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Intel Pledges Megabucks To Improve Diversity In Tech

Big ships take a lot of turning, but chip giant Intel claims it’s to forcibly accelerate the process. It’s planning to spend $300 million to improve the diversity of its own workplace and the wider tech industry, to attract more women to the games industry, and to make games and tech a more accommodating place to people who have traditionally been minorities within it.
While the primary motivation is to make a white and Asian male-dominated firm more societally representative, the Diversity in Technology initiative is partly in response to Intel last year becoming embroiled in the Gamergate controversy. In October, the processor manufacturer abruptly pulled an advertising campaign from trade site Gamasutra, in reaction to a letter-writing campaign objecting to pro-diversity editorials. Intel was heavily criticised for appearing to endorse a movement associated with anti-feminism and harassment, disputed that it shared those sentiments, and eventually restored the ads.

Now the hardware firm wants to put a whole lot more money where its mouth is. “This is the right time to make a bold statement,” Intel boss Brian M. Krzanich told the New York Times, following the announcement of the scheme at this year’s CES trade show.

Krzanich claimed that ‘the issue resonated with him personally’ as he wanted his two daughters “to have a world that’s got equal opportunity for them.” Right now, Intel’s 76% of Intel’s staff are male, and the numbers are similar at many other tech firms. As well as the funding, Intel plans to set up an all-women pro-gaming team and establish a non-profit to send female college students to games conferences.

The funding’s the big deal, though – not just because one of the world’s biggest tech firms is spending big to improve diversity at its own workplace, but also because where it goes, others may well follow suit. It’s not just women that Intel hopes to add to its ranks: over the next three years, it hopes to raise the number of women, blacks, Hispanics and other employees by at least 14%. The firm estimates that, were relevantly-qualified members of the black population fully represented, it would have 48% more black employees.

However, intervention is needed at a training level too, so Intel will be funding scholarships and better supporting majority black colleges in order to increase the diversity of the tech industry’s intake further down the line. It’s also working with a number of national organisations for a wide range of minority groups.

“We’re calling on our industry to again make the seemingly impossible possible by making a commitment to real change and clarity in our goals,” said Krzanich in a statement. “Without a workforce that more closely mirrors the population, we are missing opportunities, including not understanding and designing for our own customers.”

There’s more about all this here. It’s a big statement of intent. I hope it works, I hope it goes all the way, and I hope others follow suit.

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Alec Meer

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