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Thousands of female tech workers are getting coding lessons from Google

We know the stats by now, and they’re grim: women hold just a quarter of IT jobs, and they make up a mere 18% of recent computer science graduates. At this year’s I/O, Google has announced a new program that, it hopes, will do something to correct this imbalance. It’s going to pay for “thousands” of female tech workers to discover basic coding through self-learning courses, presumably in the hope that this will advance their careers and turn them into better mentors and role models for youngsters. A cynical view might be that Google is simply throwing cash at the problem, because this isn’t really a long-term solution: The company is actually just handing out voucher codes so that women can enroll for three months of free online classes at the Code School. However, Google is also running deeper projects to tackle female under-representation in education and employment as part of its Made w/ Code program. And besides, it probably deserves credit for taking the unusual step of highlighting just how bad its own diversity problem is, rather than hiding behind the tech industry as a whole.

Google’s putting its money where its diversity isn’t. A new initiative announced at Google I/O will pay for three months of continuing education for women and minorities in tech. In conjunction with its third annual women techmakers panel, which this year focused on women working on robotics projects at Google, the tech titan said it was partnering with Code School to provide thousands of paid accounts for free. According to a blog post by the CEO of the for-profit online school for programming, Gregg Pollack, Google will pay for three months free for select women and minorities already in tech to expand their skills. One thousand people will receive free accounts directly, while the unnumbered remainder, estimated to be in the thousands, will be given by referral. People interested who did not receive a code from Google can apply here. Pollack, who noted that only a quarter of IT jobs are held by women and only 3 percent of scientists and engineers are African-Americans, said that the statistics were “sobering.” “Together, our goal is to invest in women and minorities so they can continue developing their technical skill sets,” he said. The free education offer is part of Google’s $50 million Made with Code initiative, said Google X vice president Megan Smith. “We shouldn’t feel guilty about our biases, we should wake up and do something about them,” Smith said. By Google’s own admission, its efforts to hire women and minorities have fallen far short. Women make up only 17 percent of Google’s tech employees, according to Google’s recently-published diversity report, while African-Americans and Hispanics comprised only 1 percent and 2 percent respectively of Google’s tech workers.

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