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Facebook's Effort to Diversify Tech: Educate the Parents

The company has struggled with diversity itself, but its newest effort provides a step-by-step path and will use Facebook's powerful analytics to reach "learners."


It’s no secret that women and minorities are underrepresented in the tech community — nearly every tech giant in Silicon Valley has acknowledged as much by simply sharing their employee demographic info. Now Facebook is trying to get to the root of the problem: The oft-mentioned tech pipeline.

The social network launched a new website Tuesday called TechPrep, a resource hub specifically geared toward young adults — primarily women and minorities — ready to refine their career paths as well as parents hoping to steer their kids into tech jobs.

The new site includes sections where parents and “learners” — Facebook won’t call them students, because you don’t have to be in school to learn! — can find examples of jobs in the CS field, online classes to take, and organizations to join. Facebook isn’t actually teaching people to code on the site, but rather pointing them in the right direction.

The idea came about after Facebook commissioned a study from consulting firm McKinsey & Company that found parents to be unsure how to guide their children toward a tech career, explained Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global director of diversity. More than three quarters of parents claim they don’t know “how to help their child pursue studying computer science,” the study found. That number jumps to 83 percent for parents who are lower income or never graduated college.

The site, available in both English and Spanish, is useful to anyone, but Williams says the key will be not just the site itself, but the outreach Facebook can do. The company will push ads about the site into News Feed, particularly targeting people in cities with high minority populations or who have shown interest in minority or gender-based groups. The hope is that it will reach hopeful parents as well as women and minorities so often underrepresented in the standard pipeline.

Lots of tech companies have made public efforts to increase diversity in the tech world over the past year. Twitter, for example, just hosted a chat Tuesday night around the #ILookLikeAnEngineer movement from August that challenged stereotypes around engineering. With 1.5 billion users, Facebook, which has struggled with diversity itself, does have a heck of a soapbox to speak from.

“When we think about what is happening with computer science and programming and skills and the skills gap, we know that unless we help these parents and guardians,” said Williams, “the same problems we’re dealing with in our immediate world will simply continue.”

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