Fearless Girls: More Women Should Say Yes to Jobs in STEM

You're probably aware of the decline in participation by young women and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in the U.S. However, as a woman and Intel executive, I'm equally concerned about what I call the leaky pipe—the attrition rate of women leaving the jobs we already have in technology fields.

Women currently hold about a quarter of jobs in the U.S. high tech and computer industry1; however, one study has found that, within the first dozen years of employment, approximately 50% of women leave their jobs in STEM fields. For women in technology specifically, the attrition rate over that period was 56%.2

At Intel, we are keenly focused on improving retention, implementing strategies that directly address women's challenges and give them an opportunity to be heard. For example, our Warmline3 is an inclusive service that, since its inception, has received over 10,000 cases, 42% of which were created by women, and successfully achieved a 90% retention rate. I hope that services like the Warmline will continue to help drive down the high attrition rate for women in technology.

Why is it so important to me, and to Intel, to address the high quit rate of women in the tech industry? We believe a diverse, inclusive workforce that reflects a broad set of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds is crucial to innovation. The vast majority of innovations are developed not by lone geniuses but in a team environment, where people work together to solve problems.

There is rarely only one way to approach a problem, and, in my experience, variety truly is the "spice of life." New ideas and input can only lead to a broader range of approaches, and potentially better outcomes.

An inclusive workforce that represents the diverse viewpoints and insights of the people who make up our world also is important for companies that want to attract and retain top talent. We must do a better job of developing, advancing, and retaining women and other underrepresented minorities in STEM professions. I believe it's critical for technical innovation and our future success.

Say Yes to Opportunities

Despite the grim statistics cited above, I believe that today is an excellent time for women to pursue a career in technology. With improved STEM education, abundant and affordable coding schools, and the success of diversity programs at Intel and other technology companies, the door to opportunity is open to women and other underrepresented groups like never before.

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to mentor and advise many women as they have pursued technology and engineering careers. I've also had the chance to encourage men, many from minority and underrepresented groups, to step up and embrace leadership in what may seem like a challenging environment. I hope the following advice might be helpful to you.

  • When you see an opportunity, step up to the challenge and lead.
    Don’t forget that success is greatest when the stakes are highest and success isn't always guaranteed. Go ahead: Say yes, and embrace the challenge.
  • Find a sponsor, become a sponsor.
    In one study, 30% of women in private-sector science, engineering, and tech jobs said they feel extremely isolated at work. Forty percent of women in these jobs reported lacking role models, while nearly half reported lacking mentors, and 84% reported lacking sponsors—someone who would help make them and their accomplishments visible to the right people at the right time within the organization.4

In short, it will take leadership to achieve greater gender equality and minority representation in tech organizations. Each of us can lead within our own spheres of influence by taking bold, pragmatic actions to accelerate greater diversity and inclusion. Through purposeful collaboration, we can move forward together to advance human potential and opportunity and achieve greater innovation for our organizations.

Intel Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

At CES in 2015, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced our plan to achieve full representation of women and underrepresented minorities in our U.S. workforce by 2020. I'm proud of the progress Intel has made in its efforts to ensure our workforce is more inclusive and diverse. Intel's Global Diversity and Inclusion initiative has fostered a culture that brings together people with a wide range of perspectives and backgrounds, where our employees can bring their full experiences to their work to strengthen innovation and drive our business forward.

In the three years since that announcement, Intel has made substantial progress toward building a workforce that reflects the diversity we see and experience in the world around us. We are in the process of bringing the number of female, Hispanic, African-American, and Native American employees in Intel's 50,000-strong U.S. workforce to full representation. By midyear 2017, Intel's overall gap to full representation in the U.S. had narrowed from 2,300 people in 2014 to about 800, a 65% improvement that we're very proud of, but there's still work to do.

In that spirit, Brian has asked us to achieve full representation not in 2020 as originally planned, but by the end of 2018, two years ahead of schedule. There may be challenges ahead, but Intel is at its best when pursuing its goals with passion. I'm proud to be part of this change and I'm excited to see the results when we achieve full representation.


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Paula Tolliver

About Paula Tolliver

Paula Tolliver has been Intel Corporation’s CIO since August 2016. She is a Global IT and Business Services leader with a background of deep and varied exposure with multi-faceted Fortune 50 manufacturing and technology enterprises. As an innovative and strategic thinker who is focused on value-added growth and productivity, Paula is a business-minded member of transformational executive teams and follows through from concept through execution. She leads effectively through digital technology and transformational change, collaborating with businesses. Her experience in manufacturing IT, business, and organizational leadership includes the following: global IT strategic planning, including best strategies for advanced analytics and cybersecurity; business process improvement and operating discipline; merger and acquisition integration; and leading cross-functional shared services design and delivery. When she’s not shepherding Intel IT into the digital age, Paula enjoys time with friends and family, scuba diving, and cooking.