With only 17% of its tech employees being women, 1% African-American and 2% Hispanic, Google has rolled out a new initiative to pay for three months of continuing education for women and minorities in the tech industry, reports Seth Rosenblatt for CNET.
The initiative was announced by Google X Vice President Megan Smith at the company's third annual women techmakers panel. Google announced that it would be partnering with Code School to allow thousands of paid accounts for free.
The announcement was timely since the focus of the panel this year was women working on robotics projects at Google.
One thousand people will be given free accounts directly and an undetermined number will be give accounts through referral codes, although applications are now closed to take part in the project.
According to a report by Murrey Jacobson of the PBS Newshour, overall 30% of Google's employees worldwide are women, but just 21% are in leadership roles. The only category in which women are comparable to men at Google is in non-tech jobs, where 52% of employees are male and 48% female.
In a blog post written by Code School CEO Gregg Pollack, he notes that women hold only one-quarter of IT jobs and only 3% of scientists and engineers are African-American.
"Together, our goal is to invest in women and minorities so they can continue developing their technical skill sets," he said.
The free education offer is part of Google's $50 million made with Code, said Google X vice president Megan Smith.
"We shouldn't feel guilty about our biases, we should wake up and do something about them," Smith said.
Pollack also points out that this is a unique situation in that while there have been programs focusing on teaching newcomers and kids to code, there haven't been programs for continued learning.
Code School offers courses for intermediate and advanced developers, in addition to beginner courses, so that people wanting to push their technical careers farther can do so.
It includes many Google-related technology courses such as Discover Drive and Discover DevTools, Exploring Google Maps for iOS, and Shaping Up With Angular.js.
Google I/O, the company's annual conference focusing on software development, held in San Francisco, has become more diverse in recent years. It went from approximately 300 women in attendance in 2012, which was the first year of the women techmakers panel, to having 1,000 women in attendance out of the 6,000 total attendees this year.
The likes of Nest vice president Yoky Matsuoka, Google X systems engineer Jamie Waydo, and Google X hardware engineer Gabriella Levine gave their advice to a packed audience of several hundred people gathered in standing-room only for the panel.
"Try crazy ideas," said Levine, who used her background fighting forest fires, and the lack of robotic aids that could be useful there, to build snake-based water robots to help clean up environmental disasters. "Some will fail, but you'll learn and maybe solve the world's big problems."