Facebook has launched a new initiative to encourage minorities and women into coding. Besides an accent on those two demographics, TechPrep is also targeted at parents and guardians, and seeks to analogise coding skills with language skills to make the subject of computer science less forbidding and opaque.
Maxine Williams, Facebook’s global director of diversity, explained that the new initiative is geared towards women/colour groups which have traditionally had less exposure to careers in coding. Ms Williams said that the lack of basic information about computer science, particularly among black and Hispanic parents, is one of the obvious chasms preventing more children from pursuing programming.
The website, available in English and Spanish languages, explains the concept of programming, spotlights career paths and recommends resources for students such as games, online courses and community events.
Facebook commissioned McKinsey & Co to carry out a survey to find out how many parents knew about how to guide their children into the coding sector. The results found that 77% of parents were unsure of how to do this – this figure rose to 83% for non-college graduate parents who were on lower incomes. Another notable finding was that men were five times more likely than women to say that they knew a lot about computer programming.
TechPrep looks set to buck these trends. The social giant will target parent, guardian and would-be learner users based on their locations and interests. The project will then showcase the various roles that a programmer could select as well as the profiles of tech workers such as data analyst and electrical engineer. As a further incentive, it will also be possible for users to see the potential starting wages for a programmer, which at $62,000 is massively encouraging.
Notable in the video that features prominently on the TechPrep site is the way that the project compares the learning of ‘computer languages’ with the learning of traditional languages – an approach which seems designed to engage with the popular perception of women as natural communicators, and also with the need for immigrants to learn the native language of their adopted countries: