Cultural Change is Key to Making Hard-Earned Gains Persist Over Time
Last year, I concluded nearly two years of participation in a select program intended to activate the male majority in Intel’s Global Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiative. I have tried to set an example as one of a small handful of “male majority” leaders to help advance D&I efforts – everywhere I operate, either at work or elsewhere.
My long-time employer, Intel, had set an aggressive and impressive “full market representation by 2020” objective – an objective that was reached two years early. So, in formal and informal ways I want to find avenues to contribute to these efforts. I have learned a great deal not only about what works but also how efforts in this area can be rewarding. As such, I hope to share those learnings in a series of columns beginning with this one – all of which are focused on my personal beliefs and experiences, none of which necessarily represent the policies or practices of my employer. That said, I believe this is an important topic and so few are able or willing to step into public dialogue on the matter.
Let me begin by expressing why I believe this matters.I have worked at Intel for 21 years in a number of leadership roles spanning product management, channel management, and SI (system integrator) / ISV (independent software vendor) alliance management. Most notably I was the Chief of Staff for Intel’s former President Renee James, and it was in that role I first really became aware of the need to play an active role myself – as well as aware of how important the group I represent is in achieving lasting D&I objectives. On the personal side, I am white, male, straight, married, and a father of two wonderful young ladies. I have never worked in HR – something I state merely to point to the fact I have no formal training on, no educational background for and no explicit requirements upon me in this area. That’s me.
So why are individuals in the workplace that share my general characteristics important? First and foremost, I believe companies (at least in cybersecurity) are hard-pressed to accomplish meaningful objectives without our active participation. I know that sounds arrogant, but it really isn’t – it’s just math. As of 2017, as just one example, Intel is comprised of 62.5% White and Asian males. And so it goes to reason that accomplishing a meaningful objective while 62% of your workforce does not participate or even passively resists would be difficult, to say the least. Want to gain 5 points of market segment share in cloud computing? Our contributions are required. How about launching a new product in a new market? Our help is needed. A new process technology node? Hard to do without us. To summarize, it is NOT that we are smarter, NOT that we are more driven or innovative, and NOT that we are special in any way – Just that there are simply so many of us.
Second, if you want it to last, you have to change the culture. Companies that set objectives without putting meaningful thought into what will be required to make hard earned gains ‘stick’ over time are often subject to giving those gains up. Cultural change, in my view, is the key to making hard-earned gains persist over time. Whether the goal is to improve quality or increase diversity, any short-term gains tend to evaporate once the pressure of ANY program (D&I or otherwise) ends unless there was a corresponding change in culture. It is the culture that either erodes or maintains gains. In tech, the male majority is large and therefore an integral element to the culture. If they are enrolled, if they know their role, if expectations for us are clear – and if they truly believe in the value of the objective – they will naturally play a significant part in the evolution of the culture.
Finally, given that we are the majority in both total workforce – and more importantly, the current leadership ranks – we must assume responsibility in the solution. The male majority is like any other group – we consist of those who are inclusive and fair and those who are less so. Regardless, many of us understand what factors will work and what factors may look good on the surface but are less effective. We know how to avoid unintended consequences and we should actively advocate for what works, not stay silent.
To me, those are the three primary “why’s” for activating the male majority. Educating us, enrolling us, and activating us are all required to achieve anything meaningful as well as make any gains persist – in my opinion. Any company, big or small, should realize D&I cannot be achieved solely by the underrepresented groups themselves. It takes all of us. Thankfully, Intel gets it – and I am proud of not only the company’s position – but also of its leadership, risk-taking and, most importantly, results.