It’s been a tumultuous time for the tech industry’s “progressive” image. For an industry that prides itself on being “disruptive” it has consistently fallen down on the topic of diversity.
But with Tesla´s recent announcement of the addition of Ebony Media CEO Linda Johnson Rice to their board earlier this week, and Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, being toppled amid allegations of systemic sexism, and the recent boom in female and minority participation in high school AP computer science exams make it appear change might finally be on its way.
Hold up! what was that last part about high school? The news comes from Code.org, a nonprofit that’s been hard at work promoting diversity in tech. They introduced a new Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles course and accompanying AP exam in 2016, as an alternative to the traditional programming focused AP Exam.
Instead of a narrow coding focus, the course explores big data, cybersecurity, networking, and app development. The broader focused topics stimulated a huge boost of enrollment in targeted student demographics: a 135% increase in female participation and a 170% increase in ethnic minority participation.
“The traditional AP exam is if you want to become a coder,” Hadi Partovi, CEO of Code.org, told Mashable. “The new exam is if you want to become a well-educated, well-rounded person.” Though excited by the success, the company admits there is still work to be done, but they’re optimistic that the increased participation at the high school level will not be isolated to the AP courses, but will stimulate increased diversity throughout university studies and into the workforce.
Off the back of such success they’re planning to expand the program and have trained 60,000 teachers to introduce the new course in their class from kindergarten to grade 8. “As these students move to high school, we hope many of them will continue their interests in computer science,” the organisation said in their Medium post.
Earlier this year Google released the predictable results of its diversity report, with no tech giant’s numbers falling in a particularly different pattern. Which prompted Dan Lyons, author of “Disrupted” and a former producer and writer for HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” to tell CNBC that diversity in tech wouldn’t be fixed until it affected the companies’ bottom line.
These comments came ten days after Kalanick was forced to resign, which may have been the inception of clarity Silicon Valley needed.