How Intel empowers their female work force

By Kelly Kass

Technology workers and men usually go hand in hand which is why the Global Diversity & Inclusion (GD&I) team at Intel introduced the Global Women’s Initiative in 2005 to focus on development and retention of its female employees who make up 24 per cent of the company population.

GD&I together with Intel Women’s Leadership Council (IWLC) and Women at Intel Network (WIN) strive to make Intel a great place to work for women.

Four years ago, the world’s leading chip manufacturer formed the Intel Women’s Leadership Council (IWLC), consisting of female Vice Presidents and Fellows, to champion existing and newly formed internal efforts around the development and retention of women. Currently, there are 26 women vice presidents from various business groups and three female Intel Fellows on the council who serve as a passionate voice for women at Intel.

Over the last year, the IWLC has reached out to women mid-level managers and individual contributors in a number of ways to encourage development, and ultimately retention, of women at Intel. Through the Women’s Leadership Exchange, Women Principal Engineer’s Forum, efforts on key work/life concerns and on-going support of Women at Intel Network (WIN) activities council members encourage women to remain at Intel to build their careers.“Our aim is to give back to the women of Intel,” says Lori Wilson, one of the Women’s Initiative Managers at Intel.

Arming women employees with the skills they need

Wilson and Intel Fellow Kelin Kuhn have partnered up to develop a skill-building workshop entitled Command Presence. This interactive workshop is designed for mid level technical women looking to improve their confidence when presenting during intense meetings to gain increased respect and recognition in the workplace. The goal is to ease the effects of working in a male-dominated environment. Currently women working in technical roles make up only 16.5 per cent of employees. 

Another successful program is the Women’s Leadership Exchange with members of the IWLC hosting luncheons for senior women. This allows women to share information about themselves in an intimate environment while also receiving career advice on topics such as pathway to promotion, effective networking and gaining visibility in the workplace. Issues like the environment, reducing isolation and helping women progress rapidly at Intel are also addressed.
 
The Women at Intel Network (WIN) is the largest employee group at Intel, consisting of 10 chapters in the U.S as well as chapters in China, Japan, Europe, Costa Rica, Malaysia and Israel.  WIN partners with Global Diversity & Inclusion to conduct a yearly leadership and development conference for women. In addition to the networking and mentoring, these conferences provide valuable workshops such as Strategic Thinking which is offered to women managers working in technical roles to sharpen their skills from tactical to strategic. Wilson continues, “We’re always asking ourselves, ‘what can we do to help women early on in their careers?’ We have so many women come to us and say, ‘if only I would have known then what I know now.’”

The role of social media

Like many other companies bitten by the social media bug, Intel has an internal social networking platform called Planet Blue for all employees to connect and contribute in assorted groups and forums. This “Facebook for the Enterprise” solution launched a year ago and already has more than 200 groups.  Most recently, the Global Women’s Initiative Portal was created to better connect women throughout the company (fittingly launched on International Women’s Day this past March).

According to Wilson, the goal of the site is to give women a space to engage in conversations, interact with leaders on the Women’s Leadership Council and to feel connected in what could be an isolated, male-centric work environment.

“Often many women are the only female on their team so we’re giving them a place to go where they can read about different experiences, share similar stories with other women and simply learn from one another,” Wilson explains. 

In addition to promoting that critical bond, the portal has also helped establish transparency for the Women’s Initiative. “Before we launched the site, people didn’t really know what we were doing or why we were doing it or the issues we were addressing,” Wilson recalls.
 
Giving women a voice

So what kind of content can one expect to find on the Global Women’s Initiative Portal? A popular feature on the site is the “share your success” forum, which allows women to blog about various recognitions and career opportunities. The portal also contains “tech talks” links to internal and external training and development, upcoming conferences, educational videos as well as personal postings and photos.

According to Intel Global Diversity & Inclusion Communications Manager Denise Moyer, the portal isn’t without a few male visitors to the site.

“When we launched the portal on International Women’s Day, we polled our readers about which famous women they admired most. Many of the 300 responses we received were from male readers.”

Within only a month, the Women’s Initiative Portal has become one of the largest populations within Planet Blue.

“The groups that are most successful are the ones that have bought into the fact that we’re a community. It’s not the technology; it’s about the participation of the individual.  That’s one of the things we will continue to address on the women’s side,” Moyer points out.

She continues, “We are a large and diverse organization and Planet Blue now gives everyone at Intel an opportunity to share intelligent thoughts, offer differing opinions and engage in healthy debate. To a certain degree it’s just absolutely fundamental to our Intel culture. People want open, honest, direct, constructive conversations. Giving everyone a platform to be heard is powerful. 

We don’t moderate our social networking. If there is something threatening or personally derogatory posted on our sites, we remove it. But for the most part, the conversations are self- moderated. Sure you can get some heated conversations on some topics but at the end of the day it really supports our communications strategy of respecting diverse perspectives. If you remain open minded, you’re going to walk away with a better understanding of other people’s thoughts, experiences and ideas which helps improve teamwork and morale at Intel.”

Helping women achieve a successful work/life balance

Intel is no stranger to the work they’ve done to help their female staff juggle the pressures of home and work lives. For the past several years, Workingmother.com has recognized Intel as one of the Top 100 companies for working mothers because of their work in this area, such as providing flexible job rotation and telecommuting opportunities.

For new moms, Intel has introduced state-of-the-art nursing mother rooms after employee feedback revealed a need for more space and privacy for nursing mothers needing to pump during working hours.

Intel’s Nursing mother rooms include special stalls equipped with comfortable chairs and adequate storage space for breast pumps – a far cry from other companies that merely provide a small room behind a closed door.

“Employees also brought to our attention the need to set up a schedule where there aren’t 16 people in the room at the same time. So we’ve really worked hard to make these rooms comfortable for the mothers and to make the spaces more accessible. So the situation has been much improved in the last year or two,” Wilson points out.

For all new parents – whether the employees are male or female – Intel offers a formal re-integration program at the conclusion of a person’s maternity or paternity leave. 

“If you’ve just had a child or if you’ve adopted a child, the program allows you to work with your managers to come back to the office on an adjusted schedule so you can ease your way back into work,” Wilson explains.

And if an employee’s child needs help with their multiplication tables, there’s even a Homework Hotline where students can log on and get tutorials in Math, English and many other subjects. Moyer herself is a participant in the program and was planning to assist with homework tasks at the time of our interview.

Each of these noteworthy programs undoubtedly contribute to raising morale and productivity among employees.

Looking ahead

In the next month the Women’s Initiative will be producing a video in-house to further educate Intel staff about the women’s group portal and the Women’s Initiative. Moyer explains:

“We’re hoping to get more enthusiasm around our programs and increase membership on the portal. Our plans are to become the next great case study of the effective use of social media.”

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