Although Gelsinger had plenty of opportunities to discuss his plans to bring Intel back to fame, he didn’t say much about the people who will help him implement his strategy. In honor of International Women’s Month, I invited Gelsinger — who worked at Intel from 1979 to 2009, then returned as CEO in February 2021 — to join me on a LinkedIn Live to discuss culture of Intel and the role that diversity and inclusion plays in innovation.
Intel has gone to great lengths to support the advancement of women in technology. More than 30% of Intel’s leadership team is made up of women. As part of its 2030 corporate responsibility goals, the company has committed to doubling the number of women and underrepresented minorities in leadership positions, in addition to reaching 40% female representation in technical positions.
Intel is also part of the Alliance for Global Inclusion, a coalition launched in 2021 that aims to improve diversity and inclusion practices, as well as promote transparent reporting in four critical areas: leadership representation, language inclusive, inclusive product development and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in underserved communities.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Caroline Milanese: Let’s start with your Intel journey, not from a technology perspective, which you have many opportunities to discuss, but from a people and culture perspective.
Pat Gelsinger: Let me start at the beginning of my journey with women in technology. I remember around 2000, I took over the Intel Fellows program, and at the time we had no fellows. I worked really hard and we got one. And then she left the company. I was crushed when this happened.
Obviously, I worked more on that, and the work continued in my absence. But today we have made a lot of progress in this regard. We can look back to where we were at zero and now we have substantial representation in most senior ranks, but we still have a long way to go. Also, the cultural expectations of a company like ours today are very different from what they were in that sort of “hoard ’em, eat ’em” kind of world. Obviously, we still want to be that nurturing, data-driven culture, but we want to do it in a much more human, engaging, and inclusive way. It is therefore a very different company that I have taken over today.
Let’s talk about the change we’ve seen during COVID-19. In business at all levels, the idea of culture and the importance of talent has really grown during the pandemic, and now many organizations are starting to return to work and think about hybrid working. How do you keep people engaged?
It’s not like we’re going to go back to the way things were before COVID.
there is no turning back. It’s not like we’re going to go back to the way things were before COVID. This idea of hybrid work, distributed work, is here to stay. And in some ways, there’s some good here. Many people have told us, “If I can work from anywhere, I’d rather be closer to my family. I prefer to travel less. I have a sick relative and . . . I could be more involved in their life. I have young children at home, maybe I can stay in the job market. Maybe I can share my job, which I might not have been able to do before.
I just think there are a lot of good aspects of what we’ve been through and I don’t want to lose them. But at the same time, people yearn to be together. I am thinking of the big three: culture development, celebration and vision or strategic planning. We have to be together to do these things. So how can I say, “It doesn’t matter where you currently live, but when we do these three things, I need you here?”
We accommodate and build the relationships that enable [distributed work], and we try to build a culture that is on a mission. I want a team of 121,000 rabid “I’m Intel” [employees] who are on assignment. Because we’re going to rebuild this iconic company, we’re going to be that foundation for the technology industry, and we’re going to be a force that shapes technology for good and in powerful ways to improve the lives of every human being. on the planet. If you want to be part of it, you want to be part of this team. And I think the combination of making it easier for people to work in this environment, meeting their needs, but also unleashing their passions for the incredible mission that we’re in, it’s pretty powerful.
“I’m still not satisfied”
Your leadership team is so strong from a women’s perspective: Sandra Rivera, Michelle Johnston Holthaus, Christy Pambianchi, Ann Kelleher, Dawn Jones, Tara Smith, Karen Walker, and I’m sure I miss them. There’s nothing more appealing to someone looking for a job than to see themselves represented in the C-suite. What does diversity mean to you in terms of thought leadership and innovation?
I’m proud of where we are now. My two largest business units are run by women. My most important technology leadership role, technology development, is led by a woman. This is unheard of in the tech industry. Also, four of my nine board members are women, and two of those women are very tech-savvy, the Dean of Engineering at Berkeley and the Dean of Engineering at Princeton.
So right now, overall, we’re pretty good. But I’m still not satisfied. It must be better. There are still areas where we have gaps in representation. Our African American community, we are not where we need to be. We must continue to work in these areas.
I get emails from grandmas saying, “I’m glad you’re in the heart of the country so my kids can come home.”
But for me, this idea that we can come together and be fully involved in the workplace, it frees up energy, it frees up creativity. It creates more passion and [communicates that] “I can be anything I am at work.” And we also release then [employees] in their communities, this cycle begins to become positive for the business, which simply creates an almost unstoppable force.
Tell us more about what you do to lead your middle management, which is usually where, from an employee perspective, you feel that covenant power, and then what you do externally for the benefit of the wider society and community you’re in.
[There’s] so many things we could say about this one. Today’s announcements in Ohio: $100 million, part of which is the “Silicon Heartland,” as we call it. . . pushing them to become technology leaders. We have rolled out this program commitment not only to major universities in the region, but also to community colleges in the region.
[Here’s a] funny little story: when president Biden walked into the green room before we made our announcement together in Ohio at the White House press conference, he approached me and the first thing that he said was: “My wife [Jill Biden] love you. She asked me what I was doing tomorrow, and I told her about Ohio, and told her your story, coming through the community college system. And right now, I’m an iconic corporate CEO. So this idea of being able to reach a deeper community: you don’t have to graduate from an Ivy League school to make a dramatic difference in a company like ours.
It resonates in the community. It also resonates to more diversity. Because you are able to say, “I want to do unique programs in historically black communities or communities that might be more underrepresented in the workforce and reach those.” When we think about this covenant aspect, we also really want to liberate our people in the communities in which they participate. And for me, it’s something that when they start to feel like they can make a difference in their community, they say, “Hey, I want my kids to work at Intel.”
I get emails from grandmas saying, “I’m glad you’re in the heart of the country so my kids can come home.” You know, they are wonderful. This is what we strive to release. I want to empower people to have that kind of expression in their communities, in their colleges, even going K-12 community so that we start creating that love and passion for technology from the early stages of their life. And if I can embed that into my leadership team at all levels, they will become great ambassadors as we move into our communities and organizations.
‘I call it my five L’
You have chosen to live your faith publicly, and in a way that I find very subtle and effective at the same time, that is to say share scriptures and bible passages on a Sunday. It’s always so amazingly connected to what’s going on in the world at that moment. Why did you choose to be vulnerable and share this?
There are three different aspects of this for me that are super important. If I have to say to my people, “I want you to bring your whole being to work”, it could be in the area of gender identity, it could also be about your personal passions, or maybe your ethnic communities. It turns out that religion and faith are considered one of the most important things for more than half of humanity. Various studies show somewhere between 60% and 70% rate, that is one of our highest and most passionate things for them. And that’s for me, as a very visible Christian. So how am I going to ask people to be fully involved in the workplace, when any religious perspective must stay out of the workplace?
We celebrate the Jewish holiday because we have a large Jewish community that we celebrate, not because we are Jewish, but because we want them to feel like we are all with them and their celebration. So for me, it’s essential to say that you are going to bring your whole being to the workplace. To be truly diverse and inclusive, you must also bring a faith perspective. And that’s me, that’s who I am. But then I also have to simultaneously make it great for other religious perspectives, including faithlessness. So I have to be able to say, what is this Diwali party? How would an Islamic person think of this holiday? I want to hear those views. And the more I look for these points of view, the more I can talk about my points of view on things. For me, this is where the magic is unleashed.
I have received so many great comments on my bible verses over the years and other lectures I have done on this subject over time. But for me, the idea, and I call it my five Ls, is that leaders have to listen, they have to learn, they have to connect, they have to rise up, but fundamentally they have to love their organizations and that that they make. I love Intel. I love my leaders, my 121,000 people and, most importantly, the mission we carry out together.
Carolina Milanesi is a principal analyst at Creative Strategies and founder of Heart of Tech, a technology consultancy focused on education and diversity. She has covered consumer technology for over 15 years.