On Wednesday, Intel released what in some ways has become de rigueur for a technology company: Its annual report on diversity. This exercise in public humility, in which tech companies admit to the relatively low numbers of women and minorities in their tech and leadership ranks, generated huge interest when Google did it two years ago, though it has now become standard fare for the industry.
But Intel's report goes further than many of the ones shared by its tech giant peers. For one, it publicly discloses its diversity goals -- such as the percentage of new hires that should be women or under-represented minorities -- giving outsiders a way to consider how well they're doing against these metrics. Perhaps more interesting, it revealed Wednesday that the company has no pay gap between U.S. men and women who work at the same job-grade level within Intel.
The company said in its report that it conducted a compensation analysis in 2015 that went beyond its annual pay audit to examine gender pay parity for U.S. employees within job grade levels.
"The first time we ran that analysis and the result came back at 100 percent, we nearly fell out of our chairs," said Danielle Brown, Intel's chief diversity and inclusion officer, in an emailed statement. "Upon reflection, though, it is not surprising. It is the result of a decade of attention to detail at every decision step." She said the company would next work for pay parity for minorities.
Intel's announcement comes just days after President Obama proposed a rule that would require companies to share pay data with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission based on race, gender and ethnicity, providing a way for the federal government to monitor pay disparities at companies. While the data would not be made public, it could open employers to lawsuits that could prompt them to be publicly named.
It would also force more employers to gather the data, potentially leading those with good news about gender parity to publicly disclose it. Doing so could help with recruitment, branding or their perception with consumers, who increasingly say they care about how employers treat their workers.
"We may see some market pressure for this, for companies to go public," said Fatima Goss Graves, senior vice president at the National Women's Law Center. "Poll after poll shows that equal pay is an issue that matters."
Employers that do have a pay gap would almost certainly not want to open themselves to the bad press and potential liabilities of saying they don't pay men and women equally. But silence, in contrast to their peers who might credibly tout equal pay, could be deafening, prompting them to fix the issue so they too, could come forward.
Another force that could pressure companies to share data on their pay gap could be investors. Intel was one of eight tech employers where Arjuna Capital had filed a shareholder proposal, asking the company to report its pay gap. Following Intel's announcement Wednesday, Arjuna withdrew the proxy ballot measure for shareholders to vote on, which was filed in December.
"Just saying that there's no gap and committing there won't be a gap in the future is a huge step forward on this issue," said Natasha Lamb, Arjuna's director of equity research and shareholder engagement, in an interview. "It's a business issue, it's not just a social justice issue." (Intel's Brown said the company did not examine its pay data in response to the proposal, and had been planning the report for months, but praised Arjuna for bringing visibility to the issue.)
Meanwhile, Graves said Obama's proposed rule would help provide some accountability to companies that choose to reveal they pay employees equally. Announcements like Intel's are rare, but not unheard of. In 2014, the retailer Gap Inc. said its audited results showed that men and women were paid equally at the company, a move that was called "an uncommon display of transparency."
And last spring, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said he had taken it on himself to comb through the company's pay data and fix any gaps he found. A few months and $3 million later, he said that gap was closed.
"That's why the EEOC collections will be important," Graves said. "Having an outside entity receive that information will keep companies honest. It could prompt them to examine their data and fix the problem, but also ensure if they're making public pronouncements that there's an outside check on it."
Intel's diversity report is an update on its promise early last year to invest $300 million in diversity efforts over five years and reach what it called "full representation at all levels of our company's workforce by 2020."
That did not mean a representation of the full U.S. population, but rather, the number of women and minorities who have the job skills Intel needs. The company ultimately said it hoped that 40 percent of its new hires would be women or under-represented minorities.
It reported Wednesday that it beat that goal, as 43.1 percent of new hires in 2015 were diverse candidates. It will boost its 2016 diverse hiring goal to 45 percent, with a "sub-goal" of 14 percent of new hires being under-represented minorities, higher than the 11.8 percent of hires in 2015 who were from those groups.
The report also said women now make up 17.6 of leadership roles, a 14.3 percent increase from 2014. And it pointed to some areas it thinks needs improving, such as the retention of its under-represented minorities, where the company said it fell short of its goal in 2015.