Facebook Donates $15M to Code.org to Diversify Computer Science Education

Facebook Donates $15M to Code.org to Diversify Computer Science Education

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Looking to diversify its portfolio of charities and its workforce at the same time, Facebook has pledged $15 million over the next five years to Code.org, a nonprofit working to expand the availability of computer science (CS) education. The social network has also released a report on the diversity of its own employees.

Founded in 2013, Code.org aims to expand access to computer science in a number of ways. Diversity in computer science is one of its main goals. On its website, it tracks its success by the number of students reached by its annual Hour of Code—260,002,143 over three years—its training—nearly 350,000 teachers have signed up to teach its introductory classes—and its courses—100 districts have partnered with Code.org to integrate its curriculum into their. It also claims that the participants in its classes and workshops are 45 percent female, 48 percent underrepresented minorities and 47 percent on free and reduced-price lunch.

Code.org Hadi Partovi believes that, to diversify a company, changing hiring practices and company culture are good starts. It’s impossible, though, to have a diverse workforce without an education pipeline to match, he thinks.

“If you look at the students studying tech fields, especially computer science, in university and high school, they have the same diversity problem as the tech industry," Partovi said. "If the funnel of employees is all white men, what do you think the industry will look like?"

Code.org will use the funding to grow its efforts to train teachers to teach computer science in urban public school districts and to bring computer science classes to schools without them.

“We’ve helped bring computer science to schools,” Partovi said, “But it’s always been in answer to demand, and this funding will allow us to scale our response to that demand as it increases across the country.”

Partovi said training teachers and expanding into urban districts by nature lend themselves to diversifying the body of students pursuing computer science. American teachers are nearly 80 percent women, and urban school districts serve predominantly black and Latino students. By contrast, white and Asian men dominate tech fields.

While Partovi wouldn’t clarify if this donation was the largest Code.org had ever received, he did say that it “puts Facebook into a small circle of our largest donors.” Code.org netted $23 million in April 2016 as corporations signed a letter to Congress asking for coding to integrate into high school curricula across the country. He also said that “Facebook has more than money to offer us,” though the company currently does not plan to provide support outside of the donation.

The gift is Facebook’s first donation to the nonprofit, but not Mark Zuckerberg’s. He and his wife Priscilla Chan have given $1 million to the organization through Startup:Education, and he has appeared in a tutorial on repeat loops.

The nonprofit will not release its own diversity numbers, as its donor has. It did release them in 2014, and it found that 52 percent of its staff was female, though that number skewed lower on the technical staff, and its teacher-training network was 69 percent female.

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