Computer science, and indeed the tech industry at large is run by white males. Not only is problematic from an equity standpoint, tech jobs end to feature significantly above-average salaries, but it is also harmful to educational programs, and the industry at large.
In this article, we examine where computer science currently stands in terms of diversity, how the situation has gotten to this point, and why change is important.
Caucasians make up almost 70% of all computer science students. Another 25% are Asian. Historically, instances of female computer science students have been shallow. These numbers have risen significantly in recent years, with the current figure hovering at around 40% for incoming students.
It’s difficult to pinpoint a single reason why the tech industry is currently experiencing very low occurrences of diverse staffing. Computer science educators, however, often suggest that a lack of exposure is the driving factor.
Minority communities are less likely to have regular access to technology at home. This, in turn, makes them naturally less inclined to pursue an education in computer science.
There is also the natural difficulty that comes from challenging the status quo. Few women or minorities enroll in computer science educational programs. Consequently, women or minorities with a legitimate interest in computer science may feel less inclined to pursue a degree in it.
Why it Matters for the Industry
Naturally, it’s problematic that minority communities are not benefitting from the high salaries and rewarding career opportunities that the computer science field can provide. But what does this lack of diversity mean from the tech industry standpoint?
Businesses with high occurrences of diversity have been shown to experience nearly 40% higher profit levels. While many factors might contribute to this number, there are several diversity-specific benefits that contribute to it.
Different backgrounds yield different perspectives. Businesses that can hire people from different walks of life are more likely to benefit from a slate of unique perspectives.
It’s also important to remember that while the tech industry is driven mainly by white males, it serves everyone. By prioritizing a diverse staff, businesses enable themselves to understand better and serve the needs of everyone who uses their technology.
A Brighter Future?
Even though women and minority enrollment in computer science programs have been low historically, there is some room for optimism. For one thing, the overall demographic for tech employment has been undergoing a slow but pronounced shift for the last decade or so.
While the tech industry is still a long way from achieving gender parity, recent trends are moving things in the right direction. Female enrollment in master’s and doctoral tech-related programs has gone up by 8% since 2015.
Unfortunately, diversification of tech has lagged in other departments. Currently, only 1.5% of advanced tech degree holders are African American.
There are signs that things are changing. The tech industry’s work culture has been under fire recently, for a wide range of reasons, one of which is its general lack of diversity.
Awareness of the issue may help encourage STEM-related diversity outreach programs. Access to technology has also increased in recent years. Even students that don’t have private computers at home are regularly exposed to tablets and other devices at school.
Through increased exposure, people from all backgrounds may be more likely to take an interest in the tech industry.
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