How Diversity Can Fuel Innovation

With Intel halfway to its 2020 diversity goal, it’s important to understand how diversity benefits innovation and how transparency is essential to achieving diversity goals. Dan McNamara, Corporate VP and GM of the Intel Programmable Solutions Group, is a diversity advocate looking to open this conversation to help push tech industry transformation.

At Intel, we believe disruption and innovation are fundamental in the technology industry. We succeed when we change things fundamentally. Innovation requires new voices, new ideas, and new collaboration. To create amazing solutions for the future, we need an organization filled with diverse employees that represent that future. Like Intel’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Barbara Whye says, “It’s not just about diversity of race or diversity of gender, it is also the diversity of experiences.” I’m passionate about this topic because diversity is critical to Intel’s success.

I believe a more diverse workforce is required to transform the tech industry, which is why this data-fueled Harvard Business Review article caught my eye. But beyond the data, I know there are important questions that need to be answered. For example: Why have many diversity programs failed? How can we, as technology leaders, improve diversity and, by extension, improve our business results? As a learner, I want to seek out answers. Let’s dive in and find some.

Diversity Can’t Be Forced

We live in a world where bias is a reality, so the real question is not how we eliminate bias, but how we keep it from blocking diversity in our organizations. The HBR article I mentioned explains that trying to force diversity efforts can backfire. Things like diversity training, hiring tests, and grievance procedures aren’t leading to better results because they’re anchored in the wrong mentality. A desire for change must become part of the company culture. The article ends with an interesting conclusion:

“The numbers sum it up. Your organization will become less diverse, not more, if you require managers to go to diversity training, try to regulate their hiring and promotion decisions, and put in a legalistic grievance system.”

You can’t force diversity; you have to foster the right culture around it to help it succeed. In my division, Intel’s Programmable Solutions Group (PSG), we’ve found that HBR recommendations like employee diversity task forces and voluntary diversity training can drive great change. To quote Barbara Whye again, “It will take all of us doing a better job as leaders and having better conversations with our employees.” I agree.

And while Intel is driving toward specific diversity goals we’re trying to reach by 2020, we’re talking about people, not simply numbers. As the recent edition of  “The Calvert Diversity Report: Examining the Cracks in the Ceiling” noted: Looking at S&P 100 companies, investors view a lack of women and minority executives — as well as a lack of female and minority representation on boards — as “potential value that remains untapped.”

One of Calvert’s recommendations to improve diversity is to focus on actual people and to take a personal stand in building an inclusive culture and improving diversity. Given that, it’s no surprise that the Calvert Report’s lowest scores for diversity are classified as “diversity treated as a compliance matter.” Again, that’s the wrong mentality. While the report indicates that numbers help drive change, it more importantly shows that a narrow view leads to less innovation. By diversifying your staff and your leadership, you stand to broaden your company’s view and find new solutions to fuel innovation. (Disclosure: Intel is included in the report in the “diversity fully embraced and successfully implemented” bracket thanks to our score of 95 out of 100.)

Some questions for you: Are you looking at the diversity of your company? What have you learned? And if this conversation hasn’t started yet, why not? Is your company tracking internal promotion and hiring rates of women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups? Are you being transparent with this information?

Improving Diversity: Some Things We’re Doing

At Intel, we’re committed to improving diversity across the company. Our 2016 inclusion report shows a positive trend for women and minorities. We exceeded our diversity hiring target for 2016, too. Being transparent is critical to fostering an inclusive workplace that values an environment of innovation with all voices at the table.

Within Intel PSG, we’re taking steps to increase diversity and drive inclusion in our team. As an example, we recently implemented an inclusion survey, asking employees for candid feedback on their feelings of inclusion in the workplace. We’ve also recently brought our leaders into a Diversity and Inclusion workshop; each activity within it supports our journey toward an open, inclusive workplace that appreciates all perspectives. On top of that, we have a self-directed diversity team that aims to make our diversity hiring goals transparent and boost retention of diverse employees in roundtable discussions with me. We have a sponsorship program for high-potential diverse employees, as well. We want all employees to feel like they can bring their full authentic self to work, and we’re striving in all these ways to make that a reality every day at Intel.

Now I’d like to hear from you. What insights might you get from an inclusive survey, and what positive changes might come as a result? Does your business have a mentoring program or a diversity task force? Are you actively working toward greater diversity and inclusion — or are you trying to force it?

I’d love to hear where you’ve found success in these goals that go beyond simple hiring and attendance at cultural event numbers. Let me hear your thoughts about these questions in the comments below, or continue the conversation with me on Twitter at @ProgrammableMac.

Dan McNamara

About Dan McNamara

Daniel (Dan) R. McNamara is corporate vice president and general manager of the Programmable Solutions Group (PSG) at Intel Corporation. He is responsible for executing a strategy to plan, position and support the company’s programmable hardware, IP, and software solutions and power product portfolio. He leads the collaboration with other Intel business groups to ensure the successful utilization of programmable technology in other areas of Intel’s business. He has profit and loss responsibility for PSG, leading a global organization across multiple markets.

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