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Intel's diversity numbers show change isn't going to happen overnight

The chipmaker sees modest improvement in the percentage of women and underrepresented minorities in its workforce.

Intel's diversity report shows the issue isn't an easy fix.
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Although an increasing number of tech companies are addressing the lack of diversity in the industry, few have been as ambitious as Intel.

The chip giant planted a flag for diversity on a high-profile stage last year: the Consumer Electronics Show. CEO Brian Krzanich pledged $300 million toward building a more representative workforce, and even tied the pay of managers to its goals. Last August, the company said it would pay up to $4,000 in bonuses to employees who referred women, minorities and veterans. Its initiatives also affected various areas of the so-called talent pipeline, focusing attention on everything from education and recruiting, to corporate culture and retention.

Intel also set an ambitious target of full representation of women and minorities by 2020. So far, progress has been sluggish. In the first half of 2016, 34.1 percent of Intel's new hires were women, which is down one percentage point from December, according to its mid-year diversity and inclusion report.

Numbers like these show solving the diversity imbalance is tricky, even with a multimillion dollar, multipronged approach. Progress can be slow. Intel is one of many tech giants to launch initiatives and form partnerships to train and attract diverse talent, but these efforts won't change the numbers overnight.

"We know we have more work to do to make Intel a place where every employee can bring their full selves to work, and where everyone is heard, valued, and feels they belong," Intel said in its report.

Overall, 25.4 percent of Intel's workforce is female, up from 24.8 percent in 2015.

The percentage of women in technical roles rose 5.5 percent, putting the number at 21.2 percent. Intel also added a second woman -- an electrical engineering professor -- to its board.

Among underrepresented minorities, hiring stands at 13.1 percent, up from 11.8 percent in 2015. Overall, the percentage of underrepresented minorities (12.3 percent) remained flat from 2014. That number then splits into 3.7 percent black, 8 percent Hispanic and 0.6 percent Native American.

Raising the numbers of women in technical roles, for example, is a challenge for many tech companies. Percentages seem to hover around 30 percent, and Intel fits the pattern. From report to report, company to company, numbers creep up and down by a percentage point -- or tenths of a percentage point.

Intel says it's reached 99 percent pay equity for underrepresented minorities, and expects to hit 100 percent within the next quarter. The company maintained 100 percent pay equity for women. This comes as companies like Apple, PayPal, Facebook and Microsoft have achieved or gotten within a percentage point or so of pay equity in recent weeks.

"Intel's efforts have set the industry standard for progress and demonstrate how taking real action can pay off," said Elizabeth Ames, senior vice president of alliances, marketing and programs at the Anita Borg Institute. However, Ames also said the low number of underrepresented minority groups is still concerning, and ABI expects Intel to "tackle the challenge" through the rest of 2016.