Slow but steady progress as Intel strives to be more diverse

The chipmaker's latest diversity report shows some gains in its goal to increase diversity, though its ranks of underrepresented minorities hasn't changed much.

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Intel hopes to be much more diverse by 2020, but it still has a long way to go.

Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

It's been a year since Intel kicked off a bold, $300 million initiative to make itself and the tech industry more diverse. The results so far show progress but are slow going.

The world's largest chipmaker came out with its 2015 diversity report Wednesday, showing it increased the number of women and underrepresented minorities in its roughly 53,000-employee company, though in some cases the percentage changes were tiny. The percentage of women employed by Intel in the US rose to 24.8 percent from 23.5 percent a year earlier. But the percentage of underrepresented minorities, including African Americans and Hispanics, edged up to just 12.4 percent from 12.3 percent.

The lack of diversity in Silicon Valley has been a problem that's stubbornly existed for years, so it should come as little surprise that Intel wasn't able to make drastic changes in the first year of its five-year diversity initiative. The small progress highlights just how difficult it can be to make a dent in increasing diversity hires and the long slog ahead for the company to reach its goal of significantly raising the number of underrepresented minorities and women it employs by 2020.

But the Santa Clara, California, company framed much of its effort as a success, saying it's diverse hires last year accounted for 43 percent of the total, beating its goal of 40 percent. It also said it killed off its gender pay gap and increased the representation of women at all levels of the company.

Read more about diversity in tech in CNET's special report Solving for XX.

"While we have a long road ahead of us to reach full representation and to reinvent Intel's culture, the first year results are strong," Danielle Brown, Intel's chief diversity officer, said in a statement.

CEO Brian Krzanich last year admitted that Intel's goal would be difficult to achieve. Yet Krzanich had said that considering the opportunities in tech for his two teenage daughters helped push his thinking that Intel needed to do more than talk about diversity, which is why he tied managers' compensation to diversity goals in 2015.

In total, Intel invested $52.4 million in 2015 on all its diversity and inclusion efforts, both inside and outside the company. Intel's US staff right now is 75 percent male and 53 percent white, little changed from a year earlier.

Intel raised its hiring goals for this year, saying it hopes diverse hires will reach 45 percent of the total, with 14 percent of its hires being minorities including African Americans and Hispanics.

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