Elevating the voices of women and underrepresented minorities

Note: As of September 2020, this post contains outdated language or graphics referencing “underrepresented minorities.” To see our current language policy around race, ethnicity, and gender, see this support article.

From Hadi Partovi, Code.org CEO

There’s been a strong reaction on social media to the recent 60 Minutes story about Closing the Gender Gap in the Tech Industry, sparked by a blog by Reshma Saujani.

60 Minutes raised an important issue highlighting the need for computer science education for young women. While I am proud of the spotlight on the important work of over a million men and women in classrooms who are addressing this issue, like many others, I wish more women in leadership and their organizations had been included. There are hundreds of women in leadership roles working on this problem. When I agreed to participate, I believed that it was a joint feature alongside Ayah Bdeir, the inspirational founder of LittleBits. I was surprised to see Ayah missing when the story aired, and I learned yesterday that her interview was edited out to make room for Code.org.

Ayah’s response goes to the heart of the issue and brings up the complex problem of gender in tech. I encourage everybody to read it, and to watch Ayah’s interview footage that was cut (1, 2). I feel terrible that she wasn’t featured. This was a missed opportunity to elevate one of many female voices advancing our shared mission of greater diversity in computer science in the face of systemic exclusion and underrepresentation of women and people of color.

There is a community of partners collaborating on the problems of access and equity in computer science, and they should all be celebrated. In 2014, Code.org crowdsourced a history of efforts that existed before our organization was founded. And, just this week Ruthe Farmer at CSforAll.org shared a crowdsourced list of women-led efforts in the space. It includes the work of national organizations, such as Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, and CSforAll.org, but also local organizations like the Maryland Center for Computing Education led by Dianne O’Grady-Cunniff, a former teacher.

Finally, as every woman in tech knows all too well, the problems of diversity in tech are not limited to the “pipeline” and they go far beyond gender. I’m proud of the work we do in foundational K-12 education, and there is a lot more to addressing this issue. While the 60 Minutes segment didn’t cover the issue of the culture of many tech companies, hiring practices, and the systemic inequities, it’s clear that addressing education alone won’t solve this problem. And, it’s critically important for us all to recognize these issues go beyond gender — people of color face additional challenges and barriers from education through the workplace.

At Code.org, we support and amplify the voices of women and people of color in the work we produce: in our curriculum, in our videos, in our professional development workshops, and in the examples we share to inspire students. We believe it’s just as important to elevate these voices in the community and in the press.

Code.org® is dedicated to expanding access to computer science increasing participation by young women and students from other underrepresented groups.

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