By: Rhonda Foxx, Head of Social Equity Policy & Engagement
Guest Voices: Werner Schaefer, Intel’s VP/GM of Network Platforms & Communications Service Provider Sales and LaTanya Flix, Greater Houston Partnership’s Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Last year, Intel declared that standing on the sidelines in the fight against inequality was not an option. This Black History Month, we’re proud to launch Social Equity at Intel and sign the Greater Houston Partnership’s Racial Equity Principles pledge, a collective commitment to support racial justice and social equity.
Below is my conversation with Intel’s VP/GM of Network Platforms & Communications Service Provider Sales, Werner Schaefer, and Greater Houston Partnership’s Senior Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, LaTanya Flix, on how companies can work together to drive racial equity and equality across our businesses and within our communities.
Rhonda Foxx: From your perspective as a senior business leader, why is racial equity important for Intel?
Werner Schaefer: First and foremost, racial equity is important because it is necessary and a moral imperative. But it’s also imperative for business. We develop better products and have a stronger workforce when we embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion wherever we do business in the world. It’s why we’ve made it our mission to solve challenges by creating world-changing technology that enriches the lives of every person on Earth.
RF: Diversity, equity, and inclusion have been integral to Intel’s evolution. In addition to promoting racial equity internally, how can Intel drive change across the industry?
WS: This week, we launched Social Equity at Intel. It’s a new platform highlighting how our company is off the sidelines in the fight for racial justice and social equity. And by working with organizations like the Houston Partnership and through our own upcoming Inclusion Index, we will continue to drive equity across our company and communities. And we understand that achieving equity and equality demand a collective approach, with companies and governments working together. Through Intel’s leadership in industry coalitions we will not only raise the bar for ourselves but for the entire industry.
RF: Why was signing the Partnership’s racial equity principles and being part of this collective commitment so important to you?
WS: Technology is instrumental in overcoming inequalities and as a global leader in that field, we take our role here very seriously. It’s why we launched Social Equity at Intel and created our own Global Equity Policy Principles. Signing the racial commitment provided another opportunity to scale our work and partner with others who share our social equity values. And as our co-founder Robert Noyce challenged every Intel employee to always do, we decided to join others and “go off and do something wonderful.”
RF: Why did the Greater Houston Partnership, as a business organization, determine it was important to address the issues of racial equity?
LaTanya Flix: While the issues of racial inequity and systemic racism are not unique to Houston, we have an opportunity as Houstonians to lead the way in reforming broken systems, partnering with communities, offering support, and removing barriers.
We often speak with pride of Houston being “America’s most diverse city.” Now we must work to make Houston “America’s most inclusive and open city”, one that does truly offer “opportunity for all.” A more equitable and inclusive Houston strengthens not only our community, but also positions our region to be more economically competitive as a global city.
In this, the fourth-largest city in our nation, real recovery must include all Houstonians. That means eliminating the barriers to opportunity and access across the talent pipeline and in corporate executive leadership. It also means support for historically underutilized businesses. The co-occurring crisis of this past summer galvanized our nation and our city. The nation responded to acts of police brutality against Black individuals with renewed calls for racial justice and equity. Such acts are unfortunately part of a broader pattern of institutional racism in American society.
The business community has a role to play in addressing these inequities and actively leading change in our city.
RF: How did the Partnership determine its approach to addressing racial equity
LF: Our approach was measured and began with listening and learning.
In June 2020, the Partnership conducted a series of listening sessions with Black community leaders, underrepresented entrepreneurs, and our members to learn about areas of racial injustice and inequity that need to be addressed as a priority in Houston.
In August, the Partnership created a new board committee to guide the organization’s actions through One Houston Together. The mission of the Racial Equity Committee is to harness the collective commitment and resources of Houston’s businesses and institutions to advance bold solutions to strengthen Houston as the most diverse, inclusive, and equitable city in the nation. The committee is co-chaired by Ruth Simmons, President of Prairie View A&M University, and Gretchen Watkins, President of Shell Oil.
In September, the Partnership hosted a series of conversations around racial equity, featuring experts on topics including understanding racism, health and racial inequity, and developing equitable communities. The five events drew more than 1,830 participants and subsequent viewers.
To help understand the existing landscape of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts among Houston companies, the Partnership conducted the first regional survey of member and non-member companies in November.
The information gathered from the listening sessions, DEI survey, and event participant feedback helped define the focus of One Houston Together, our commitment to leverage the power of the business community to address racial inequity in Houston.
RF: What does this effort include?
LF: One of the first actions of the racial equity committee was to develop a set of racial equity principles. The principles clearly communicate a position on business behaviors and actions the Partnership and individual businesses can commit to in advancing racial equity within their organizations and throughout the community.
The Partnership’s development, adoption and call to action around the principles follows nine months of work to determine how the region’s principal business organization would engage and lead the business community on this important issue.
To date, more than 100 Houston area companies and organizations representing over 218,000 employees have committed to the principles.
Through our listening and learning, two things were made very clear:
The Partnership has not done enough to address racial inequities in Houston and we need to step up and be truly committed to this work.
We need to focus and prioritize. The feedback has been very strong directing us, as leaders of the business community, to impact what we can directly, which includes advancing equity throughout the talent pipeline and working with companies to improve their procurement practices to better support historically underutilized businesses.
This focus and prioritization does not mean that other equity issues are not important to consider and address. While we may offer an opinion on additional issues and support others in their work, we will focus on these priorities of workplace DEI and supplier diversity.
About Social Equity at Intel
Social equity is part of our 2030 RISE strategy and an extension of our Global Human Rights Principles. As a world-leading semiconductor manufacturer, we recognize our shared responsibility to combat the systemic and structural inequities impacting our employees and communities.
Our strategy includes programs, investments, and structure that we employ to remove systemic barriers toward a fully inclusive workplace and society.
Intel’s Global Social Equity Policy Principles guide our work with governments and organizations to build a more equitable world. Driving social equity ensures our work in support of people, public policy, philanthropy and products is world-changing and enriches the lives of every person on earth.
About the Greater Houston Partnership
The Greater Houston Partnership represents approximately one-quarter of the region’s workforce with more than 1,000 member companies across the 12-county greater Houston region. The Partnership works with and on behalf of the business community to achieve its mission of making the region one of the world’s best places to live, work and build a business.