In early 2015, Intel set an ambitious goal for itself: 40 percent of all new hires had to be either women or members of an underrepresented minority (black, Latino, or Native American).
The company devoted $300 million to the initiative. It started holding events featuring women and minority leaders, and it began tying bonuses to diversity hiring. Still, it was an ambitious goal, one that Intel had never hit in the past. As of 2015, Intel's workforce was more than three-quarters male and a combined 86 percent white and Asian.
But after a year, it appears the investment is paying off. This week, Intel released a report with detailed data on its new hires. The company says it’s managed to exceed its own expectations: 43.1 percent of new hires in 2015 were women or underrepresented minorities. Much of the push seems to have swept up women: 35.5 percent of all the new hires are female. In comparison, only about 12 percent are from an underrepresented minority.
Next year, the company wants to up that goal to 45 percent, with a specific subgoal of 14 percent minority hires.
In an interview with NPR, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich chalked up the company’s success to its transparency. The company treated the problem like engineers, he said, laying out the data and finding ways to improve the numbers.
It’s a logical approach, but one that most other tech companies are not taking. Google, Facebook, and Apple, to name a few, have not released specific numbers about gender or minority hiring and retention to match the industry’s lofty rhetoric.
"We showed by example that transparency, data-based decision making, and aggressive goal setting can move the needle on this important issue," Krzanich wrote in a statement accompanying the report’s release.
What’s even more remarkable about the report, though, is the frankness with which it addresses its own failures. Despite meeting its overall goals, Intel acknowledges it hired too few Latinos and Native Americans, making up only about 230 of 3,000 total new hires.
And despite the positive hiring numbers, Intel has a retention problem — black employees are leaving faster than others, a problem the company acknowledges it needs to address in order to keep pace with its own goals.
"From the folks that I've talked to, I think African Americans get frustrated that they're not progressing faster," Neil Green, a vice president at Intel, told NPR. "They aren't necessarily meeting with and being sponsored by the senior executives."
- Read this essay on Medium by a black woman who left an engineering job at Google because, in her view, the company’s colorblind diversity program advantaged white women over people of color.
- Read this carefully considered piece from Vox on why it’s so hard to break into Silicon Valley when you grew up poor.