We Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a Look at Women and Minorities in Tech

By: Cameron Joye

January 20, 2014

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coding
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STEM
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women and minorities in tech

At the moment young, “privileged” white males dominate the Silicon Valley tech scene. Unfortunately, it’s a rare thing to see females and minorities in leaderships roles in the digital community who can serve as inspiring mentors for younger generations. Why are they so underrepresented? And more importantly, how can we change it?

In the past 15 to 20 years, there has been an increased effort to introduce more women and minorities to the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions. But, as we take progressive steps forward, it’s increasingly difficult to catch up in an industry that’s exploding with growth.

Forbes touches on the importance of STEM professions:

Over the next 10 years, 7 of the 10 fastest-growing occupations are in STEM fields, according to the [US] Department of Labor.

On that note, the US Department of Commerce also reports STEM occupations have grown 8% from 2000 to 2010 and are expected to grow twice as fast in the next 10 years.

Making the Field of Tech More Accessible from a Younger Age

Introducing more STEM related classes and instruction earlier on in educational development is the best solution. Should computer science classes count as credit towards core curriculum from as early as elementary school? Perhaps students should have the option to substitute a robotics class as a science credit instead of the usual courses. It’s obvious the field of tech has to be accessible to all children from a young age.

Once there are more “tech-friendly” educational environments out there, the responsibility continues beyond school doors. The digital community needs to reach out to women and minorities to share their networks and knowledge. This demographic needs most of all mentors and influencers who can reach out and inspire them to pave a way for themselves that others can follow.

Although it’s a tricky topic, the media plays a big part in changing the general attitude towards women and minorities in tech. Images of Silicon Valley geniuses and innovative tech founders are dominated by upper-middle class, white males. However, the more journalists shine a light on innovators, activists, and programs who are on the front lines for women and minorities in tech, the better chance we have to “change the face of tech”.

Which People and Programs are ‘Changing The Face of Tech’?

1. Black Girls Who Code

The mission of Black Girls Code is, “to introduce programming and technology to a new generation of coders, coders who will become builders of technological innovation and of their own futures.” Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code and engineer, works hard to make a variety of workshops accessible to young, African American women so they can learn anything from computer game coding to mobile app design.

2. FOCUS100

Kathryn Finney knew she wasn’t the only woman in tech and was inspired to launch tech conference, FOCUS100 back in 2012. With over 80% of the FOCUS100 speakers being women and/or people of color, this tech conference aims to bring together women and minorities from the digital space and give them a platform where they can come together as a community. The self-proclaimed “Most Diverse Tech Conference on the Planet” will be held in 2014 from October 3rd-5th in New York.

3. All Star Code

All Star Code is a tech program that specifically caters to young, black men. Founder and business journalist, Christina Lewis Halpern, saw a need for such a program when she saw workshops cropping up specifically for women and minority women in technology. All Star Code offers long, intensive programs as well as workshops that provide training, inspiration, and opportunity to young, African American men who are interested in a career in tech.