“You can actually embrace this world of coding and change your life dimension in your generation,” said Robert F. Smith in a video encouraging viewers to take on a career in coding. “It can actually change your whole economic condition in your lifetime.”
Smith and others are actively trying to increase diversity in technology careers that for decades have been white and male. This is because the average salary for computer programmers for all races is still significantly higher than the average annual wage for U.S. workers, which the Social Security Administration reports was $51,916 in 2019. Therefore, creating more coding or computer programming opportunities for Black and Hispanic/Latino people, who experience higher rates of poverty than the general population, is seen as a pathway to building generational wealth and closing the racial wealth gap. But there are hurdles to overcome.
The U.S. computer programming industry is not as diverse as the United States as a whole. According to 2019 Zippia data (which uses Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers):
- The field was 69.4 percent white
- Hispanic or Latinos accounting for 8.1 percent of the industry
- Black or African American computer programmers make up just 4.6 percent of the technology workforce..
The numbers have barely moved since 2010, when 71.5 percent of the industry was White, Hispanic or Latinos accounted for 6.73 percent, and Black or African Americans workers made up a greater percentage of the industry than in 2019 at 4.83 percent.
Additionally, Zippia’s 2019 data found wage gaps by race; the average salary of a White computer programmer in 2019 was $74,591, while the average salary for a Hispanic or Latino programmer was $70,933 and Black or African Americans had the lowest average computer programming salary at $70,615.
Robert F. Smith Creating Opportunities in Coding and STEM
In 2017, Coding.org, a “non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities,” announced a partnership with Vista Equity Partners, where Smith is Founder, Chairman and CEO. Over three years the group prepared teachers to start incorporating computer science into their curricula, “to broaden access to students in neighborhoods which previously had no pathway of opportunity or access to study this subject in school,” according to a Bloomberg profile. This also served to improve Code.org’s mission strategy and “courses, which are already the most broadly used curriculum in K-12 computer science.” In addition to funding, Vista and its 40-plus portfolio companies have increased collaboration with Code.org to improve learning experiences for both students and teachers as well as foster professional development and opportunities.
Learn more about solutions to diversify the STEM field and how internships are helping students of color transition to STEM careers.