According to recent statistics done by the College of Computing at Georgia, the minority make up 36.4% of the entire American population yet only 18% of the said minority pursue and achieves a bachelor of science in computer science. Out of the 18%, only 3.7% are African American.
Why Does America Lack Diversity in the Field of Computer Science?
Lack of Exposure
Underrepresented minorities should be exposed early to the field of computer science. Many high schools do not have computing as an elective subject that counts towards graduation. Making computing an elective means that more students will be exposed to computer science basics at an early age. The long-standing perception that computer science is difficult, tends to steer many students away.
Minority students should be encouraged to attend summer-camps, pre-college courses and even work as interns in the field of computer science. This will not only spark their interest but also expose them to the field of computer science. The following are links to summer programs and internships suitable for future computer scientists:
Racial and gender bias exists in the workplace. For instance, the salary gap between men and women computer scientists is $16,000 while that gap between white and black employees is $13,000 a year. According to Harvard Business Review, women in computer science are 45% more likely to leave the workplace within a year due to gender discrimination and hostility. Women in computer science face an unsupportive work environment and lack of flexible hours. This is detrimental to working mothers as they have to balance work and family responsibilities. Like women, ethnic minorities also have to prove their competence at the workplace by working twice as hard as their white counterparts.
Cost of Pursuing Computer Science at Higher Levels
A degree in computer science is often seen as expensive to pursue and exclusive for the white population. However, there are a number of financial aid opportunities available to U.S citizens in the form of grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study opportunities. All these help to supplement the students’ tuition and fees at the university/college.
In addition, there are financial aid packages, which are tailored specifically for students pursuing computer science and (STEM) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields. They include:
- Accenture http://careers.accenture.com/us-en/your-future/development/graduate/internships/Pages/scholarship-program-minorities.aspx
- American Indian Science and Engineering Society Google Scholarship http://www.aises.org/
- Blacks at Microsoft Scholarships http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/diversity/programs/blacks-scholarships.aspx
- ESA Foundation http://www.esafoundation.org/scholarship.asp
- Ford Motor Company Tribal Scholars Program https://www.fordscholars.org/scholarships/american-indian-college-fund
- The Gates Millennium Scholars Program http://www.gmsp.org/
- Great Minds in STEM/HENAAC Scholars Program http://www.greatmindsinstem.org/college/henaac-scholarship-program
- Hispanic Scholarship Fund http://hsf.net/
- Microsoft Minority Scholarship http://careers.microsoft.com/careers/en/us/internships-scholarships.aspx#tab_urscholarship-0
- American Computer Science League http://www.acsl.org/
- The Urban Massachusetts Luis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation http://www.uml.edu/CLASS/UMLSAMP/UMSLAMP-Intro.aspx
- Code Academy http://www.codecademy.com/
- African-American Women in Technology http://www.aawit.net/index.cfm
To encourage more minority interest to the field of computer science, state governments through their departments of education can pass policies to increase participation of minorities in the field of computer science. This can be done by providing subsidized school fees to those pursuing computer sciences or making it compulsory for schools to make computing a necessary elective that counts towards graduation.
Once the ethnic minorities have enrolled to study computer science at the university or college, school administration should make a proactive effort to ensure their retention. This can be attained through faculty and peer mentorship programs as well as establishing career related clubs and organizations, which host professionals in the field, tutoring of students outside of classes, and providing students with research opportunities.
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