Intel Partners With North Carolina Central University On Tech Law And Policy Center
Over the past year, the tech industry has shown a great deal of support for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). From IBM to Apple and Google, they all offered funding and support to STEM-related initiatives. IBM established the first quantum education and research. Apple focused on coding and creativity and Google funded a career readiness program.
Today, Intel announced a partnership with North Carolina Central University pledging $5M over five years to developing a new tech law and policy center. For the first year, funds will be split to start up the center, support the recruitment and hiring of an executive director and key staff, support an endowed professorship, and provide need-based scholarships to help students experiencing financial hardship. Furthermore, Intel executives will join the law school’s board of advisors and center’s advisory board to help shape its certificate program, curriculum development and drive further engagements with Intel, like in the summer associate program.
“Standing on the sidelines in the fight against inequality is not an option for Intel,” tells me, Rhonda Foxx, Intel’s Head of Social Equity Policies and Engagements, “we must fight for public policies and laws that address the systemic and structural inequities that we face. This is why we have a team working on public policy issues impacting our employees in our communities. But now, we want to invest in a talent pipeline that will join us in this fight. Whether they come to work at Intel, or they go to a nonprofit, or they go to Congress, we want to stand ready to invest in future leaders that share our commitment to social equity and equality.”
As of 2020, there were 107 HBCUs across America. But what is an HBCU? According to the Higher Education Act of 1965, an HBCU is “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation.”
2020 did more than attract tech funding to HBCUs. Even the government attempted to address the funding gap that has always impacted HBCU with the FUTURE Act legislation signed in December. Yet, at a recent event, Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), discouraged optimism as he argued that the permanent annual $255 million in federal funding for minority-serving institutions, with $85 million designated for HBCUs, marks progress. Still, it isn’t enough to solve the “HBCU paradox” – the fact that HBCUs enjoys broad bipartisan support but continue to be “woefully underfunded.”
Intel’s Different Approach
There is no question that technology is edging us towards a world that will require new laws and policies to regulate behaviors, situations and context. From transportation to insurance, health and education, experiences will be more digital and enhanced by artificial intelligence and built on a massive amount of data. As much as we need to continue to fuel the STEM pipeline, we also need to make sure we have the legal and policy talent to understand how technology impacts society both at a business and individual level. If we want to make sure that such talent is representative of all and brings a diverse viewpoint to the courtrooms and local and federal government, we must ensure diversity. This is why I find Intel’s partnership particularly interesting and critical.
The role HBCUs play in the intersection between law and technology is undeniable. They produce 50% of black lawyers, 80% of black judges, 47% of Black Women Engineers and 42% of all engineers. Intel looked at how to capitalize on this investment long-term by selecting a school that was ideally positioned to connect law and technology as well as the East Coast and the South to create opportunities for the talent that is there. Among the six institutions with a law school, Intel landed on North Carolina Central University, which is only an hour and a half drive from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, in Greensboro, North Carolina, the HBCU with the most extensive STEM program.
Intel’s call to action does not stop at helping create the pipeline. It extends to providing career opportunities by changing its own practices and requiring that its partners and suppliers follow suit. In 2019, Steven Rodgers, General Counsel at Intel Corporation, shared the Intel Rule stating that beginning Jan. 1, 2021, Intel will not retain or use outside law firms in the U.S. that are below average on diversity. Firms are eligible to do legal work for Intel only if, as of that date and thereafter, they meet two diversity criteria: at least 21% of the firm’s U.S. equity partners are women and at least 10% of the firm’s U.S. equity partners are underrepresented minorities (which, for this purpose, we define as equity partners whose race is other than full white/Caucasian, and partners who have self-identified as LBGTQ+, disabled or as veterans). While the initial focus is on equity partners overall, Intel plans to gather the necessary data to apply the criteria only on the top tier of equity partners at firms. Rodgers wrote: “We understand that doing this may deny to us the services of many highly skilled lawyers, perhaps including the services of some law firms with which we have worked for decades. But Intel cannot abide by the current state of progress – it is not enough, and progress is not happening fast enough.
Intel’s double-edged approach is what I would like more tech companies to adopt. Progress when it comes to diversity is happening at a tediously slow pace. If technology progressed in the same way, we would still be using typewriters and rotatory phones. Funding alone will never be enough. Tech companies must force change from within from legal counsels to hiring practices, diversity and equity must be fundamental requirements.
Disclosure: This article was originally published on Forbes.com
The Heart of Tech is a research and consultancy firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this column. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this column.