Tech Industry

Google to launch Oakland lab to mentor minority students

Working with the MIT Media lab, the search giant looks across the San Francisco Bay to solve the tech industry's diversity problem.

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Google is looking across the San Francisco Bay to Oakland to help solve the tech industry's diversity problem.

George Rose, Getty Images

Silicon Valley companies, by many of their own admissions, are not nearly diverse enough.

Google is looking across the San Francisco Bay to solve the problem: to Oakland, California.

The search giant, based about 40 miles south of Oakland in Mountain View, is working with the MIT Media Lab to start a new lab to mentor black and Hispanic students in the city. More than half of Oakland's residents are black or Hispanic, according to city census data.

San Francisco Business Times and USA Today earlier reported the news.

The lab, called Code Next, aims to educate the students about opportunities in computer science. The lab, in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood, has already run a pilot program and is slated to open officially in October. It will offer after-school programs to middle school students, according to the reports.

Meanwhile, Oakland is increasingly becoming a focal point for tech companies. Uber said last year that it's moving into the city's historic Sears building. The ride-sharing company is joining longtime residents Pandora and Ask.com in settling across the bay.

Diversity has become a high-profile topic for tech giants, which have been criticized for a lack of women and minorities in their work forces. It has become such an issue that many of the big tech companies regularly release diversity reports to chronicle their progress.

Google, which started the practice of releasing regular reports, is still struggling. The company is still only two percent black and three percent Hispanic, according to the most recent numbers in January. When you narrow it down specifically to technical jobs, the percentage of black workers drops to one percent.

"We're still not where we want to be," Google's diversity website says.

Google has a few other programs aimed at increasing diversity, including a "Google in Residence" program that puts Google engineers at historically black colleges to mentor students.

Updated, Friday, September 23, 2:09 p.m. PT: Adds details from the San Francisco Business Times.