Intel broke ranks to talk about pay, race and gender. Now other tech companies are getting heat.

Intel is so far the only company to release the data publicly, according to organizations that advocate for equal pay — and the numbers were not flattering.
The Intel logo at E3, the world's largest video game industry convention, in 2018 in Los Angeles.
The Intel logo at E3, the world's largest video game industry convention, in 2018 in Los Angeles.Mike Blake / Reuters file

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By David Ingram

One of the oldest names in the tech industry opened up its books this week to give outsiders a look at how much it pays employees, with unprecedented data broken out by gender and race — and the unusual step is ratcheting up pressure on other tech companies to do the same.

The computer chipmaker Intel released the salary information in a six-page document on Tuesday. The federal government required all big employers to produce salary reports this year, but companies can keep their submissions private if they chose — an option chosen by every tech company other than Intel.

Intel is so far the only company to release the data publicly, according to organizations that advocate for equal pay. And the numbers were not flattering, showing that white and Asian men continued to dominate the company’s top pay tiers.

Now advocates are planning to use Intel’s first-of-its-kind report as a cudgel to lobby other tech companies and businesses to do the same, hoping to inspire a level of transparency that would produce more conversations about pay discrimination and, eventually, a shift toward more equitable compensation.

“What Intel has done is very, very rare,” said Kavya Vaghul, a manager at Just Capital, a nonprofit that is among those pushing for more wage disclosure.

“It really points to a hopeful sign that companies are ready for the public release of their data and to improve the diversity of their organizations,” she said.

Brenda Wilkerson, CEO of AnitaB.org, an organization for women in technology, said, “They are an example company for so many other companies.”

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The transparency push arrives at a difficult moment for tech companies, which have been under siege from their own employees, including about pay disparities. Last year, thousands of Google workers staged a walkout after reports that former male executives accused of sexual misconduct had been given large exit pay packages.

The poor reputations of some tech companies are also beginning to haunt them at major recruiting events. And in California, publicly held tech companies based there are scrambling to find female board members under a new state law that requires them to have at least one.

The newly released data from Intel may exacerbate these concerns about unequal treatment among tech workers. According to the data, for example, white men were the top earners on average in six of seven occupational categories.

Intel decided to share the report anyway so that it could “both celebrate our progress and confront our setbacks” in working toward a more diverse workforce, Barbara Whye, Intel’s chief diversity officer, said in a statement.

“Hopefully, openly sharing the details of our representation journey will encourage others in the industry to do the same,” she said.

It’s not clear who, if anyone, might be next. Among the biggest tech companies, Google and Microsoft declined to comment Thursday, while Amazon, Apple and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Pressure is also coming from shareholders. Arjuna Capital, a wealth management firm, began pushing Intel to release more data several years ago and has made similar requests of more than 20 other companies via shareholder resolutions seeking information such as median pay.

More shareholder resolutions are coming in 2020 to get other companies to emulate Intel, said Natasha Lamb, a managing partner at Arjuna. “If we continue to lock up this data in a black box, then there’s really no incentive for anything to change,” she said.

Some tech companies release data about pay and diversity, such as their minimum wage or data that’s required for disclosure in the U.K. Tech companies are also more open than other types of businesses in disclosing their demographic information, separate from pay, according to Just Capital.

But the report that Intel released on Tuesday is considered the gold standard for pay data, advocates say, because it’s what the company submitted this year to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

This was the first year the EEOC has required detailed information about pay, gender and race, based on an initiative started during the Obama administration. The requirement, known as the EEO-1 form, applies to employers with 100 or more employees. Employers have for years already had to report data about gender and race separate from pay.

The Trump administration is fighting in court to do away with the reporting requirement about pay, calling it burdensome, but in a lawsuit brought by equal pay advocates, a judge this year upheld the requirement. An appeals court hearing is scheduled for next month.

The public disclosure of data for the first time may change the way people think about it by taking some of the mystery away, said Laura Segal, senior vice president of communications at the American Association of University Women, which lobbies for gender equity.

“It’s been such a taboo to talk about salaries and to talk about all of these kind of HR issues, but what we’ve been increasingly seeing is that having this information is what leads to change,” Segal said.