(BPT) - Last year, a number of tech firms released reports on the demographic makeup of their employees and highlighted how diversity is severely lacking in the industry. Google indicated that 61 percent of its employees were white, 30 percent Asian, 4 percent identified as two or more races, 3 percent Hispanic, 2 percent black and 1 percent other. These numbers were fairly consistent among other prominent tech companies, including Apple, Facebook and Twitter. When those same companies released progress reports this year, little to no gains were made.
In response, Twitter has teamed up with diversity organizations and colleges that serve minorities, and also encouraged in-house initiatives among employees. Apple has committed more than $50 million to diversity efforts. Despite such efforts, many feel that more needs to be done to cultivate diverse perspectives in the tech industry and to expand a pipeline of talent that better reflects society.
How can the country tackle such a problem? Many believe the next generation of technology leaders cannot emerge, let alone include children from diverse backgrounds, until children in K-12 classrooms receive earlier access to tech education.
To illustrate the urgency, consider how computer programming jobs are growing at twice the national average compared to other industries. This makes particularly troubling a recent finding by Code.org, a non-profit organization committed to expanding participation in computer science, that nine out of 10 high schools in the U.S. do not offer computer science classes. What's more alarming is that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020 1.4 million computer science jobs will be available nationally, but only 400,000 computer science students will be available to fill those roles.
With such numbers, the need to encourage children and adults from all backgrounds to pursue STEM fields and build careers in tech cannot be understated.
Because specialized training for many sectors in the technology field begins in college, the higher education sector is in a unique position to expand opportunity in underserved communities and increase the diversity of the workforce in the tech industry.
One institution that has spearheaded such efforts is University of Phoenix. Given the unique needs of the students - many of who are working adults - the University developed degree programs in Information Systems and Technology. These programs provide students with a wide range of technical and organizational skills, as well as an understanding of core business concepts that emphasizes how technology is the bridge that connects them with their future careers.
This is one example of how industry leaders across the public and private sectors are making a commitment to building diversity in the workforce and filling the important rolls that the tech industry needs to stay strong.