Facebook's TechPrep Aims To Get More Minorities into Tech Careers
Many young people in the African-American and Hispanic communities believe they have great potential for careers in computer programming, but their parents often don't know how to help them achieve these goals, according to research from McKinsey & Co. Based on those findings, Facebook has teamed up with the analyst firm to launch an initiative called TechPrep.
Available in both English and Spanish, the TechPrep site offers videos, links and resources for both parents and young people interested in learning more about careers in computer science and engineering.
There has been a growing recognition among tech firms that they need to do more to increase the diversity of their workforces, especially as the population of the U.S. has become increasingly diverse. Facebook, Google, Apple and Intel are among the companies that have started issuing regular diversity reports and launching new programs to encourage more women and minorities to explore computing careers.
Diversity 'Good for Business'
"Diversity is central to Facebook's mission of creating a more open and connected world -- both because it's the right thing to do and because it's good for our product and business," Maxine Williams, the company's global director of diversity, noted yesterday in a blog post. "Cognitive diversity matters because bringing together people of different characteristics enables us to build better products that serve nearly 1.5 billion people around the world."
In launching TechPrep, Facebook cited research from McKinsey that found that 50 percent of African-American and 42 percent of Hispanic learners believe they would be good at working with computers. McKinsey's study also found that a majority -- 77 percent -- of the parents or guardians of these young people don't know how to encourage their ambitions.
"Parents and guardians are influential figures in students' lives," Williams said. "By exposing people to computer science and programming and guiding them to the resources they need to get started, we hope to reduce some of the barriers that block potential from meeting opportunity."
Women, Minorities Underrepresented in Tech
The percentages of women, African-Americans and Hispanics working at leading technology companies remain far below levels in the general population of the U.S., according to a recent analysis by Fortune. "While firms may be talking a big game, most have made very little progress," the article noted.
Facebook's most recent diversity data, released in June, shows that just 2 percent of its U.S. employees are African-American and 4 percent are Hispanic, compared to a general U.S. population that is 12.6 percent African-American and 16.6 percent Hispanic.
The company's programmer and tech workforce is even less diverse: 1 percent African-American and 3 percent Hispanic. Women are also underrepresented, making up just 16 percent of Facebook's technology employees.
Zainab Ghadiyali, a woman software engineer at Facebook, is one of the employees who talks about the need for greater diversity in an introductory video on the TechPrep site.
"Programming and computer science is one of the best ways to have impact on the world," said Ghadiyali, who is also a co-founder of Wogrammer, a site where women computer professionals can tell their stories. "It's specifically also important for diverse communities to be involved, because of the fact that computers are everywhere, programming is everywhere and we want an equal representation when we are building programs."