STEM

Facebook Commits $15 Million to Code.org to Diversify Computer Science Education

Facebook is pledging $15 million over the next five years to Code.org to enable the nonprofit to expand access to computer science education, in an effort to improve diversity in the technology industry. The news comes after Facebook released a report on the diversity of its own employees earlier today.

Data indicates the company still has a long way to go before it has a diverse employee base, particularly for its senior leadership and technical employees. For senior leadership, 27 percent are women, 3 percent are African American and 3 percent are Hispanic. Only 17 percent of technical workers are women, 3 percent are Hispanic and 1 percent is African American.

Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global director of diversity and author of the company's diversity update, points to the education pipeline as a major problem causing the lack of representation. “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,” said in a news release.

Williams sites several examples of inadequate computer science education across the country, including the fact that only a quarter of the nation’s high schools teach computer science. In addition, the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam has low participation in particular states and across specific populations of students. For example, there were seven states last year that had fewer than 10 girls take the exam, and in three states no girls took the exam. In nine states, no African American students took the exam, including Mississippi where close to 50 percent of high school graduates are African American. Lastly, five states reported no Hispanic test takers. “This has to change,” said Williams.

Code.org appears to have a more diverse base of learners, as the nonprofit reports that 45 percent are females, 48 percent are underrepresented minorities and 47 percent are on free or reduced meal plans.

"Facebook and a number of the top tech companies are all concerned about how they can improve their diversity numbers. What we told them is that it's impossible to truly balance out your workforce diversity if the education pipeline is so imbalanced," said Hadi Partovi, Code.org CEO, in a statement. "We are solving that problem."

According to Partovi, 11 million students have accounts on the website’s Code Studio. Close to 35,000 teachers from 120 school districts have attended Code.org training workshops to learn how to teach computer science in school, making the nonprofit an ideal partner for Facebook's diversity initiative.

The $15 million donation will help Code.org develop curricula, pubic school teacher-training and student skills-building for traditionally underrepresented populations in engineering and computer science.

Further information is available on Facebook’s Newsroom and the Code.org site.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at sravipati@1105media.com.

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