Facebook to Donate $15mil to Code.org Programs

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Over the next five years, Facebook will give $15 million to Code.org for the purpose of teaching women and underrepresented minorities how to code.

The non-profit plans to use the funding to develop curricula for public school teacher training, as well as for teaching underserved groups computer science. To date, their curriculum has included fun innovations like the use of Minecraft to teach coding.

Facebook released a report last week detailing the state of diversity in its company and admitted that the company had a long way to go before reaching its goals. Only 17% of Facebook's technology employees are women, 3% are Latino/a, and 1% are black. Out of the senior leadership, 27% are women, 3% are black, and 3% are Latino/a.

According to Maxine Williams, Facebook's global chief of diversity, the company is making an effort to educate girls and minorities so that one day maybe Facebook can hire them. According to Sri Ravipati of THE Journal, Williams said:

It has become clear that at the most fundamental level, appropriate representation in technology or any other industry will depend upon more people having the opportunity to gain necessary skills through the public education system.

Code.org's CEO Hadi Partovi said that the solution to the problem will come at the beginning:

What we told [Facebook] is that it's impossible to truly balance out your workforce diversity if the education pipeline is so imbalanced. We are solving that problem. Our diversity numbers are incredibly different than traditional computer science classes and what we see in the tech industry today.

45% of Code.org's 11 million students are female, 48% are underrepresented minorities, and 47% are on free or reduced meal plans, reports Jessica Guynn of USA Today.

Only a quarter of high schools in the United States are teaching computer science, and participation is even lower for underserved groups. In 2015, there were seven states in which fewer than ten girls took the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam, and three in which no girls took it at all. In nine states no black students took the exam (including Mississippi, where nearly half of high school graduates are black). 18 states had fewer than ten Latino/a students take the exam, and another five states had none.

Partovi said:

If you look at the students studying tech fields, especially computer science, in university and high school, they have the same diversity problem as the tech industry. If the funnel of employees is all white men, what do you think the industry will look like?

Code.org is a non-profit founded in 2013 by Hadi and Ali Partovi and which is devoted to teaching students to code, reports Meg Conlan of Ed Tech Magazine. Their programs target large and diverse urban school districts. It's backed by many major companies and leaders, including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.

More than 35,000 teachers from more than 120 school districts have attended Code.org training workshops for the purpose of teaching computer science at their schools.

According to Partovi, this puts Facebook into a small circle of the company's largest donors. In April of this year, they received $23 million as a result of corporations sending a letter to Congress asking to integrate coding into high school curricula across the nation, reports Blake Montgomery of EdSurge.

Recently, the Obama administration led an initiative called Computer Science for All, according to Monica Nickelsburg of GeekWire, which aims to encourage diversity in K-12 computer science classes.

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