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Diane Bryant Talks About 'Swearing Like a Sailor' and Intel's Transformation

Bryant talks about Intel's transformation from "the Wild West" to a company that is at the forefront of diversity in tech.

Sumit Kohli

Intel Senior Vice President Diane Bryant confessed the secret to her early success: Swearing like a sailor.

Bryant recalled a meeting in her early days at the chipmaker. One of the other engineers cursed and then looked at her and apologized. She knew she had to join the fray and diffuse the awkwardness of being the only woman in the room, so she quipped, “No F-ing problem.”

“From then on, I would swear frequently and liberally to prove I wasn’t a party pooper,” Bryant said at the Code/Enterprise Series: San Francisco.

That was the 1980s, a period Bryant referred to as “the Wild West.” The culture shifted in the early 2000s, when its president and chief operating officer at the time, Paul Otellini, declared such behavior out of bounds.

Intel is now at the forefront of diversity in tech, with a female as its No. 2 (President Renee James) and Bryant, who runs the second-largest business unit. The company has also committed $300 million to boost its own hiring of women and minorities as well as the overall number of people going into technology.

Executive compensation at Intel is tied to achieving the company’s diversity goals by 2020.

Bryant said she got into engineering “by accident.” Her father declared that she was on her own at the age of 18, four months before her high school graduation. So when a guy sitting next to her in calculus class in community college mentioned that engineering was a lucrative career that would command a $30,000 salary upon graduation, she swiftly declared her major.

“I was motivated by money,” Bryant laughed. “But I’ve stayed at Intel because it’s a very fast-paced carer. And Intel is a fair environment. You bust your butt, you’re going to be compensated.”

The goal of attracting more women and minorities to such financially rewarding careers will take a concerted effort, Bryant said. It will require changes to how science and math are taught in elementary and secondary schools, offering scholarships to college students who pursue STEM careers, and internships to bring these students into the workplace.

Intel was able to increase the number of female vice presidents to 25 percent through a concerted program of advocacy and sponsorship.

“Every woman vice president had to take on at least one or two high performing other women, and advocate for them,” she said. “That moves the needle. It forces the conversation.”

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