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Melinda Gates is leading a new coalition to bring more women of color to tech

Diversity in tech is good for business.
AP/Eric Risberg
Aniyia Williams, founder and CEO of Tinsel, left, talks about program placement with Kara Lee, at the offices of Galvanize in San Francisco. Williams also leads Black and Brown Founders, which provides Black and Latinx founders with resources and community.
By Simone Stolzoff
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

At Facebook, the share of white employees has decreased from 57% in 2014 to 49% in 2018. The share of women has grown from 31% to 36% in the same time frame. Similar trends hold true at Google, Apple, and other major tech companies. With a wide lens, Silicon Valley seems to be getting more diverse.

But zoom in and you might see a different story. 

Of the employees of color at Facebook, nearly 85% are Asian. The percentage of black and Latinx employees in technical roles has remained flat (3% and 1% respectively) since 2014. And for tech’s least visible group—women of color in technical roles—most of the big companies still don’t report their data.

Although it’s no secret Silicon Valley has a diversity problem, it’s perhaps surprising that for most women of color, representation within the field is actually getting worse. The share of black, Latina, and Native American women receiving computing degrees has dropped by one-third over the past decade, from 6% to 4%, according to data (pdf) from the National Science Foundation. A study from the Asian research foundation Ascend found that although Asians are the most likely candidates of color to be hired in tech, they are the least likely to be promoted; its work also found that black and Latinx representation has declined in Silicon Valley over the past decade.

Melinda Gates wanted to find out what tech companies were doing to reverse these trends. Her investment and incubation company, Pivotal Ventures, combined forces with McKinsey to look into how prominent tech companies were spending their corporate social responsibility (CSR) budgets. The 32 technology companies that took part in the survey, including Google and Microsoft, spent a total of $500 million on CSR and philanthropic giving in 2017, but only 5% of that money went toward gender diversity efforts.

Although the companies expressed a strong desire to increase the number of black, Latina, and Native American women in their ranks, only .1 percent of their spending went toward the kinds of programs necessary to accomplish that.

As a response to the survey’s findings, Gates is spearheading a coalition of a dozen tech companies called ”Rebooting Representation,” which aims to double the number of underrepresented women of color graduating with computer science degrees by 2025. The coalition—with founding members including Adobe, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Oath, and Pivotal, and additional members including BNY Mellon, Best Buy, Symantec, LinkedIn, and Qualcomm—has already pledged more than $12 million toward this goal.

“I love imagining these young women and the futures ahead of them,” Gates wrote in a statement. “They may or may not be thinking about careers in tech yet. But it matters that tech is thinking about them.”

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