SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is launching a new effort to expose more students and their parents to the promise of computer science as part of the company’s broader push to increase the ranks of underrepresented minorities in tech.
TechPrep will offer resources in English and Spanish to help young people and their parents or guardians explore how to get started in computer science, the jobs available to programmers and the skills required to become a programmer.
Facebook says it’s aiming to open up opportunities in the booming tech industry by tapping into a wellspring of interest among Blacks and Hispanics in careers in computer science. Though they are sharply underrepresented in the tech industry, Blacks and Hispanics aspire to careers as programmers, according to research Facebook conducted with consulting firm McKinsey.
Half of Blacks and 42% of Hispanics say they would be good at working with computers, compared with 35% of whites and 35% of Asians. But 77% of parents say they don’t know how to help their kids pursue programming. That percentage is even higher for lower-income parents and parents who have not graduated from college.
Educating parents is a critical step in getting more young people into tech. Parents play a key role in encouraging women, Blacks and Hispanics to pursue computer science, the Facebook research found.
TechPrep provides games, books, community events to help guide students and parents. Resources are available for all age and skill levels, said Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global director of diversity.
“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.”
Facebook will run Facebook ads to publicize the new program. It will also host a roadshow in U.S. cities in coming months. And it has reached out to the Boys and Girls Club of America, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Oakland Unified School District and Girls Who Code to spread the word.
“Engaging parents and guardians makes a lot of sense,” said Laura Weidman-Powers, founder of CODE2040, a nonprofit group that focuses on getting more Blacks and Hispanics into the tech workforce. “Parents are extremely influential in how children spend their time. And at CODE2040 we’ve found that parents and guardians remain influential in the academic and career choices of college students interested in pursuing a career in tech as well.”
Facebook, like other major tech companies, is wrestling with an acute lack of diversity in its own ranks. Hispanics represent 4% and Blacks 2% of Facebook’s U.S. workforce. More than half — 55% — of Facebook employees in the USA are white, while Asians make up 36%. The numbers have remained stubbornly low even as Facebook dedicates significant resources to diversifying its staff.
The tech industry is struggling with how to make its ranks more diverse to remain competitive. Americans use the products these companies make every day, yet the companies themselves do not mirror the demographics of the United States in race, gender or age.
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