Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of black Americans in U.S. history. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month in an effort to not lose sight of U.S. contributions not covered in history classes in school. Every U.S. president since then has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.
When I was a young kid, my community came together to pay tribute to black American pioneers who worked tirelessly to better human conditions. At the celebration, each kid was required to recite a speech, poem, or story that honored the courage and commitment of inventors, entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers. My mother, much to my chagrin, always found a way to ensure that I had the longest speech to memorize year after year. I have vivid memories of playing Bessie Coleman, Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, and Ron McNair. In each of these critical leaders, seeing what they made possible inspired me to pursue my dreams with courage and conviction.
Each one possessed courage, persistence, and a willingness to do what’s right—even if it meant going at it alone. They refused to have their voice silenced; they kept going past the many no’s and naysayers; they refused to stop bringing attention to disparities that plagued society.
Are there lessons from these leaders that Intel can apply to our Diversity and Inclusion journey? That’s a question I’ve been pondering since our CEO, Brian Krzanich, boldly declared Intel’s $300M commitment to making a demonstrable change in diversity and the technology sector. My growth mindset says yes. Intel can extract lessons from their strength and constant risk-taking in the face of resistance. We may even learn a thing or two about sheer grit and resolve for the journey ahead.
While Intel increased our hiring in underrepresented minority populations significantly in 2015, we fell short of our hiring expectations. We also fell short against our goal of retaining our African-American population. So we have more work to do. The journey to full representation will require all of us—at Intel and beyond—to bring our full focus and co-create innovative solutions together. Diversity and Inclusion transformation will require persistence and an unwillingness to quit. We all have to keep our eye on the prize. If managed correctly, diversity and inclusion brings about enormous creativity and directly translates to more engaged employees, better products and better companies.
So, while Black History Month is a way we can celebrate the nation’s longstanding history of growth and change, today I am taking a page out of the pioneers’ books. I’m pushing forward, giving it all I’ve got to Intel’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. I’m committed to continuing to do what’s right, use inquiry as a tool to navigate beyond resistance, and actively champion for diversity in all places. After all, leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure your impacts lasts in your absence.