When it comes to diversity, Intel has had a very busy year. Last fall, the company was stung after one of its missteps made it seem like it wasn’t pro diversity. At the beginning of 2015, Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich pledged the world’s biggest chip maker would invest $300 million to increase diversity in the tech industry. Then in June, Krzanich said Intel would invest $125 million in startups owned by women and underrepresented minorities.
Hiring and retention of diverse candidates is now tied to pay. A couple of weeks ago, Intel announced that 43.3 percent of its new hires came from diverse backgrounds, exceeding its goal of 40 percent. Of new employees this year, 35 percent are women and 4.7 percent are African American; 7.5 percent were Hispanic, and 0.3 percent were Native American. At the Intel Developer Forum last week, Intel held a panel on how diversity can create a business advantage for companies.
But measuring diversity isn’t all about the numbers. And any way you look at it, the tech industry has a long way to go. About 3 percent of tech company founders are women in Silicon Valley. Fewer than 1 percent of founders are African American or Latino. Companies with a female CEO receive only 3 percent of total venture capital dollars, said Lisa Lambert, team leader for software and services investments at Intel Capital.
Roz Hudnell, chief diversity officer and vice president of human resources, moderated the panel. We caught up with her after the panel. She pointed out that Intel is also trying to improve the pipeline for diverse candidates, starting with help it is giving to schools in Oakland, California.
“I think we’ll be the game changer,” Hudnell said at the close of the panel. “We have to be the agents of change and we can change ourselves.”
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
VentureBeat: You’ve been at Intel for a long time.
Roz Hudnell: 19 years, yeah.
VentureBeat: Has diversity been a big part of your job during a lot of that time?
Hudnell: Diversity’s been a big part of my life and career. When I came into Intel I was the community relations manager. I sat in our public affairs group, where we did a lot of work with government, community, employee volunteerism, education. Intel has had a long history of focus on getting more women and minorities into STEM. A lot of what we did, especially in communities where Intel was, focused on pipeline efforts. But I didn’t own diversity.
I came to Intel from the Urban League, where I developed job skills training centers. It’s been a part of my life’s work, in some ways, for a long time.
VentureBeat: From a press point of view, I could see this being part of Intel for quite a long time, but moving more front and center since last year. Can you talk about what that’s been like?
Hudnell: In all honesty, that’s not why Intel moved there. It wasn’t because we had a crisis. The industry had a crisis. It caused us to look at where we were. If you think about what was happening last summer, you had Reverend Jackson coming in and challenging companies to do what we’ve been doing for a decade. We could show our data. We didn’t have a crisis about showing data or not showing data.
Under Brian’s leadership, we’ve looked at a lot of things we’ve been doing. At that point, certainly, we had a focus on women in gaming. That was a point for us to think on. But what ended up happening, we stepped back and said just what you said. We have been focused on this for a long time. There were things were proud of, areas where we were leaders in the industry. Brian is an engineer, and he said, “I want to lead on this. What is it going to take?”
That’s when we began to think deeply. It’s not about showing data or putting priorities in place or getting a commitment or setting goals. We’ve been doing that. So maybe our goals aren’t aggressive enough. Maybe we need to bring a larger commitment to move faster and lead the industry. It was more of a leadership moment than simply coping with a crisis. That almost would have been easier.
VentureBeat: It seems like a lot of other companies could have that conversation internally as well and get into a big fight about it. How do you do that and come out a unified team?
Hudnell: That’s all about leadership. That’s about having a CEO who has looked at this and — Brian was part of our diversity management review committee for a few years. He didn’t come in as a CEO not thinking about this. He ran our technology manufacturing group. He had been very aware. I don’t want to say it was easier for us, but there was a foundation of the commitment to diversity there. We weren’t starting anew.
We did unconscious bias training eight years ago. We’ve been driving transparency and goals for longer than some companies in this industry have existed. We were starting from a different place. I hope, and I think, that we also had the confidence that we could do it. If we put increased commitment and resources behind the foundation, we could do it.
Because our workforce is so highly technical — engineering, computer science — we drive Moore’s Law. We do high-end manufacturing. We don’t do retail or call centers. In some way, we also recognize that when we show growth and show we can do it, we can lead the industry, because then everybody can.
So it was more of a leadership moment, an inflection point for us as a company, which has been in a leadership role in this industry for so long. It was almost like, from my perspective — what would we do if we didn’t do this? There was no other choice. When the industry is going through a crisis as an industry and you have a company that wants to do something, a company that has a history of leadership in a space we’ve been involved in, you either lead or you don’t. There was no middle ground.
Most of us were pretty shocked — not at how easily, but how swiftly we were able to get to that moment of Brian standing on stage at CES and saying, “We’re going to do this and do it by 2020.”
VentureBeat: The numbers in Silicon Valley are still pretty disappointing compared to the rest of the tech industry and compared to the general population. That’s something I don’t quite get. Is there active resistance to diversity in Silicon Valley? Is it naturally not occurring for some reason?
Hudnell: If you research other industries, it’s not just Silicon Valley. There’s underrepresentation in other industries. Like begets like. When people form companies, they go to the people they know and hire the people they know, and so on it goes. That’s part of it.
At least for Intel, it’s because — this year close to 80 percent of our hiring is technical. You have to start with, 30 percent of the general U.S. population is black or Hispanic, but that’s not who’s in engineering and computer science classes. Then you say, “Well, it’s a pipeline challenge.” That’s a challenge for the whole nation. If women and ethnic minorities were fully represented in engineering and computer science classrooms, just as they are in society, we would close our nation’s achievement gap.
We also recognized at Intel that we weren’t doing a full enough job working on the pipeline out there. One reason you’re seeing great improvements in our hiring — we didn’t build a bigger pipeline in six months. We got very focused and aggressive about recruiting the talent that was out there. It’s a combination. It’s a matter of doing a better job recruiting the talent that’s developed, keeping that talent, and then increasing the pipeline.
What we’ve done differently, we’re trying to increase the pipeline with intention. You see what we’ve done with Oakland Unified. That’s a bet. Can we take an enormous amount of resources and support and focus and change the outcomes for students from underserved communities, graduating from high school, who want to go into engineering and computer science? That’s why it’s five years. That’s why we start now with the freshmen. Can we make the change in a cohort? Not making the change over 20 years. Can we make a substantive change in a large urban school district?
If we show we can do that, we hope that impacts how we think about education in high schools, how we fund things. That’s different for us. We’ve had a K-12 program. We’ve been focused on education for a long time. But sometimes it’s very long. You go into a third grade or fourth grade class. Here we’re going to keep doing those things that are good for the community, but get really strong on investing in a pipeline that can make a meaningful change for us. That’s now.
VentureBeat: Your quote on engineering and creativity was inspiring.
Hudnell: Dr. William Wulf. You should read the entire speech on [the importance of diversity in engineering]. I got to know him through Craig Barrett when they were both in the National Academy of Engineering. For those in the industry, he gave one of the most direct speeches around diversity that dealt with issues of race and gender and engineering. That quote comes from that speech.
VentureBeat: It seems like that’s a good way to melt away the resistance to arguments about diversity.
Hudnell: I start the majority of my presentations inside of Intel with that quote. It gives a good, relatable business case from someone who’s deeply respected in the industry. But we’re still trying to do inside of our walls what society hasn’t done outside those walls. We’re still dealing with how you bring difference together and have that be seen as additive, as increasing opportunity for all. If you have a focus on hiring women, that means you aren’t going to hire as many men. It’s hard work, but that’s what we’re focused on right now.
VentureBeat: I recall Steve Jobs saying that Apple was at the intersection of technology and liberal arts. I wondered what your core engineering managers might think about that.
Hudnell: You think about our engineering model, we run our own manufacturing. That takes hardcore engineering. It doesn’t take a liberal arts degree. The design happens in how we design our products. You heard Andrew talking about that. We have different types of skills involved in designing wearables. We have different people coming in the room.
We have a significant amount of people who are not what we would consider techies. Some work in technical fields. Howard Wright, who was on the panel, his degree is in quantum economics, I think, and statistics. But he’s driving an ecosystem. He’s interacting and helping us drive that platform.
Eventually those ideas have to be developed in a manufacturing facility that’s built with hardcore engineering. So it’s both. But a lot of people think all tech is the same. That’s the greatest challenge our industry has. It isn’t all the same. We have about 8,000 software developers inside Intel. We’re a pretty large software company. For some companies, that’s 100 percent of the population. Out of 100,000 people, we have 8,000, a pretty big software company inside an even bigger hardware company. Everyone looks and sees us as all the same, but we aren’t really the same. We’re in the same ecosystem. Who we hire, our business models, who has high-end manufacturing and who doesn’t, how design gets done or doesn’t, it all impacts skill sets.
But we look at the need to have diversity everywhere. It’s critical that we have diverse innovation in what we’re doing. People will say, “Of course you need it in wearables. I’ll give you that.” What Howard is saying is, “No. We need it everywhere.”
VentureBeat: Does the definition of diversity also change from team to team?
Hudnell: No. If you think about it, the definition of diversity doesn’t change, nor why you want it. But what it needs to get there may be different. Diversity, for Intel, is about driving a fully inclusive environment that has diversity of representation — all the things you see, all the things you don’t see — in every room of the company. That’s the goal. We truly believe that will create better ideas and better outcomes.
How that changes based on geography, based on what we need — Sandra [Lopez] talked about, “Look, I care about racial diversity, but I also care about diversity of industrial engineers, design engineers.” That might not be the case when you go into our data analytics group or information technology. It may be a very different case in our marketing and branding teams. It’s the same goal, but how you play that out might be different based on what difference you’re looking for in order to design for an innovative solution.