Intel, War, and Largesse

World War II ended 70 years ago this week closing a brutal, violent chapter in the histories of many nations. Photos abound of Japanese Prime Minister Abe apologizing profusely for the Japanese part in the conflict. It has been said that from the darkest, fiercest storms are born the most brilliant bolts of lightning. For all its devastation and misery armed conflict and catering to the needs of the military has brought about innovation. From the simple, humble M&M candy, which would not melt when warmed, to the beginnings of the computer and sophisticated gadgets that we rely on today such as GPS, the remnants of war abound. Intel sought to mark the occasion by paying tribute to a band of intrepid pioneers, Native American Code-Talkers, by donating money in their name to a trio of Arizona high schools.

These Navajos used their unique language as an unbreakable code in the military and were instrumental in ensuring the final victory in the Pacific Theater.  But more than just endow some institutions, Intel is making a statement that it wants to become more diverse in its employees ethnic and racial makeup. Currently, about 0.5% of its workforce is Native Americans. It is hoped this number will grow as a result of this latest initiative.

The first of three $250,000 grants will be dispensed soon to enable graduates to become code writers, an important element in Intel’s core strategy. But their generosity extends beyond this humble bequest. It is part of a broader $300 million commitment by Intel toward making its largely white male workforce more diverse. This demographic is typical of tech companies- especially in Silicon Valley and it is concerning to company executives.

“We know that if we’re really going to fill in the (talent) pipeline, we need to aggressively address the gaps in that talent,” says Barbara Mc Allistair, deputy director of Intel’s Diversity and Technology Initiative. It will also fulfil the promise of Arizona’s Code Talkers to Code Writers Initiative. The diversity issue has long been a thorn in the side of tech companies and they are often under pressure from activists and the media for lack of it. The dearth of diversity is attributed to the lack of minority engineers graduating from top schools, prompting critics to urge tech companies to recruit from other than just top tier schools.

It is one thing for companies to be more adventurous and aggressive in their hiring practices but the effort is hampered by the paucity of minority role models to influence potential recruits or to give them a leg-up in the advancement process. This route takes time, however. The effort by Intel is the right way to go about it because it gets to the root source of anything that may in the future bear fruit-seed money. It also does so while paying homage to a band of men who contributed to bringing WWII to a swifter conclusion. As such, it is a much appreciated win-win.

Stan Ward has enjoyed writing for 50 years. Writing has been a comfortable companion to a successful business and teaching career for him. Find him on Google+.

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