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Intel CEO says we all have unconscious gender biases

Though the chipmaker has made strides like closing the gender pay gap, Brian Krzanich says some things are harder to fix.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich says tech culture will be hard to fix.

CNBC, NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

In the quest to bring diversity to the tech industry, the thing that worries Intel CEO Brian Krzanich is the difficulty of changing people's ingrained attitudes.

In January 2015, Intel announced it would put $300 million toward a slew of programs and initiatives aimed at increasing the number of women and minorities who join and stay at the company.

Krzanich tied manager pay to hitting hiring and retention goals. In August 2015, Intel even started offering bonuses of up to $4,000 to employees who referred women, minorities and veterans.

The chipmaker has been able to close the gender pay gap, but there are subtle things that are harder to correct.

"I still watch men in meetings," Krzanich said Thursday at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. "The woman says something, [then] the guy says it and everyone goes, 'that's what we should do.'"

He's talking about unconscious biases. They're prejudiced attitudes we don't think about -- the perception that women aren't computer engineers, for example, because they don't fit our mental image of what a computer engineer is.

"Everyone in this room has an unconscious bias," Krzanich said. "Those biases were not built yesterday."

One way Intel's been combating the phenomenon is by calling it out. Krzanich said he'll ask someone like Intel's chief of diversity, Danielle Brown -- also on stage at Grace Hopper -- to check him on how he's reacting to something.

Brown asked Krzanich if he thought tech was a meritocracy, as the industry likes to believe. The short answer is no, because a meritocracy wouldn't have such biases.

"How do you be aware of [unconscious biases]?" Krzanich asked. "That's going to be the hard part for our organization."