The world of computer science is definitely underrepresented of women, especially Latinas. In fact, if you look at interest across all high school computer science courses, participation by students of color is 13 percent. But the diversity problem isn’t only in schools, it also exists in the software-related workplace.
There are many issues to address that would resolve the entire problem of diversity in the tech workforce, such as hiring, retention practices, or even ongoing learning or continuing education programs. Many technology companies — such as Microsoft — are aware of it and they are taking action to solve this problem.
Currently, Microsoft offers existing programs that are available to schools, non profits and anyone who wants to learn more about digital skills. Many organizations and non-profits focus on K-12 learning, which is where diversity issues begin among young girls. In fact, studies that show Latinx high school students who enroll and complete an AP computer science in high school are 7 to 8 times more likely to major in computer science in college (source). Additionally, Microsoft supports girls with resources and tools to help encourage STEM at an early age.
The education and resources are endless. You can create an entire program for young girls. But then they go off to high school and college, then what? Where do adults turn to for available resources that can help them pursue a career in technology?
Underrepresentation of Latinas in Technology isn’t about Lack of Interest
Although Latina students are underrepresented in university computer science departments, it may seem that they’re less interested in studying computer science than other ethnicities. But their participation in our latest Latinas Learn to Code courses suggests the opposite. Since our inaugural hands-on workshop in the fall of 2017, Latinas have signed-up and sold-out every workshop held in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. In fact, every workshop sold out within 5 to 24 hours, with more than 150 women on the waiting list.
Many of the attendees include different age groups, professional backgrounds and education levels. From students, teachers, social science researchers, to engineers, 42% are looking for career advancement, 20% are looking to pursue a career and 20% are looking to change their careers. Education levels vary: 48% are university graduates, 25% are currently attending college and 62% of attendees have never been exposed to coding lessons. The average age for our attendees ranges between 19 to 45 years old.
So, where is the disconnect? There’s proven interest. The problem we’ve seen is the lack of available resources in their communities. Many of our past attendees have traveled from San Diego, Washington DC, Arizona and/or San Francisco in order to attend a workshop held in Los Angeles. We’ve received an incredible demand from our #LatinaGeeks community for workshops in areas such as New York, Northern California, Texas, Chicago, and more, that we felt it was time to expand.
Microsoft Gets Involved
When we first initiated our expansion throughout Southern California, we shared the need for a coding workshop venue on Facebook. Thanks to our community, Sal Rosales, a Premier Field Engineer at Microsoft, saw our posts and offered a Microsoft location in San Diego. In addition to the venue, Sal offered to volunteer his time and help lead the hands-on workshop. We shared our goals with Sal and he shared them with his team. After witnessing the demand from our community first-hand, Microsoft agreed to partner with #LatinaGeeks and take the hands-on coding workshops nationwide.
When we asked Sal why he wanted to get involved, his response was, “I want to drive diversity in an area that I believe is critically lacking: women in IT. Women comprise roughly half of the global population yet, as of September 2017, only comprised 27% at the company I work for with Hispanics making up only 5.6%.”
What’s in it for Microsoft? Recruitment. They are looking for new talent to hire and mentor. Its a win-win partnership for all parties involved. We provide a resource to our community that’s in demand, the attendees are exposed to a new skill to pursue and Microsoft discovers new talent in their own backyard.
#LatinaGeeks Goal is to Break Stereotypes with Latinas Learn to Code & Other Workshops
Latinas Learn to Code has become a national campaign to recruit students and professional women to encourage a new skill and hopefully create a positive change in their lives. A significant way to break the stereotype that Latinas are not interested in technology is by showing our community that everyone is actively engaged. The stereotype is a prime reason many young girls avoid technology, because they don’t see others in their community doing it. The #1 way we’re organizing participation is by having attendees share their experience on social media during their session. Latinas are highly engaged on social media and are influenced by what they are exposed to on their news feeds. It’s important to share the benefits with them online in spaces they trust.
The results speak for themselves. With an overwhelming request from many states across the U.S., we aim to introduce computer science to adults, with the intention that they pass on the knowledge to their children. Because that’s what our community does, we empower one another.
About Our #LatinaGeeks Coding Workshops
To learn more about our upcoming workshops, please visit our workshop sign-up list. If you would like to participate as a sponsor, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also interested in collaborating with other organizations that can help us bring this program to their community.