Howard University Launches Mind Opening Partnership With Google
I need to preface this piece for people who haven’t been reading nibletz.com over the last 7 years. I’m asian but grew up in the DMV, I spent as much of my childhood in downtown Baltimore as I did on the outskirts of DC in Silver Spring.
Howard University has taken a big step towards the diversity problem in Silicon Valley. They’ve partnered with Google for Howard West, a program, that this year will see 25 Howard University Computer Science students live work and learn in Silicon Valley, at Google.
In 2015 Google released their diversification report. While they saw an increase in hiring more black engineers, by their own admission, it wasn’t anywhere near where they want to be. In 2015 Google had 57,100 employees globally. 2% of those were black. At the same time of this report, 59% of their employees were white.
Google and many other big companies in Silicon Valley blame these numbers on a shortage of diverse computer science students. They all blame it on a “pipeline problem”.
The Howard West project will bring 25 students this year, but over five years they hope to pass 750 students through the program.
“A caution that I have is that the narrative is framed as a pipeline problem. We would hire more black engineers if we could find them. The fact of the matter is the talent is there.” Christian Simamora with Code2040 a Non Profit in San Francisco argues.”
Queen Kim of NPR affiliate KQED says “Simamora says around 18 percent of computer science majors in the U.S. identify as black or Latino, but they represent only 5 percent of the technology workforce. He says the problem is with recruitment.”
The major Silicon Valley companies continue to recruit from the same handful of Ivy league schools including Stanford, Harvard and MIT.
Howard’s program is definitely a step in the right direction. While they will be working out of the Google Campus in Mountain View California the students are guaranteed jobs with Google. There may be other opportunities with nearby companies including Linked In, Yahoo, Salesforce, and even Apple.
The Howard West program will be as much about culture as it is about education and computer science. Howard University President Wayne Frederick joined the discussion on KQED where he said he was participating in the discussion wearing a suit, no body else was wearing a suit. “That’s one example of just being exposed to culture.” he said.
While Howard University is making a great stride towards fixing the diversity in recruitment, it begs to ask how more HCBU’s can attract recruitment from tech hub based companies. We’ve seen several successful startups spin out of Howard University, Morgan State, More House and Tuskegee, all of which have computer science and MBA programs.
You can see Google’s diversification report here.