Intel’s diversity chief exerts her inclusion muscle
The company’s audacious new inclusion goals include a first-ever diversity index.
At a time when we worry major firms will curtail their diversity and inclusion initiatives, Intel is dialing their’s up.
Its most recent Corporate Responsibility Report set forth a wide range of important goals—from net positive water use to building out its human rights-minded supply chain programs. The goals are big, but the call to action is even bigger. “The world is facing challenges that we understand better each day as we collect and analyze more data, but they go unchecked without a collective response–from climate change to deep digital divides around the world to the current pandemic that has fundamentally changed all our lives,” said Intel CEO Bob Swan in a statement. “We can solve them, but only by working together.
At the heart of the report is a promise to double the number of underrepresented talent in senior management by 2030. That work falls to Barbara Whye, the company’s seemingly tireless chief diversity and inclusion officer, who is also their vice president of social impact and now oversees the Intel Foundation.
“The magnitude of these challenges really require new thinking, and we fully recognize that you can’t bring the same level of solutions to these global challenges that you have in the past,” she tells raceAhead, by phone.
Here are some highlights from our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Intel has achieved one interesting benchmark already, what you call “full market representation” of women and other underrepresented demographics. How do these new goals build on the work you’ve done already?
So, we started with just trying to prove out—despite what people were saying—that you couldn’t achieve full representation, or there is no talent, or there are pipeline issues. But we knew that was just one step of many steps; the next one is around sustaining that representation and growing it. So, how do we measure what it means to be included and make sure that we push the boundaries on what’s possible? That’s what we’re really trying to accomplish, and we can’t do that alone.
Part of the announcement is a new Global Inclusion Index which companies can use to track their own diversity progress. How will this work?
One of the first things that we’re going to do around this index is to survey other companies, tech and non-tech, and look for those best practices around inclusion.
To do that, we can’t bring Intel along alone, we’re looking specifically to partner, obviously with philanthropic organizations, government, academia, and just really pulling all the disciplines together to really tackle this in a unique and different way—new terminology, methodology, and practices—even getting on the same page about definitions. So that’s kind of the goal of what we’re trying to accomplish.
What’s one best practice anyone can take to the bank?
I just truly believe that one simple yet powerful solution to make inclusion work is to give it the same value as a business unit success—and make sure that a business unit leader or manager is held accountable to metrics, similar as you would for a roadmap or completing a technology schedule. We’ve done that with our annual performance bonuses, but it works throughout the fabric of the company. And I know that that’s going to show up in this index, and can help companies move from incremental change and take on a more innovative strength.
One of the things that Intel has been particularly good at, in raceAhead’s view, is acknowledging that friction should be expected as people work with others who are different from themselves. You’ve used it as a developmental opportunity, instead of avoiding the issue.
Yes, we think of it as a muscle—and I think some of that was how Intel grew up and how we evolved, because you may have heard we had this culture around candid and constructive conversations. Where I think we tried to really increase and build that muscle was to continuously adapt and continuously learn through the feedback that you’re getting from the employees—because each of us requires different things to experience belonging inside of a company. So the Warm Line [a service where employees could share friction with managers or issues related to feeling overlooked or excluded] was how we got data around the employee experience. And, when you really prioritize these diverse [teams] and allow people to lean into inclusive behaviors, you actually get a better product and a better solution on the other side.
What’s the endgame for the inclusion index?
I think what I want to accomplish and what Intel is trying to accomplish with this global inclusion index is to create the psychological safety for all of these companies to say, “Hey, we don’t have it right all the time. We are a learning culture. And let’s put our heads together to think about what are the solid principles around how we can drive inclusion faster in our workplaces.” Because when we do that, we’re actually creating better communities and creating better companies and better business results.