Intel challenges tech industry to create "Global Inclusion Index" to measure diversity

In its annual corporate responsibility report, Intel says that it needs support from the rest of the industry and other partners to make meaningful progress in areas like diversity and sustainability.

With the release of its annual Corporate Responsibility Report this year, Intel is reflecting on the progress it's made over the last 10 years in areas like diversity and inclusion and environmental sustainability. It's also looking forward to the next 10 years -- coming to the conclusion that meaningful change will take cooperation from the rest of the technology industry as well as other outside partners.  

"The world is facing challenges that we understand better each day as we collect and analyze more data, but they go unchecked without a collective response – from climate change to deep digital divides around the world to the current pandemic that has fundamentally changed all our lives," Intel CEO Bob Swan said in a statement. "We can solve them, but only by working together."

In particular, Intel is looking for collective action on the industry's shortcomings when it comes to diversity and inclusion -- an issue that has plagued the tech sector for years, even as technology giants repeatedly pledge to do better. 

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To improve diversity and inclusion within its own workforce, Intel is aiming to increase women in technical roles to 40 percent by 2030. It's also aiming to double the number of women and underrepresented minorities in senior leadership positions. Beyond that, Intel says it wants to work with the industry to create and implement a "Global Inclusion Index" to create a baseline understanding of what it even means to employ women and minorities in senior and technical positions.

"We think transparency and measurement is really important in ensuring the technology industry raises the bar," Navin Shenoy, EVP and GM of the Intel Data Platforms Group, said to ZDNet. "There's no common definition or metric for defining, for example, women in technology positions. At Intel, we define that as a woman with a technology degree and in particular with a PhD. Other companies define that as women working in retail stores in a technology setting. Neither one is right or wrong, but it shows you there's a big difference in how the industry defines what it actually means to have inclusion." 

The Index, Intel says, should help the tech industry identify the root causes of its lack of diversity, as well as the actions needed to collectively advance progress and build a future pipeline of talent.

In its Corporate Responsibility Report, Intel pats itself on the back for the progress it made over the last 10 years. For instance, the company says it reached "full representation" in its US workforce for women and underrepresented minorities in 2018, two years ahead of schedule. Still, women only account for 28 percent of the company's global workforce. 

Additionally, Intel says it closed the gap in average pay between employees of different genders in the same or similar roles, after accounting for legitimate business factors that can explain differences. 

At the same time, other metrics show the company has a long way to go -- Intel has been unusually forthcoming about the details of its pay disparity issues. In December, the company released data showing, among other things, that one in four white men at Intel are in the top salary tier. By comparison, less than 10 percent of black employees are in the top tier.

Intel, Shenoy said, was "one of the first, if not the first to just be radically transparent in publishing our pay across various gender groups and minorities, and it wasn't necessarily all that pretty." 

He added, "We all have to get comfortable putting ourselves out there a little bit, even if the data doesn't look great today."

While the interest in collective action on the matter isn't "universal," Shenoy said, "our peers in the industry are starting to recognize this is a real issue that's not going to solve itself through incremental action."

Looking beyond the tech sector, Intel says it plans to partner with governments and communities to address the digital divide and expand access to technology skills. By 2030, the company plans to partner with governments in 30 countries and 30,000 institutions worldwide with the goal of empowering more than 30 million people with AI skills training. This effort has already started with programs like Intel AI For Youth, which provides AI curriculum and resources to more than 100,000 high school and vocational students in 10 countries. 

Environmental Sustainability 
 Intel also has plans to leverage its partnerships to reach new goals in the area of environmental sustainability. The company wants to work with PC manufacturers to create a more sustainable and energy efficient computer -- one that eliminates carbon, water and waste in its design and in its use. 

Intel plans on creating a sustainability roadmap with goals like using sensor technologies to reduce power usage, partnering with material vendors on recyclable packaging and developing longer-term, energy efficient architectures.It also wants to create a collective approach to reducing emissions within the semiconductor manufacturing industry and cloud computing.

In terms of its own individual sustainability ambitions, Intel aims to achieve net positive water use by 2030. It also wants to rely 100 percent on renewable power, send zero waste to landfills and produce additional absolute carbon emissions reductions, even as the company grows. 

Already, Intel has increased its use of green power to 71 percent globally, and it has reduced its direct carbon emissions by 39 percent on an intensity basis from a 2010 baseline. The company also exceeded its goal to reduce its water use below 2010 levels on an intensity basis, achieving a 38 percent decrease. 

Health and Safety
Intel also has ambitions to forge partnerships to improve social outcomes in the area of health and safety. Specifically, it wants to work with partners in healthcare, life sciences and government to apply technology to various efforts, such as its recently-announced Pandemic Response Technology Initiative. The initiative includes a $50 million commitment from Intel to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Over time, we want to make sure technology's being used in a way that can meaningfully enrich people's lives or even save lives, whether that's high-performance computing accelerating the discovery of vaccines, or through the virtual ICU we created with technology partners," Shenoy said. 

In terms of safety, Intel is focused on collective efforts to create autonomous driving standards. In 2017, Intel spent $15 billion to acquire Mobileye, an Israel-based company that produces autonomous vehicle (AV) technology. While it still accounts for a small share of Intel's revenues, Mobileye is a fast-growing line of business. Now, Intel says it wants to lead a coalition of industry players to advance new safety technologies and standards for autonomous driving, such as RSS and the forthcoming IEEE 2846. The IEEE 2846 workgroup, which came together last year, recently elected Intel Senior Principal Engineer Jack Weast to serve as its chairman.