and gender makeup of Silicon Valley is a Herculean task. But a finding an engineering solution to a problem is something Intel clearly knows how to do.


1 Comment
  • michaelhallTM
    Posted at 10:34h, 02 June

    Opinion: Intel has it in for Silicon Valley’s white male culture: Intel Corp., the world’s largest computer-chip… http://t.co/Ix4FSLGpk5