Supporting our Black employees, partners, teachers, and students
A note from Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi and Chief Programs Officer Jackie Smalls
After watching the horrific events of recent weeks, we’re emotionally drained. The recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and the experience of Chris Cooper evoke outrage, fear, and sadness. And we all know these events are just the latest in a very long history of injustice and racism in our country.
Social media brought mainstream attention to these injustices; however there are many undocumented incidents that are the daily reality for Black Americans. It pains us to see racism grip our nation and cause suffering in Black communities. This must stop. Code.org stands together with the Black community — our employees, partners, teachers, and their students — in the fight against systemic inequity, racism, and injustice in the United States.
Talk isn’t enough. We must act.
Our goal at Code.org is for every student in every school to have the opportunity to learn computer science, and to reach balanced representation in grades k-12. Addressing diversity and equity issues is core to Codes.org’s work and carefully woven throughout our programs from curriculum to teacher professional learning to advocacy.
But we can do more.
Like many other organizations, we posted a statement on social media, and we plan to follow it up with action. We applaud the action plans posted by other technology companies such as Lyft or Stripe and by education organizations such as Girls Who Code, and we encourage other organizations to do the same.
Our first action will be to engage all our employees in a company-wide brainstorm and reflection, because the work we do won’t be limited to one day or one week, and we want all our employees to contribute to it.
In the context of our diversity-focused mission, here are some of the major steps we will take:
- Creating a more supportive workplace for our Black employees. Only 7% of our full-time employees are Black. As we continue to work towards increased diversity of representation, we want to make sure our Black employees always feel welcomed, included, and heard. Our CEO has invited our Black employees to a forum for dialogue about how we can better support an inclusive culture. In the next few weeks, Code.org’s leadership will host discussions with all our employees to engage on this and brainstorm ideas and actions for change. This is an ongoing process. Every organization can benefit from listening to their employees to help identify further actions.
- Leveraging our megaphone. Code.org reaches over 1 million teachers and tens of millions of students. We will use our platform to highlight diverse role models in computer science, and to promote steps that can be taken in support of increased equity for communities of color. As just one small example, for this week’s Code Break, we will ask the thousands of participating students and parents to share a moment of silence in solidarity with victims of racism, and we will engage our special guest China Ann McClain in a discussion of equity in education. This isn’t about just a few posts to social media for a few weeks. From social media campaigns to videos to student events and teacher conferences, there are countless opportunities over the next decade for us to convey our message about equity in computer science education.
- Utilizing data and research to identify CS education gaps for Black students, especially young Black women. Code.org’s data and research not only guide our work in CS classrooms, they are also used by all 50 states to consider and pass CS education policy. In the near future we will publish similar data but with a new focus on the intersection of race and gender (which is traditionally underreported in CS). Our annual State of CS report will include a deeper analysis of how access to CS impacts participation by Black students. We will continue efforts to use data and research to identify racial gaps in CS education as well as approaches to close these gaps.
- Using all our education and policy-focused programs to better support Black students. We will revisit our curriculum, professional learning programs, policy/advocacy programs, and even the global Hour of Code campaign to better support and engage racial/ethnic groups that are underrepresented in CS. As just one small example, this year’s Hour of Code #CSforGood theme will include a sharpened focus from Code.org on educating students about how algorithmic bias can create societal inequities which disproportionately impact the Black community. This isn’t work that begins and ends in one week, it will last years. Our curriculum and professional learning programs reach one third of US schools, and our policy work impacts all 50 states, and so this is our biggest opportunity for change.
This isn’t by any means a comprehensive list, and relative to the problem of racism in the United States these are just baby steps. But even the greatest changes can begin with small steps.
We don’t have all the answers, and we are open to feedback and suggestions. Like so many other leaders in America today, we are encouraged and inspired by all the peaceful protests that have shown us that enough is enough, and it is time for change. Real change can only happen when organizations across the entire U.S. economy and society take action against racism and injustice, and we are here to do our part.
Hadi Partovi, Chief Executive Officer
Jackie Smalls, Chief Programs Officer