A new Facebook initiative aims to increase diversity in the tech community by exposing students and their parents to the promise of a career in computer science.
The social-networking giant on Wednesday launched an online resources hub called TechPrep that offers information on how under-represented groups, including blacks and Hispanics, can get started toward a career in computer science. Offering tips in both English and Spanish, the site explains how young people can get started learning about computer science, the skills required to become a computer programmer, and the types of jobs and salaries available to programmers.
Facebook is one of the biggest technology companies in the world with over 10,000 employees. However, like most of Silicon Valley,. In June, Facebook reported that 68 percent of its employees are men, and in technology-related roles, males made up 84 percent of its workforce. Just over half of Facebook's employees are white.
The initiative follows research by McKinsey & Co., a multinational management consulting firm based in New York, that found half of blacks and 42 percent of Hispanics say they would be good at working with computers. But 77 percent of parents say they don't know how to help children pursue an education or career in computer science.
Including parents in the process is key to getting young minorities interested in technology. Facebook found that being encouraged by an adult or guardian was a primary motivator for women, blacks and Hispanics in pursuing a career in computer science, said Maxine Williams, Facebook's global director of diversity.
"Parents and guardians are influential figures in students' lives," Williams said in a blog post. "By exposing people to computer science and programming and guiding them to the resources they need to get started, we hope to reduce some of the barriers that block potential from meeting opportunity."
Facebook's hub outlines some of the benefits of a career in programming, including an average annual starting salary of $62,000, 15 percent higher than the annual median US household income of $54,000. It also notes programmers have the flexibility to work from anywhere there is an Internet connection, in a variety of industries and with the possibility of changing the world by creating solutions to real-world issues.
The Menlo Park, California-based company estimates that by 2020, the US will have 1 million unfilled programming jobs.
TechPrep includes games, books, and information on community events to help guide parents and students toward a career in computer science or programming. Its curated resources are tailored to a student's age and skill level.