The tech giant has pledged $50 million towards endeavors aimed at encouraging women and girls to get their code on.
To anyone with knowledge of the stereotypes and cultural tropes around programmer culture, the fact that men greatly outnumber women in the field comes as no surprise. You might not know, however, that the picture has gotten worse. According to Chelsea Clinton, vice president of the Clinton Foundation, women comprised 37 percent of computer science graduates in the mid-80′s, but today make up less than 16 percent. Even worse, African Americans only account for about 3 percent of scientists and engineers. What is perhaps the biggest employer in the tech scene – Google – acknowledged this growing inequality at its own I/O conference and is throwing its massive funds and clout behind addressing it.
Google isn’t new to the game of philanthropy-as-social engineering; it has donated $40 million already to this cause since 2010. But on June 19th, the company, along with Girls Inc., Girl Scouts of the USA, Mindy Kaling, MIT Media Lab, National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), Seventeen and TechCrunch, announced an initiative called Made With Code. Aside from hosting a beautiful website with stories from inspiring women in design and tech and some adorable Shapeways projects, the program will commit $50 million to increasing education and employment opportunities for women and other marginalized groups in computer science. This will include a project with DonorsChoose.org that will reward teachers that support girls who take CS courses on Codecademy or Khan Academy. The project could even affect TV and movies in the future: Google is working with Science and Entertainment Exchange to help get more female engineer characters depicted onscreen, especially in family productions.
A specific goal of the project is exposing teen and preteen girls to positive role models in tech as research has shown that the precollege years are the most formative for developing a technological interest. The project also includes a program for grownup ladies whose education had limited, or didn’t include, technical training. The company handed out voucher codes at the conference for three months of free online lessons at the Code School and hopes to bring this perk to others “inside the tech community.”
They also are welcoming outsiders with an online form that allows you to apply for the vouchers. If you’ve always wanted to learn to code and Codeacademy hasn’t grabbed your interest, it might not hurt to slip your name in the hat.