Facebook Commits $15 Mn To Diversify Computer Science Education

In an effort to increase the number of women and other underrepresented groups in the computer science field, Facebook will be investing $15 million over the next five years to to enable the nonprofit to train teachers to teach computer science in urban public school districts and to expand learning opportunities for students.

Facebook released a report on the diversity of its own employees, admitting the company has a long way to go before it has a diverse employee base, particularly for its technical departments and senior leadership. Only 17 percent of technical workers are women, while 3 percent are Hispanic and 1 percent is African American. For senior leadership, 27 percent are women, 3 percent are African American and 3 percent are Hispanic.

“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,” The Journal quoted Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global director of diversity as saying .

Williams pointed to the fact that only a quarter of the nation’s high schools teach computer science. The Advanced Placement Computer Science exam, a test that gauges students’ programming skills, has low participation for the aforementioned groups of students. For example, seven states last year 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. 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, 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 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 develop curricula, pubic school teacher-training and student skills-building for traditionally underrepresented populations in engineering and computer science.

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