To encourage diversity in IT, Intel Capital has established a $125 million investment programme targeted at startups run by women and under-represented minorities.

The investment programme complements a separate $300 million Intel initiative announced in January whose goal is to bring more women and under-represented minorities into its workforce by 2020, and spearheaded by Intel Chief Diversity Officer Rosalind Hudnell (top image).

Intel already chose four companies, all of which have diverse work forces, for the first round of investments, totaling $16.7 million. Intel Capital has a pipeline of companies it is looking to fund, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said.

Intel has talked about plans to change its capital investment programme to make it more accessible for women and minorities. Intel wants to be clearer on funding plans and responsive to funding requests from startups run by women and minorities. The company has also established an advisory board of senior Intel employees to help make funding decisions.

A small portion of technology companies are founded by women and minorities, and Intel Capital will provide financing and industry connections to help the chosen companies grow their businesses, said Lisa Lambert, managing director and vice president of Intel Capital.

Intel may be fulfilling social obligations, but the capital fund is not a "social programme," Lambert said. Investments will go to high-quality companies whose products align with Intel's goals and have "great outcomes," Lambert said.

The first four companies are Brit+Co, which sells hardware equipment and provides guides to makers and do-it-yourselfers; CareCloud, which provides cloud-based health care documentation services; Mark One, which makes a "smart cup" that recognises beverage and nutritional content; and Venafi, a security company that provides tools to assess, fix and block keys and certificates.

Intel Capital has invested $11.4 billion in 400 companies worldwide since 1991. Intel typically funds companies that could help improve sales of its products or help develop new technologies. For example, Intel Capital in May took an undisclosed stake in Digital Specialty Chemicals, which could help develop silicon-replacement materials for its future chips.

Intel has taken some steps to reach its diversity goals. It has increased the hiring of women and under-represented minorities like Hispanics and African Americans since the start of the year, and the company has committed to spending $1 billion cumulatively with diverse suppliers by 2020. Intel has also worked with the Oakland Unified School District to develop a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education program that could ultimately lead to internships and jobs.