BOISE, Idaho — HP Inc.’s chief diversity officer, a Boise State grad, told an audience in Boise Tuesday that if Idaho universities stop funding diversity and inclusion programs, the entire state risks losing companies like HP, which are looking to hire graduates of all backgrounds.

Following the criticism of diversity and inclusion programs at BSU this summer, HP’s Lesley Slaton Brown spoke about the importance of diversity and inclusion in businesses and in Idaho colleges at an event hosted at the Idaho Black History Museum.

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“You have to have these programs or we will lose talent, and companies like HP will go away; we won’t be in Boise,” Brown said. “… If talent is no longer there, then the company goes away, and the local economy drops.”

HP employs roughly 1,700 people in Boise, and 42% of its business comes from the Boise office, she said.

During her presentation, Brown reflected on her own experience at BSU.

“All of us who have attended school … I am sure you have had to seek out other folks (who) have allowed you to feel a sense of belonging,” she said.

This summer, 28 Idaho GOP state representatives signed a letter to the university’s new president, Marlene Tromp, criticizing certain diversity efforts. The criticism continued over the weekend, when Rep. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton, told Breitbart News, “We put a lot of money from our state that the taxpayers are paying for to help fund these universities, and basically we’re paying for our kids to be indoctrinated.”

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House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, told the Idaho Press he didn’t see the Legislature defunding Boise State.

Attendees on Tuesday were interested in the BSU controversy. In answering an audience question, Brown said she heard about a technology company that was considering moving to Boise, and decided against it because of the small pool of diverse candidates to hire. She did not name the company.

Of the effort to hire and promote a diverse staff within HP, Brown said about 45% of the company’s board of directors are “ethnic minorities,” and 52% are women.

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“It is important to us to have Latinos, to have African American men and women in our company,” Brown said. “It is also about bringing perspective and diverse ideas so you don’t have sameness.”

Brown said HP’s goal is to “create technology that makes life better for everyone, everywhere.” She added that it is impossible to achieve that goal without the representation of all people, everywhere.

“You cannot have a non-diverse group of leaders create something for other people,” she said. “You have to be able to bring insights from these demographics.”

This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.

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