The failure to drive inclusion in technical education today will have disastrous implications for our future. We are beginning to understand how unconscious biases become encoded in algorithms and datasets, resulting in poor decision-making by stakeholders and negative impacts for end users. Despite a total of 4.5 billion people currently connected to the internet worldwide, the tech industry continues to be less than representative of the users it serves.
Internationally, only 25 percent of professional computing positions are held by women, and this number has been steadily declining. This downturn is also being borne out in the university classroom–while 37 percent of computer science majors in 1984 were women, that number dropped to 18 percent by 2014.
Related content: Making diversity a priority in higher-ed IT
Underrepresented people of color — including those who identify as black, Latinx, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaskan Native, and mixed-race — make up a very small percentage of the entire tech workforce in the United States. Among Airbnb, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, underrepresented women of color do not make up even 10 percent of each of these companies’ respective employee populations.
There are real consequences for continued innovation in the tech sector if employees do not map to population demographics. As educators, we can increase diversity in tech through making technical education more accessible and inclusive. Consciously structuring equitable approaches into our institutions can lead to better outcomes for students and the technology they will build in the future.