Diversifying Technology Education

Diversifying Technology Education

We all know the tech industry has a diversity problem. The major tech companies have released their bleak workforce diversity numbers, and one year later most of them are unchanged.

Obviously, this is not an easy problem to fix. A workforce of white males naturally develops unconscious bias, which then impacts everything else. It leads to a “brogrammer” culture, a hiring bias that discriminates against minorities, and compensation and promotion structures that make it harder to retain women in tech jobs.

Unconscious bias is a difficult beast to tame. As humans, we’ve evolved to be excellent at recognizing patterns. As a result, we’re also naturally susceptible to develop stereotypes that are reinforced by the patterns we see in our own workplace. I applaud companies that take steps to counter unconscious bias in hiring, or to train employees about it.

I measured my own unconscious bias with Project Implicit, and I’d recommend anybody who thinks “I’m not biased” to take the test. If we care about diversity, we must all strive to counter our own predisposition to develop a bias based on the data we see.

But there’s something else we can do – we can change the facts on the ground, we can break the pattern, but only if we start much earlier, in grades K-12.

The education pipeline, where diversity is worse

When most tech CEOs are pressed on diversity, they complain about the education pipeline. Diversity is about much more than a pipeline problem, but it’s also impossible to ignore the math. Women make up only 26% of the software engineering workforce, but only 18% of computer science graduates are women, and 19% of high school Advanced Placement computer science students are girls. Here’s what that looks like in a simple picture:

A powerful, teacher-led movement is changing the education system to address this issue.

In just the past two years, thanks to dozens of organizations working together:

Over 70 of the largest, most ethnically diverse school districts have embraced computer science, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Las Vegas, Houston, and San Francisco.

16 states have changed graduation policies to categorize computer science as part of math or science, and the federal government agrees. Data shows that this boosts diversity.

In the 5% of schools that teach AP Computer Science, it’s the fastest growing course of the 2010s, with enrollment growth by females and minorities outpacing the white males.

At Stanford University, C.S. is the most popular major not only among men but also among women. At Harvard and Princeton it’s the most popular course too, and numbers are growing at universities nationwide.

Internationally, the UK, Australia, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia have required computer science for all students. Italy and Germany are looking to follow suit.

25% down, 75% to go.

When computer science is integrated from an early age, diversity goes up. But we have a long way to go. Nine out of 10 parents want their children to learn computer science in school. Nine out of ten! But only 1 in 4 schools even offers a computer programming course. It seems downright un-American for so many U.S. schools not to offer a single course in the field that leads to the best career opportunities.

How you can help:

10,000 volunteers needed

One hour isn’t enough to teach a student to code, but it’s enough to shatter stereotypes, to show that every child can learn, and that every school can teach computer science.

This Computer Science Education Week, Dec 7 – 13, we’re on track for the largest Hour of Code campaign ever. Over 100,000 schools and classrooms will celebrate computer science worldwide, with almost 50/50 participation by girls.

But these classrooms want your help too. Over the next two months, we hope to recruit over 10,000 volunteers from the tech industry to visit and help local classrooms as students try an Hour of Code for the first time. Computer science is about solving big problems, helping people live better lives, and connecting us all closer together. Any of us can help introduce a teacher to a new field, or inspire a student to change the world.

We just opened up signups for volunteers. If you’re interested in helping, learn about the Hour of Code, and sign up to volunteer for an hour.

Working together, we can change anything. Please give us one hour.

As a closing note, to report on Code.org’s own team diversity: our team is 52% female. My leadership team is 50% female. Our tech staff is 31% female. Our teacher training network is 69% female. And the 15,000 new CS teachers we’ve trained are 85% female.


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