Daily Report: A Push for Diversity in the Tech Industry

By now, it’s well known that the tech industry lacks diversity. At Google, for example, the tech work force is 60 percent white and 1 percent black. But what is not as well known are efforts to change that.

In Oakland, Calif., across San Francisco Bay from Silicon Valley, a program called the Hidden Genius Initiative is attempting to immerse young men of color in programming, app design and other business skills. It was created two years ago by Jason Young, 33, who is also running an educational technology start-up in the same building.

Mr. Young’s goal is to help “these young men to understand who they are and what they’re capable of.” It is one of several initiatives in the Bay Area meant to help people of color find a path into the fast-growing technology industry, where many top executives acknowledge that blacks, in particular, are underrepresented.

In 2011, blacks represented 11 percent of the total work force but only 6 percent of workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations, according to the United States Census Bureau. Hispanics were 15 percent of the total work force and 7 percent of STEM workers. Only 1 percent of venture capital-backed start-ups are run by black entrepreneurs.

Tech executives and advocates acknowledge there is no easy path to a more diverse work force. But at the very least, programs like the one run by Mr. Young are steering some people toward the industry’s rich potential.


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