Barbara Whye is the Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer and Corporate VP of Social Impact and Human Resources at Intel. In this Q&A interview with Forbes, Barbara explains how she sees diversity work in the current moment.
Q: How long you’ve been at Intel in your current capacity, and what motivates you in your work?
A: I have been with Intel for 25 years. I spent most of my career in engineering roles at Intel and a love for solving problems attracted me to diversity, equity, and inclusion work. As it is in engineering, innovation is key to success. None of us have all the right answers all the time as individuals, but combining diverse opinions, weighing pros and cons, and being decisive can lead us to better answers as a whole. Ensuring equity and access is always a lens I consider in my work and it is something I’ve been fighting for since day one.
Q: Do you think the current social moment has changed Diversity & Inclusion programming or efforts? If so, how?
A: What has changed dramatically and has been amplified by the death of George Floyd, has been a result of technological advancements and social media. Racism can no longer be ignored nor denied. And it is difficult to unsee the inequalities that exist. We’re at a pivotal moment in history, where we have the opportunity for more open conversations in the workplace and renewed expectations for corporations to speak up and act. What happens outside of corporations, employees are reflecting on and bringing into work. Leaders are expected to move quickly from listening to driving specific actions that will yield tangible outcomes. I believe more businesses are driving toward D&I programming tied to business results, and are eager to accelerate progress in creating an inclusive environment for everyone.
Q: What do you think are the areas for improvement in D&I going forward?
A: In the early days of D&I programming, companies focused a lot on how to create diverse hiring practices. That’s a great place to start, but what happens after? Retention is key. We need employees who love their workplace and feel valued for their ideas and contributions. D&I efforts need to be focused, not just on diverse hiring practices but also on creating inclusive environments for people once they get through the door to ensure that these employees are engaged and have the opportunity to achieve their career goals.
Q: Given how politicized the workplace is now, how do you navigate situations where people have differences of opinions on highly controversial topics?
A: Intel has always been good at acknowledging that friction should be expected as people work with others who are different from themselves. We think of this as a muscle and have used it as a developmental opportunity instead of avoiding the issues. We created a culture around candid and constructive conversations, and I think some of that was how Intel grew up and how we evolved. Debate is good; yet decisiveness is better. You can discuss and listen to innovative ideas and quickly move to a decision. We also have introduced the Warmline, a service where employees can share friction with managers or issues related to feeling overlooked, excluded or misunderstood and we encourage every employee to use it and engage. This is a tough time and it is difficult to navigate differences of opinions, and we have to realize that not everyone agrees on everything, which is what makes us so diverse and unique. We simply ask that every employee treat one another with respect and hold each other accountable to allow these conversations to happen – to listen, to learn, to be inclusive and to accept a potential opportunity for growth. We are not perfect by any means, but we are always pushing ourselves to keep growing. We embrace fully that learning does not occur in comfortable places.