Tech Pipeline Is Alarmingly White

No African-Americans, Hispanics or girls took the AP computer science exam in some states, meaning a majority of The Next America has little familiarity with tech.

National Journal
Emily Deruy, Fusion
Add to Briefcase
Emily DeRuy, Fusion
Jan. 13, 2014, 11:50 a.m.

The pipeline of stu­dents who will be to­mor­row’s tech lead­ers is alarm­ingly vanilla.

Ac­cord­ing to a new ana­lys­is of test-takers, not a single girl, Afric­an-Amer­ic­an or His­pan­ic stu­dent took the com­puter sci­ence Ad­vanced Place­ment test in Mis­sis­sippi or Montana last year. More than a third of the pop­u­la­tion in Mis­sis­sippi is black.

In oth­er words, a hugely dis­pro­por­tion­ate bunch of white guys took the test.

The lack of di­versity is dis­con­cert­ing be­cause com­puter sci­ence is an in­dustry hurt­ing for qual­i­fied work­ers. That’s not to say that a stu­dent must take AP com­puter sci­ence to pur­sue a com­puter sci­ence ca­reer, but it’s an in­dic­at­or of which young people have a de­gree of fa­mili­ar­ity with the field. Tech com­pan­ies have long lamen­ted that they’ve had to look out­side the do­mest­ic pool of stu­dents to find em­ploy­ees. En­cour­aging largely un­tapped demo­graph­ics — girls, Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans and His­pan­ics — in high school to enter the field would only help.

But that’s not hap­pen­ing, at least suc­cess­fully, right now.

There are 11 states where not a single Afric­an-Amer­ic­an took the test, and eight states where no His­pan­ics sat for the ex­am.

We’re not talk­ing here about people who passed or didn’t pass, either. We’re talk­ing about people who simply took the test, which means Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans, His­pan­ics and girls aren’t en­rolling in AP com­puter sci­ence classes in the first place.

Of the ap­prox­im­ately 30,000 stu­dents who took the ex­am in 2013, only around 20 per­cent were fe­male, ac­cord­ing to the ana­lys­is, and a tiny 3 per­cent were Afric­an-Amer­ic­an. Just 8 per­cent were His­pan­ic.

One reas­on there are so few stu­dents en­rolling in the class and tak­ing the test is that AP com­puter sci­ence courses are more com­mon in sub­urb­an and private schools, Bar­bara Eric­son, a seni­or re­search sci­ent­ist with Geor­gia Tech who com­piled the data, told the blog Edu­ca­tion Week, and those schools tend to be less di­verse than urb­an and pub­lic schools.

An­oth­er po­ten­tial reas­on is that there are so few wo­men, Afric­an-Amer­ic­an and His­pan­ic in­struct­ors teach­ing com­puter sci­ence and so few work­ing in the com­puter sci­ence field. Stu­dents are more likely to pur­sue a course of study if they have ment­ors with sim­il­ar back­grounds to emu­late.

Col­lege Board, which over­sees the AP tests, has made di­versity a pri­or­ity in re­cent months, but clearly, there’s still a long way to go. And di­ver­si­fy­ing the pool of stu­dents tak­ing the ex­am will re­quire more than a push from Col­lege Board. Fam­il­ies, schools and com­munity or­gan­iz­a­tions will also play a cru­cial role in en­cour­aging and guid­ing more girls and minor­ity stu­dents to­ward com­puter sci­ence.

This art­icle is pub­lished with per­mis­sion from Fu­sion, a TV and di­git­al net­work that cham­pi­ons a smart, di­verse and in­clus­ive Amer­ica. Fu­sion is a part­ner of Na­tion­al Journ­al and The Next Amer­ica. Fol­low the au­thor on Twit­ter: @Emily_­DeR­uy

What We're Following See More »
REPEATS CONTROVERSIAL CLAIM
Trump: Clinton “Doesn’t Have The Stamina” to be President
3 hours ago
DEBATE UPDATE

At the end of the debate, moderator Lester Holt asked Donald Trump if he stands by his statement that Hillary Clinton didn't have the look of a president. Trump responded by saying Holt misquoted him, instead saying that Clinton "doesn't have the stamina." Clinton responded by saying that when Trump visits 112 countries as secretary of state, he can talk to her about stamina.

WIDELY DEBUNKED CLAIM
Trump: Clinton Camp Started Birtherism
3 hours ago
DEBATE UPDATE

Donald Trump, when pressed by Lester Holt on why he finally admitted that President Obama was born in America, repeated his widely debunked claim that it was started by Hillary Clinton.

“AFRICAN AMERICANS” ARE “LIVING IN HELL”
Conversation Shifts to Race
3 hours ago
DEBATE UPDATE

Hillary Clinton went point by point on how race can so often determine the treatment that people receive, mentioning recent shootings in Tulsa and Charlotte, calling for restored trust between communities and police, and demanding criminal justice reform. Trump responded by calling for law and order and touting his endorsements from police unions. He then said that “African Americans are living in hell,” saying they are just walking down the street and getting “shot ... being decimated by crime."

JUST AS CLINTON INVITES VIEWERS TO VISIT HER SITE
During Debate, Trump Site Appears to Be Down
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Just as Hillary Clinton was inviting debate viewers to visit her site for real-time fact checking, there appeared to be a problem with Donald Trump's own campaign website. For about a 15-minute period, a blank page or an error message appeared when we tried to load the Trump site.

INTERRUPTS CLINTON MULTIPLE TIMES
Trump Comes Out Swinging
4 hours ago
DEBATE UPDATE

Donald Trump has come out in the first segment of this debate raring to go. Trump has interrupted nearly every answer being given by Hillary Clinton, talking over her time and again. Clinton is sticking to her guns, smiling while Trump speaks and then calling on people to go to her website and see the fact checking being done.

×