Intel CEO to turn “tragedy into action” after protest-quitting Trump’s US jobs team

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich

Intel’s CEO, Brian Krzanich, quit the American Manufacturing Council in protest at the muted response from Washington to the “recent hate-spawned violence in Charlottesville.” But, while he’s been labelled a “grandstander” by Trump, Intel is putting its money where its mouth is, stepping up efforts to foster greater diversity in its workforce.

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The council was formed in January of this year to advise the US president about American manufacturing, as he sought to bring more jobs back to the country. After comprising of, at its peak, 28 CEOs from different US companies, ten have since left the council, including Elon Musk after the US withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. The last five, however, have left this week over a perceived lack of an appropriate response to the events in Charlottesville.

“I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues,” Intel’s Brian Krzanich wrote on the Intel blog, “including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing. Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base.”

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Back in February Krzanich visited the White House to discuss the company’s existing plans to set up a $7bn manufacturing plant in Arizona to create their upcoming 7nm semiconductor design. But he now sees the current politicisation of every issue getting to the point “where significant progress is impossible.”

“I resigned because I want to make progress,” Krzanich explains, “while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them. We should honor – not attack – those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values. I hope this will change, and I remain willing to serve when it does.”

The same day Trump denounced the CEOs standing down from his council as “grandstanders” Intel announced they were pushing forward with their plans for full representation in their workforce, and expected to achieve their ambitious goal by next year. That’s a full two years ahead of schedule.

In 2015 Krzanich challenged Intel to make visible progress towards equality by creating a workforce that mirrored the diversity in the world he saw around him. To that end he pledged Intel would ensure the number of underrepresented groups, including women, Hispanic, African-American and Native American employees, in their workforce would hit 40% by 2020.

“Over the past two weeks,” says Krzanich, “sharp debate – and, tragically, even violence – over issues of race and gender has reminded us that there is still so much work to do to build a society that abhors prejudice and values love over hate and equal opportunity for all. While these events have been painful to see, I ask each of you to join me in turning this tragedy into action, letting it serve as a reminder of how important it is for each of us to treat others with respect and to contribute to a diverse and inclusive workplace every day.”

There’s still a way to go for Intel before they can hang up the ‘mission accomplished’ flags in their Santa Clara HQ, but it’s still refreshing to see a tech company making genuine strides towards greater equality.