One of the great hopes for having fewer Uber- or Binary Capital-like organizations and for fixing the moral crash (as Sarah Lacy put it in her excellent keynote at Startup Fest) in our industry is the report that young women and minorities are taking the advanced placement computer science exam in record numbers. The number of female students taking the exams doubled from 2016 to 2017, and for the same time period, the number of minority students doing the same tripled.
USA Today’s summary of the report has this to say about female students:
More than 29,700 female students took an AP computer science exam in 2017, a 135% increase from 2016 and a dramatic increase from the 2,600 female students that took the AP Computer Science exam 10 years ago, according to results released by non-profit Code.org Tuesday.
Participation by black and Latino students increased by 170% since 2016, to more than 22,000. These gains are fastest growing among the population of students taking AP computer sciences, which doubled last year to more than 111,000, according to the report, which used AP College Board data.
The numbers are promising, but Code.org co-founder and CEO Hadi Partovi reminds us that we still have a way to go:
“In a world where these opportunities are mostly dominated by white and Asian men, more than three-quarters of the population has been underrepresented in the field,” said Partovi.
Underrepresented minority students comprise 20% of those taking AP computer science exams, and female students make up 27%. Representation is scarcer in higher education, with 83% of computer science majors at the university level men.
“If you look at where the numbers are coming from, those numbers are great. If you look at where the goal is, the numbers should be 50/50, so we have a long way to go,” Partovi said.
If you’re still wondering why efforts to bring women and minorities into tech exist rather than just letting them decide to join the field on their own, let me remind you of an important fact: representation matters. If it’s always represented as a field for only white and Asian men, only white and Asian males will be attracted to it. I’ll close with this reminder from Whoopi Goldberg and the power of representation in Star Trek: