In 1971, just three years after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., ninth-grader Lloyd B. Minor was bussed from his white Little Rock, Arkansas neighborhood to a formerly black school. What he saw there stuck in his memory: Plaster peeled off the walls, and the library had only a few tattered books.
“What I had been told was separate but equal was certainly separate, but in no way was it equal,” Minor said. “That caused me then to see that diversity is a moral imperative."
Now, as dean of Stanford's School of Medicine, Minor, MD, has made diversity the initial focus of the newly launched Dean’s Lecture Series.
“Diversity is at the core of everything we do,” Minor said at the inaugural lecture last Friday. “To be a highly performing organization, we have to embrace diversity because... creativity doesn’t come from a monolithic, stereotypic focus.”
The featured speaker at the first lecture was Rosalind Hudnell, chief diversity officer and global director of education and external relations at Intel.
“I’m so jealous of the representation of women and people of color in medicine,” Hudnell told the audience. Nearly every child wants, maybe just for a moment, to be a doctor, inspired by the respect the profession commands in society and its portrayal on popular television shows from Marcus Welby, M.D. to Grey’s Anatomy, she said. By contrast, about 40 percent of college students drop out of engineering after the first year.
In 2013, Intel’s approximately 100,000 employees were 76 percent male and 86 percent white or Asian, and Hudnell said Intel has been working hard to diversify its workforce. The company recently captured headlines by pledging $300 million over three years to recruit and retain more minorities and women.
“We’ve spent the last decade building capability,” Hudnell explained. “Then, we stepped back and said, ‘So, why aren’t we better?'”
The key is to set goals and hold everyone accountable, she said. Now, Intel is committed to reaching market representation across its workforce by 2020. Hudnell admitted she isn’t quite sure how that’s going to happen, but she’s confident it will. “It’s time to use our capability and lead.”
And in that regard, she believes Stanford's School of Medicine has an advantage. “I think, quite frankly, you are incredibly blessed and lucky to have a leader who truly gets it,” Hudnell commented. “It really does take a consistent, resilient leader… They must have a personal belief in their soul and in their DNA that diversity is the ultimate goal.”
The medical profession is in a much better position than engineering and technology fields, she said, and she challenged those in the audience to think about what "you're going to do with this phenomenal capability that you’re sitting on."
One step is to install institutional safeguards to combat bias, Hudnell said. The biases won’t be eliminated — they thrive in an atmosphere driven by high standards and tight deadlines, conditions that are present both at Intel and Stanford, she said. But by conducting trainings and fostering transparency and oversight, bias can be minimized.
According to Hudnell, another key ingredient of workplace diversity is encouraging a healthy work-life balance. Although many programs are in place at Intel and other technology companies, she said the next step is to ensure workloads are appropriate.
Hudnell noted that she hopes to work with Minor in the future on cooperative efforts to build diversity.
The next lecture in this series will feature Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at the Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University. Wadhwa will speak on Feb. 20 from 12-1 PM at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge.
Previously: Diversity is initial focus of new lecture series, NIH selects Hannah Valentine as first chief officer for diversity and NPR explores the need for improving diversity in clinical trials
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben