Organizations Strive to Get Blacks, Latinos Interested in STEM Careers

Black Girls Code (BCG), founded by Kimberly Bryant, is giving girls ages 7 – 17 the opportunity to develop their own future through introducing them to technology and computer programming at a time when they are developmentally ready to  think about what they want to be when they grow up.  BCG’s mission statement is:

To increase the number of women of color in the digital space by empowering girls of color ages 7 to 17 to become innovators in STEM fields, leaders in their communities, and builders of their own futures through exposure to computer science and technology.

Launched in 2011, BCG has  joined with Latino Startup Alliance (LSA) to create a series called La Techla for young Latinas, 12 – 17.  Classes are a mix of tech entrepreneurship and mobile app development.  There are divisions of the program across the country and one in Johannesburg, South Africa, according to Stephen Rex Brown of the New York Daily News.

This week, Google announced a donation of $190,000 to BCG, which will allow 75 black and Latina 12-17-year olds to learn how to build a mobile app in one day.

“Our goal is to change the face of technology by showing the world that girls of color can code and do so much more,” said Kimberly Bryant, founder of the nonprofit.

The learners will use programming “blocks” much like puzzle pieces, each of which represents different commands and functions, and, when combined, animate a program.  The Google grant will allow the New York City outpost, the initiative’s fastest-growing division, to hire its first full time employees.  This is a boon to the BCG initiative.

This is a good thing for Google as well:

“For New York to grow as a tech center, we need to deepen and diversify the talent pool and build a pipeline for diverse groups to become involved in the industry,” said William Floyd, head of external affairs for New York..

Statistics show that a large percentage of female students who are in middle school are interested in math and science.  However, by the time they reach college only 3% are still involved in these fields.  That is why the city’s investment in STEM-related programs, like health care and computer programming, aligns so well with this initiative.  The STEM-related fields are growing at twice the rate of other sectors, according to the US Department of Commerce.  As they grow, more and more have come under scrutiny because of the lack of diversity in the companies’ workforce.  For example, Google’s staff is 61% white and 70% male.

Fortune, reports Sophie Kleeman of News.Mic, looked at the demographics of today’s top tech companies and found the numbers startling. Gender-wise Twitter and Apple, like Google, had 70/30 splits.  Facebook registered 69/31. Pandora was the unquestionable leader with a 51% men and 49% women ratio.

Ethnic percentages were much the same – with Apple leading the race, but still with 60% of its workforce identifying as white.  Adriana Maestas, writing for Politic365, says that technology jobs have a tendency to pay more and have a lower than average unemployment rate.

In a blog for The Wall Street Journal, Daisuke Wakabayashi reports that globally, the gender ratio in the workplace is 70% men, 30% women.  In non-tech sectors, it is 65% men and 35% women.  Apple officials say they want to bring their demographics to improve.

“Let me say up front: As CEO, I’m not satisfied with the numbers on this page,” Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook wrote in a letter accompanying the figures. “They are not new to us, and we’ve been working hard for quite some time to improve them. We are making progress, and we’re committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products.”

Other diversity-encouraging measures made by Apple include:

• Adding women executives

• Promoting Eddie Cue, a Cuban-American, to its senior leadership team

• Including those of a different sexual orientation

• Including veterans and those with disabilities

• Supporting the Employment Nondiscrimination Act

“Who we are, where we come from, and what we’ve experienced influence the way we perceive issues and solve problems. We believe in celebrating that diversity and investing in it,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief.