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Intel pledges $300M to build a more diverse work force

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich says he plans to greatly increase the hiring, progression and retention of women and minorities in the company, and invited the industry to join him.

`Intel CEO Brian Krzanich at the CES 2015 keynote. James Martin/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Intel is throwing down the gauntlet when it comes to championing workplace diversity.

CEO Brian Krzanich capped off his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show with a vow to invest $300 million in an effort to support more representation in technology and gaming. Further putting his own money on the line, he said that he would tie executive compensation to the progress on building a more diverse work force.

"I'm announcing our intention to lead by example," he said. "I invite the entire tech industry to join us."

It's the boldest move yet by a technology company to address the issue of a lack of diversity in the workplace. The issue has risen in prominence as a result of several incidents, from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's suggestion that women shouldn't ask for raises or promotions, to a spike in threats against female gaming developers, and a number of company diversity reports showing that white males still dominate the tech work force.

As a result of Nadella's comments, Microsoft has opened up a dialogue internally about the issue of "unconscious bias," and the CEO has pledged to work on better representation.

On Tuesday, Krzanich promised that his company would reach full representation at all levels by 2020. He said he would significantly increase the hiring, progression and retention of women and minorities. Like Microsoft, Intel plans to be open about the progress of its efforts.

"This isn't just good business," he said. "This is the right thing to do."

Roughly 45 percent of Intel's work force is made up white males, according to the company's latest diversity report. More than three quarters of the company is made up of men.

Jesse Jackson -- who has become a vocal advocate for making the tech industry more inclusive to women, blacks and Latinos -- was in the audience at Intel's presentation Tuesday to show his support for Intel's diversity push.

"It's a breakthrough in the industry,' he said in an interview after the event. "We must marry our technology with our humanity."

He said the tech world has so far shown a "substantially patterns of exclusion," particularly in the reaches of executive suites. The Intel effort -- with a budget, targets, accountability and timetables -- was a good start to remedying some of these issues, he said.

Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition will be working with Intel on the diversity initiative, he said.