SAN FRANCISCO — Over the last year, Apple, Google and other big technology companies have faced mounting criticism by civil rights leaders about the lack of diversity in their work forces, which are populated mostly by white and Asian men.
Now Intel, the giant chip maker, is taking more concrete steps to do something about it.
On Tuesday, Intel said the company’s work force would better reflect the available talent pool of women and underrepresented minority groups in the United States within five years. If successful, the plan would increase the population of women, blacks, Hispanics and other groups at Intel by at least 14 percent during that period, the company said.
In addition, Intel said it has established a $300 million fund to be used in the next three years to improve the diversity of the company’s work force, attract more women and minorities to the technology field and make the industry more hospitable to them once they get there. The money will be used to fund engineering scholarships and to support historically black colleges and universities.
The company also said it would invest in efforts to bring more women into the games business, partly as an antidote to the harassment feminist critics and game developers have faced in recent months. Intel became part of the furor last year when, under pressure, it withdrew an advertising campaign from a game website that had run an essay by a feminist game critic, a move it later said it regretted.
“This is the right time to make a bold statement,” Brian M. Krzanich, Intel’s chief executive, said in a phone interview. Mr. Krzanich announced the plans on Tuesday in a speech at the International CES, a huge trade show in Las Vegas. “It’s kind of Intel’s culture. We march by Moore’s Law. We say we’re going to reinvent Silicon every two years even though we don’t really know how we’re going to pull that off.”
Many of the largest technology companies have released reports showing that roughly 70 percent of their employees are men and 30 percent are women. Depending on the company, blacks account for anywhere from 2 to 7 percent of workers at big tech companies.
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., who has led a campaign to pressure technology companies on diversity, said Intel was going beyond what others have done to remedy the imbalance in their work forces by setting more specific goals for hiring.
“There is no comparison,” said Mr. Jackson, the founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, who has spoken to Intel about its plans. “It is far beyond at this point. I think others are going to follow their lead.”
Intel’s goals, though, face the harsh reality described by many technology leaders: The supply of skilled workers from underrepresented groups, especially in technical fields like engineering, is limited.
Rosalind L. Hudnell, Intel’s chief diversity officer, cited statistics showing that just 18 percent of undergraduate engineering degrees go to women. That makes it especially difficult to improve diversity at Intel, which leans more heavily on technical employees than other tech companies.
“We hire more engineers; we just do, and that pipeline is less,” said Ms. Hudnell.
And yet, even with fewer qualified female and minority candidates for jobs at the company, Intel says it can do more to recruit employees from those groups. For instance, the company estimates that if the black population with the appropriate technical skills was fully represented at Intel today, the company’s current population of black workers would grow by about 48 percent.
Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford University and author of a recent book on women in the technology industry, commended Intel for announcing its diversity goals. “That’s a big deal,” he said. “That will put pressure on other companies to do the same.”
Intel’s employment statistics are fairly similar to those of its peers. It has published company gender and race statistics for over a decade. Its latest figures show that 76 percent of its American employees are male, 4 percent are black and 8 percent are Hispanic.
In October, though, Intel unwittingly became a villain in a controversy over the treatment of women in gaming, which has come to be known as GamerGate. A loose-knit brigade of Internet users lobbied the company to pull an advertising campaign on the game website Gamasutra because it had run an essay attacking the male dominance of games culture.
Intel, which was caught off guard by the ensuing controversy over its actions, eventually resumed advertising on the site. Mr. Krzanich said he used the incident as an opportunity to think more deeply about the broader issue of diversity in the tech industry. The issue resonated with him personally.
“I have two daughters of my own coming up on college age,” he said. “I want them to have a world that’s got equal opportunity for them.”
As part of its new investment fund, Intel plans to establish and support a professional women’s gaming team. It has partnered with the International Game Developers Association, a nonprofit that will send 20 female college students to a game developer conference with Intel’s support. The association wants to double the number of women working in the games industry over the next decade, according to Kate Edwards, its executive director.
“I’m hoping Intel’s leadership on this issue will encourage other companies to follow suit and make them realize this is the moment,” Ms. Edwards said.
article by Nick Wingfield via nytimes.com