Google held a Changing the Equation event that brought together teachers, techies, media and more to discuss under-representation of minority groups in computer science at the Google Los Angeles campus in Friday, Dec. 2.
The event lasted all day from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and consisted of three panel discussions with group exercises after each one. The first panel discussed race, unconscious bias and social barriers while the other two discussed the challenges of teaching computer science and the portrayal of techies in the media.
“The panels were designed to really help people understand why we have an issue around giving all students access to computer science,” said Mo Fong, director of K-12 outreach at Google. “It was really eye-opening and transformative.”
One of the big issues discussed the idea that computer scientists are not cool and have no friends. Some participants suggested televising hack-a-thons while others said that television shows should show people with social lives who happen to work in the computer field because there are plenty of social and fun computer scientists.
“To get kids more interested, I think we have to show them how fun it could be,” said Ian Brock, a 12 year old who wrote a book about computer science. “I just took a tour of the Google office and they have game rooms, massage rooms, nap rooms. Basically everything that you want that you can dream of here.”
“Programming computers is the new language and you’re never too young to start. Knowing how to program a computer is like a superpower,” Brock continued.
When it came to the issue of cost and someone with a computer science degree wanting a six figure salary, the audience suggested that companies, like Google and Yahoo, donate computer labs named after them, pay for all the expenses and provide teachers. They viewed this is being an asset to the companies as well as increasing the idea of working in the computer field to students because many of them have no idea about the job opportunities out there.
“There are so many great opportunities that can be created through computer science that people in my community don’t know about. We need to make every effort to make them aware that there are options and you can do amazing things and have world-wide impact through technology,” said Anthony Mays, a software engineer at Google who grew up in Compton. “This can potentially be a game changer in communities that have long been neglected, under-privileged and under-valued.”
The audience was very involved throughout the day and along with giving suggestions, they came up with their own actions that they would take.
“It was powerful and impactful,” said Daraiha Greene, the diversity in entertainment ambassador at Google who put the event together. “People were just so energetic and engaged. They really wanted to take action.”
Google will be having plenty of upcoming events to promote diversity in computer science. For more information, visit G.co/csedu