A diversity director says that "inclusion means a company doesn't have to think about diversity."
Hispanic Business® magazine
Gustavo De La Torre makes decisions in an Internet minute. As the Worldwide Diversity Director at Intel Corp., he monitors outreach issues for the Silicon Valley manufacturer of computer chips and hardware. Recently, Mr. De La Torre found a few Internet minutes to talk with HISPANIC BUSINESS Senior Editor Joel Russell about the evolution of diversity, management of corporate culture, and the mechanics of job-seeking in the New Economy. The interview took place via telephone from Mr. De La Torre’s office in Santa Clara, California.
HB: First, let’s talk about the word “diversity.” It used to refer almost exclusively to ethnicity, but that has changed. From your perspective, how has the meaning of diversity evolved?
GD: It has changed since the 1960s, the civil rights era. It started out referring to equal opportunity. That was the first terminology used. Then we moved into “affirmative action planning,” because to maintain equal opportunity, you needed some way to do it, and AAP came into the picture. The issue with that is that it included only certain groups – African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and women. From that came diversity, a more inclusive term that goes beyond race and gender.
“Diversity” over the last 20 years has become more encompassing, and companies have adopted that. It has brought them to look at the workforce beyond race and gender. Now we talk about communication styles, educational background – again, more encompassing. Looking forward, what I see as the end of the continuum, based on trends, is that “inclusion” is where we want to be. Inclusion means a company doesn’t have to think about diversity. The company has embedded diversity in the process, in everything it does.
HB: A lot of diversity practitioners talk about the top-down idea – that somebody in the executive suite will push diversity throughout the organization. Is that your approach, or do you have a different idea of how diversity works in the real world?
GD: My philosophy is what I call a sandwich approach. Yes, you need to have top management supportive of diversity. But that’s not enough. You also have to have the employees actively participating. And then you have middle management. Many times you have upper management supporting it, you have employees wanting it – but there’s a middle-management group that’s left out. It’s a critical part of the organization, because they are the people who deal with diversity on a daily basis. That’s why I call it the sandwich approach.
HB: How does the concept of diversity as it currently exists influence Hispanic professionals’ career plans? How should they approach the subject? How does your office affect them?
GD: When a company has a diversity function, part of its responsibility is to make sure that whatever initiatives the company undertakes, particularly those involving outreach to target groups such as Hispanics, are well communicated. A professional making contact with our office might say, “What is Intel doing on diversity?” I would respond that Intel has employee groups – that Intel supports and funds a Latino employee network. As we speak, we are establishing executive sponsorship of the various employee groups. Also, the company does outreach with professional organizations such as SHPE [Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers], Hispanic chambers, and supplier diversity programs. We have 13 employee groups that we support at Intel, with about 70 chapters.
HB: The media tend to focus on hiring Hispanics and other minorities. After the hiring phase, what else pops up on the diversity radar screen? You’ve mentioned the employee groups. What else lands on your desk?
GD: It’s the acculturation process. I underline “acculturation,” because sometimes people use the word “assimilation.” There’s a difference. Acculturation at Intel means that when we hire someone, we recognize that he or she is skilled, of course, but we also [accept] the whole person. We welcome that. The culture of Intel includes how we do things, the environment in which a person can be successful. So a new employee has to find that out and learn how to navigate the culture. Intel has employee groups to help the integration of new employees.
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