What’s Holding Back Diversity at Intel?

What’s Holding Back Diversity at Intel?

Intel has released its mid-year diversity report for 2016, showing scant improvement over its 2015 annual report. USA Today has the figures:

Currently, Intel is 53% white and 32% Asian, a skew that is generally reflective of tech companies – from Google and Apple to small startups — as they continue to grapple with the challenge of creating a workforce that better reflects the U.S. population. … Among the key findings in Intel’s latest report: female employees inched up to 25.4% from 24.8% in December 2015, while underrepresented minorities (URMs) decreased slightly to 12.3% from 12.4%. Among URMs, African-American staffing increased to 3.7% from 3.5%, while Hispanics dropped to 8% from 8.4%. …

On the hiring front, Intel’s efforts remained flat with women and minorities accounting for 43.4% of all hires, compared to 43.1% in December. Of that 43.4%, 13.1% were URMs, a notable jump from the 9% figure logged in December 2014. The company also said it was at 99% pay equity for URMs. Gender pay equity is at 100%.

Women in senior company positions grew to 18.2% from 16.5% six months ago, while those in leadership positions also increased slightly to 18.7% from 17.6%. URM representation in senior positions inched up to 6.4% from 5.8%, while those in leadership roles hit 6.9% from 6.3%. Intel also announced it had added a second woman to its board of directors, University of California at Berkeley electrical engineering professor Tsu-Jae King Liu.

Intel is not unique among big tech firms in having trouble making progress on diversity and inclusion: Facebook came in for public criticism last month when it attempted to explain a lack of progress on the “pipeline problem”—i.e., a lack of qualified candidates from underrepresented backgrounds. Apple’s diversity report that came out last week showed modest gains, but critics noted that its leadership remains heavily white and mail. Then again, deficits in leadership diversity are a common problem throughout the industry. Apple, like Intel, touted the progress it has made in closing pay gaps between women and men and between white and nonwhite employees.

One challenge that commentators pointed out in February, when the 2015 diversity report came out, is that Intel has stepped up hiring among underrepresented groups, but members of these groups seem to leave the company at such rates that overall representation isn’t progressing much—a challenge compounded by a restructuring that led Intel to lay off 11 percent of its workforce earlier this year. Fast Company’s Jared Lindzon examines the new diversity numbers from that angle:

African-American workers had a higher exit rate than the rest of the staff, and though the company had recently hired 11 Native American employees, 19 had left the previous year. [Danielle Brown, Intel’s ‎chief diversity and inclusion officer] explains that many of the departures were part of a global restructuring effort that refocused the company on cloud and mobile technologies, but in the first half of 2016, 47 Native American employees, 607 Hispanic employees, and 261 African-American employees left the company, representing a combined 12.3% of the company’s total exits this year. As a point of comparison, 4,590 white employees and 1,552 Asian-American employees left the company during that same period.

“To counter this, we are increasing our rigor and focus on retention and progression of our diverse employees and in 2016, launched programs including a Retention WarmLine to provide additional guidance and counsel to employees who are seeking support and development, or feeling frustrated with the challenges they are facing,” said Brown. “We also completed a Multicultural Progression and Retention study of 15,000 employees that explored the barriers to retaining and progressing our diverse talent. A great deal of work needs to be done inside Intel as well as the broader tech industry to cultivate a fully inclusive environment that welcomes and embraces a broad set of perspectives.”