…the future of STEM diversity.

feb 16

Playing catch-up

In the past few years, there has been a push for more transparency in workplace diversity. Last week, Intel published their 2015 Diversity Update. In 2015, Intel set out ambitious goals to drastically increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities hired into their workforce.

As tech companies go, Intel is playing a small game of catch-up. To improve diversity, Intel has invested millions of dollars on internal mentorship and training, events to increase diversity of potential applicants, and outreach programs at the K-12 and college levels.

Their multi-pronged approach included many aspects that Dr. Marie Klawe attributed to success stories in increasing the number of women and minorities in computer science degrees.

More inviting

Intel increased their reach to prospective applicants by visiting more colleges and universities — sure everyone wants to hire students from Berkeley, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, etc., but there are great students at other schools too (obviously). More interestingly, Intel created events to prospective applicants to visit Intel to learn more about the company and its environment, which is akin to graduate schools that are trying to recruit the next year of top talented students. Previous research has shown higher success rates in recruiting people from a minority group by hiring multiple people from that group at once. It can be difficult to convince yourself to be the one and only female working on a project, but if you know that you won’t be alone — well that’s a whole new ballgame. Even if the current climate at Intel may not be as diverse as one would like, these events would definitely provide the support needed to see that they are moving in that direction.

These new approaches contributed to women accounting for 43% of Intel’s new hires for 2015. That sounds like a huge number, but due to the shear size of Intel’s workforce (over 100k employees), it is clear that they will need multiple years of hiring like 2015 to significantly increase their final numbers.

Intel Diversity

Demystifying the path to success

Another common aspect of Intel’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy with Dr. Klawe’s talk was the idea of increasing transparency on how to be successful. Intel employees can share their experiences and success stories through GROW, an internal video and social network. With GROW and ROAR, a separate training program for mid-level women, the number of women increased slightly at all levels. Ideally, having more women in management roles will have a bigger impact on the next generation of women moving up the ranks.
However the news is not all chocolates and pink roses… Intel still has a lot of work to do on improving their composition and retention rate for underrepresented minorities (URM). The percentage of African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans in entry-level positions decreased slightly in 2015. Increasing the number of URM in the workforce has a lot to do with increasing the available talent pool — a trickle up effect. This is a much larger problem faced by both industry and universities alike, and the best anyone can figure, is that we need to target students early on. As early as possible — with middle school being the critical ‘last chance’ for student interest in STEM related fields.

Intel Diversity Underrepresented minorities

Intel’s diversity strategy does include working with outside organizations to promote computer science to high school students from underrepresented populations (e.g., summer camps at Georgia Tech and Oakland Unified School District). Unfortunately, it will take many years to see what impact, if any, these programs have on the talent pool for prospective hires. However, one does hope that there are tangible outcome measures included in these programs so we can all learn from what may (or may not) work.

Always room for improvement

Intel’s 53-page Diversity and Inclusion update definitely provides some promising results. There is still plenty of room for improvement, and hopefully there will be a continued upward trend in the 2016 update…

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