Inequality in technology is present at every level – be it in schools, universities or in the workforce. Even today, African Americans make up only 4% of people in software development jobs, while Latinos make up just 5% of these jobs in the United States. The need for diversity in coding & STEM related fields is very clear.
Yet competence in STEM subjects, particularly Computer Science, is fast becoming a necessity for 21st century careers. Research shows that kids who learn computer science in school do better in other subjects and are far more likely to go to college, and, on average, STEM majors earn 30% more per year than their non-STEM counterparts. Thus, equal access to a STEM education has the power to be a great social equalizer and it is more important than ever that we promote diversity in STEM and computer science careers.
While governments need to address this issue at the systemic level, we can all play a part. This Juneteenth, let’s explore 3 small ways in which each of us can help to support diversity in coding & STEM:
- Promote equal access to Computer Science Education in Schools
Support nonprofits and charitable organizations that promote computer science education for minority groups or schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
- Make Hiring & Promotions a More Inclusive Process
Companies need to adapt the way that they recruit – especially for “elite”, high-paying roles – by considering candidates from a wider span of colleges and geographies. If you are in a position of influence at your workplace, you can make a tremendous impact by encouraging them to move towards a more inclusive hiring process.
Aside from adopting better hiring practices, it’s important for employers to promote a bias-free and inclusive culture that allows their minority employees to feel just as empowered to grow. It’s good for business too! Diverse teams have been proven to be smarter, make better decisions, and reach more innovative solutions than teams that all hail from similar backgrounds- it’s one of the may reason diversity in coding benefits society as a whole.
- Make computer science education more safe and inclusive for minorities
Students from ethnic minorities frequently face microaggressions, and other forms of bias, in the classroom that negatively impact their academic confidence, curiosity and motivation, and this impact is even more pronounced in STEM subjects. Studies show that often, when students feel marginalized or like they don’t belong in a classroom, they are less likely to participate and to ask questions, due to a fear of being singled out or demeaned by their peers and instructors. Moreover, there are several negative stereotypes surrounding the ability of minorities to succeed in STEM fields, and when minority kids are reminded of these stereotypes, they are far less likely to have the confidence and motivation to succeed.
By building awareness for this issue in our respective neighborhoods and helping to create a safe space in every classroom, where positive affirmations replace negative stereotypes and where minority children feel accepted, we can dramatically improve their learning outcomes and their chances of pursuing STEM careers.
What is the way forward?
By hiring for diversity more intentionally and pushing for a safe, inclusive and bias-free environment in our schools and workplaces, we can improve classroom and career outcomes for ethnic minorities and make sure there is increased diversity in coding.