Common sense would suggest that having programmers
from different backgrounds would lead to a diversity of
ideas. Do you have any examples from your organization
that support this notion?
Code.org’s own team is mostly female, our leadership team
is gender balanced, and even our tech team boasts better
gender diversity than the industry average. We believe this
has played a large role in the diversity results our courses
show in America’s classrooms. We also pilot our courses and
our ideas with a nationwide network of about 400 teaching
experts that also bring a diversity of opinions. I’ve seen tech
companies make embarrassing product design decisions
because the design team didn’t have diversity in mind, and
we’ve never had that problem at Code.org.
“ CODE.ORG DOESN’T
TRY TO INCREASE
COMPUTER SCIENCE BY
FAKING WHAT IT’S
ABOUT, OR BY DUMBING
IT DOWN, OR BY
COLORING IT PINK.”
In a Reddit thread last August, James Damore criticized
organizations including Girls Who Code and Code.org for
encouraging a “women are victims” narrative. He also
accused you of making coding look more “people oriented than it really is” in order to attract more women. What
is your response to these criticisms?
Code.org doesn’t try to increase diversity in computer science by faking what it’s about, or by dumbing it down, or by
coloring it pink, so to speak. We achieve diversity by broadening access, by teaching computer science as early as kindergarten before stereotypes kick in, and by expanding it from
being a math course to include app-making and creativity. Our
students pass the high school A.P. computer science exam in
larger numbers than any other group, and with strong diversity. Our results speak for themselves.
Do you believe it’s possible that the gender gap is not
evidence of discrimination or unequal opportunity? Why
or why not?
It could be wrong to assume that unequal outcomes are
only a result of unequal opportunity. But when the majority
of schools don’t even offer the opportunity to study computer
science, and this access is particularly limited in underprivileged urban and rural neighborhoods, the data easily shows
that inequality of opportunity is the problem.
How can we create tech workplaces that are more
welcoming to all employees?
At Code.org, we strive to create a workplace that makes
employees feel included regardless of gender, race, age, or
politics. This isn’t just about policies like paid family leave or
unconscious bias training for employees, but it’s also about
considering inclusivity as a core goal of the organization that
employees genuinely take to heart.
What hiring practices do you use to promote diversity?
Considering there are fewer women and minorities enter-
ing the computer science workforce, do you find balancing
your diversity efforts with a more merit-based approach to
be a conflict of interest?
Diversity is a core value at Code.org, and we strive for a
diverse workforce to the extent that we can. We don’t consider it a matter of balancing diversity with a more merit-based
approach—that implies that we compromise one for the other.
It’s a matter of making the best effort to staff a team that is diverse and has merit. The most important tactics we use are to
proactively recruit diverse candidates and to screen resumes
without knowing the race or gender of applicants to prevent
unconscious bias. As one example, when we were hiring
software engineers from university, we hid their names when
screening the resumes, and afterwards when we looked at
the names we picked, our best candidates were women.
Donna Schill Cleveland is the Editor in Chief of iPhone Life magazine. After a short stint
as a ne wspaper reporter, she became web editor at i Phone Life, where she continues to
pair her penchant for storytelling with her love of Apple products. Donna holds a master’s degree from the University of Io wa School of Journalism & Mass Communication.