Google, Howard University team up to fix Silicon Valley’s diversity problem

Google is partnering with historically black institution Howard University on a new endeavor in order to bring more black engineers into Silicon Valley. Called Howard West, the three-month residency program will give Howard’s computer science students the opportunity to learn from both Google engineers and university staff. It’s a solid move toward breaking Silicon Valley’s usual hiring patterns, which have garnered significant criticism for lacking diversity.

“Howard West will produce hundreds of industry-ready Black computer science graduates, future leaders with the power to transform the global technology space into a stronger, more accurate reflection of the world around us,” Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick said in a statement. By bringing promising young engineers into Silicon Valley, Frederick and Google hope that the barriers keeping black engineers from getting jobs in tech will eventually break down. These students will get to make their own connections in the industry and shatter stereotypes. Then, as they rise professionally, they’ll continue to feed a more diverse and inclusive Silicon Valley with fresh talent.

The program will kick off this summer with 25 to 30 students. Over the next five years, the goal is for a total of 740 students to participate. Junior and senior computer science students will be eligible, and they’ll earn 12 course credits over the three-month period. To offset costs, participants will be funded by a stipend that will cover living and housing expenses in Silicon Valley.

This actually isn’t Google’s (or other tech companies’) first time working with Howard University. In fact, Howard West is an extension of Google in Residence, an existing program that places Google engineers as instructors at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including Howard.

Even with those relationships in place though, Silicon Valley has struggled to hire—and retain—workers that aren’t just white men. Over the past few years, Google has made its diversity numbers public, and made efforts to educate employees by offering classes on diversity and discrimination. Those have made little impact, though: In tech roles, Google is currently 57 percent white and only 1 percent black. Hopefully, Howard West participants can finally help change those numbers.

H/T The Verge

Christina Bonnington

Christina Bonnington

Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.