The White House Brings Back ‘We the Geeks’ Series to Celebrate Black Talent in STEM

White House response to diversity problems in tech

Today’s biggest tech giants and other major corporations have been doing their best to drive diversity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) after reports recently revealed just how many white males dominated the space. Now, the government is also adding to the conversation with the return of “We the Geeks.”

The White House recently announced that in honor of Black History Month, the special Google + Hangout series will be making a return and making a point to highlight the “untold stories of African Americans in STEM.”

The series, which returns Wednesday at 2 p.m. EST, will bring “extraordinary students, scientists, engineers and inventors” together to talk “about how they got inspired to pursue STEM and how they are paying it forward to help engage America’s full and diverse STEM talent pool.”

According to the White House’s official website, the series of guests will include Rachel Harrison Gordon, presidential innovation fellow; Marvin Carr, student volunteer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Nicolas Badila, winner of the National STEM Video Game Challenge, and several other leaders in STEM.

The website claims the return of the Google + Hangout series is a federal response to the lack of diversity in STEM.

“Today, minorities remain considerably underrepresented in many areas of the Nation’s STEM student-pool and workforce,” the website reads. “This is a squandered opportunity for our country and for those bright, creative individuals who might otherwise help solve the problems we face as a country and enjoy STEM careers — the kind of careers that not only make a positive difference in the world, but also pay more than non-STEM jobs.”

In addition to the Google + Hangout special, the White House also hosted a virtual Edit-a-Thon on Tuesday.

The Edit-a-Thon allowed “researchers, students, and expert Wikipedia-editors” to “convene in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building for a two-hour editing sprint to research and crowd-source the stories of African American STEM all-stars.”

Youth for Technology’s New Program Uses 3-D Printing to Get Girls in Africa Interested in STEM

Young African women in STEM

Youth for Technology is taking a different approach to get girls in Africa interested in STEM subjects. While many programs and initiatives focus on coding or Web design, the 3D Africa program is making the most of 3-D printing technology to show the young girls just how fun STEM can be.

There has been an ongoing mission to get more Black girls interested in STEM careers, and that mission is especially dire in Africa.

African leaders and entrepreneurs believe investing in such technologies like 3-D printing could boost the continent’s economy.

Njideka Harry, the president and CEO of Youth for Technology, told TechCruch that 3-D printing “potentially could mitigate the unemployment situation in Africa by bridging the gap between education and employment.”

Harry said that 3-D printing alone is expected to generate roughly $550 billion a year worldwide by 2025.

That type of economic impact could cause major change across the continent but only if the next generation of innovators takes advantage of such opportunities.

Youth for Technology is vowing to make sure young African women are ready to compete in STEM careers and thrive in the 3-D printing industry.

It has already received a grant from Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech) to help fund the 3-D printing program and also launched an Indiegogo campaign to get more financial backing.

The program’s organizers believe 3-D printing is a great approach to getting girls interested in tech because the items they create will always serve was a reminder of the endless possibilities of science, technology, engineering and math.

The girls also will have to use all those skills in order to create their desired items with the printer.

Harry hopes it will encourage the young women to blaze their own trails in an industry that is currently dominated by men.

“There are cultural biases that hold that science is the domain of males and that it is not important for girls’ future lives and that girls are not as capable as boys when it comes to science learning,” Harry said.

Harry is hoping to boost young women’s confidence and inspire them to take more STEM subjects while they are still in school.

3D Africa will launch first in Nigeria, and Harry hopes to expand the program to other African countries after the first year.


10 of the Best HBCUs for Students Pursuing STEM Careers

As our world depends more and more on technology, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers will be in high demand. This list shows the historically Black colleges and universities that awarded the most STEM degrees to students within the sample year of 2008-09. According to a 2012 study, Texas Southern professors Emiel W. Owens, Andrea J. Shelton, Collette M. Bloom and  J. Kenyatta Cavil also found that the schools listed below have produced the most STEM graduates from HBCUs.


Howard University

Located in the heart of Washington D.C., this university awarded 166 different STEM degrees.

vier_University__New_Orleans__public_domain__0Xavier University of Louisiana

This university in New Orleans awarded 159 science, technology, engineering and math degrees.

Starting With the Youth: iUrban Teen Tackles Tech’s Diversity Problem at Its Core

Tech's diversity problem

As the tech industry continues to battle a serious diversity problem, one program has emerged as a leader in getting Black youths interested in, exposed to and engaged in STEM careers.

iUrban Teen has garnered attention on a national scale and has been a front-runner when it comes to not only exposing young people of color to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers, but also getting them actively engaged in the field at a young age.

“What truly motivated me to create iUrban Teen was the fact that a lot of folks in diverse communities don’t know about the opportunities that are available in STEM careers,” said Deena Pierott, iUrban Teen founder and chief innovator. “This is powerful information to share and I wanted to create a vehicle where we not only told them, we also showed them.”

Many of today’s tech giants are dishing out millions of dollars to create diversity boards, hire new advisers and find other ways to boost diversity within their company walls, but iUrban Teen is attacking Silicon Valley’s diversity issue at its very core.

While unusually high barriers to entry have been plaguing Black people who are interested in STEM careers, there are also far fewer applicants interested in breaking through those walls.

Several studies and successful tech entrepreneurs have pointed to the fact that many Black children are not exposed to the wonders of technology due to insufficient funding in school or a lack of access to mentors.

Thanks to iUrban Teen, that problem may not persist much longer.

STEM programs for Black youth “We’re solving the digital divide,” Pierott, who is also the CEO of Mosaic Blueprint, continued. “We’re solving the problem of exclusion by sharing information with parents and teens about avenues of opportunities and how to get there.”

The program focuses on educating young Black males between the ages of 13 and 18 about STEM careers and giving them the skills they need to have a solid foundation to build on if they want to pursue such a career path.

The program is also unique for its integration of the arts with STEM, proving to the Black youth that the opportunities in the STEM field are far more diverse than just coding and number crunching.

It also equips the teens with “new perspectives” of the STEM field that could make them truly valuable to the biggest tech giants of the future.

From Teen Tech Summits to STEM+Art Tours, the program hosts a variety of ways to get students of color to dive head first into the tech space and take the first step toward creating a successful future.

That, Pierott says, is more rewarding than any of the major coveted awards that iUrban Teen has earned in the past.

“I could say [my greatest achievement] was the White House honor or the Rockefeller Foundation nomination, or any of the other honors,” she said, but instead there were simpler moments that truly meant the world to Pierott. “My greatest achievement was to receive an email from a mother who said, ‘Thank you for what you do, it was always so difficult trying to get my sons to talk about school, careers, etc., however, every time we attend an iUrban Teen event we talk for hours about the possibilities.’ That’s my greatest achievement — that we make a difference.”

While many Black youth can learn a lot from the programs, there is also a lot they can learn from Pierott herself.

In today’s job market and economy, only the daring, the bold and the strong have the ability to take a leap of faith to become the head of their own companies.

It’s an accomplishment that not many get to boast, but Pierott certainly has more than enough bragging rights.

Even as she stands as a successful businesswoman today, however, she reminds people that the road there wasn’t free of obstacles.

iUrban Teen The key was to embrace those obstacles and “fail forward.”

“I’m pretty flexible and I know how to fail forward,” she said. “Meaning, I’m not afraid of failing on a project. I just try a different approach.”

The hard work paid off and Pierott achieved great things while her mother was still alive to witness it.

Pierott’s mother died just one day after she received her first major award in October of 2010.

“I was extremely close to my mother and was also her caregiver,” she said. “She was diagnosed with dementia in 2007 and that’s when I decided to leave my job and start my own business at home so that I could take care of her. It was important for me to allow her to see me be successful with my business while she still knew who I was. So I worked and worked and worked on my business model. Receiving the MED Week Minority Business of the Year for Mosaic Blueprint was a highpoint for me and for my mother who was there to see it.”


Blerdology Founder Continues Mission to Empower Young Women Through STEM

Michelle in Training

Before she launched Blerdology, tech savvy entrepreneur Kat Calvin was busy putting young girls all across the Washington, D.C., area in training to become successful, educated leaders in life.

Blerdology hosted its inaugural event in 2012 and marked the first nonprofit hackathon series specifically geared toward African-American women in the tech community.

As it turns out, however, the hackathon was only the latest venture from founder Calvin who has dedicated much of her time to empowering young women through science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Roughly four years ago, Calvin launched Michelle in Training, a nonprofit organization that teaches young women the type of skills they need to become successful leaders and possibly the next tech entrepreneurs of their generation.

“Our mission is to teach college-bound high school girls the professional and life skills they need to succeed,” Calvin said to Atlanta Blackstar.

While the nonprofit doesn’t only focus on technology-based skills, it does take a particular focus on making sure young women are introduced to STEM careers.

“We have a special focus on STEM because these days that is a profession and a life skill,” Calvin said.

Last year, Calvin explained exactly why she considered STEM skills like coding to be so essential for the young women who are a part of her organization.

“If you can code, you can find a job, especially like now – every single thing is done [online],” Calvin said on her website. “Even if you run a brick and mortar [store] selling antique buttons, you have to have a website! If you code and you can develop a website, you will have a job. Coders and graphic designers at the end of the earth will be the only people who still have jobs.”

In addition to making the D.C. girls a little more tech savvy, the nonprofit also focuses on “study skills, health and wellness, etiquette and appropriate dress, leaders” and much more.

According to Calvin, these are the skills that can help mold the young soon-to-be first generation college students into strong, confident professionals.

The core values of the organization are the skills that Calvin insists many students aren’t learning in urban high schools, according to the official Michelle in Training website.

“Social intelligence, philanthropy, cultural awareness, educational curiosity, civic responsibility and personal branding,” are all listed as core values at Michelle in Training and are often referred to as “MiT skills.”

Other exciting activities that MiT girls have been a part of include outdoor camping trips, archery classes and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet President Barack Obama.


Chicago’s Ambitious Computer Science Program Could Help Close Diversity Gap in STEM Careers

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has launched an extremely ambitious computer science program and it could ultimately help increase diversity in the tech field.

It was only a few months ago that major tech companies like Facebook and Google revealed that only about 2 percent of their employees are Black.

Since those diversity reports were made public, people have been scrambling to find the solution to the lack of diversity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

One solution has always stood out above the rest, however, and that’s education.

Experts believe the key to generating more diversity in STEM careers is to first make sure minorities have access to the type of education that could prepare them for such a career path.

Thanks to Emanuel, Chicago’s youth will have that type of access.

According to, the Chicago mayor has teamed up with to bring computer science classes to every public school in the Windy City.

Every grade from kindergarten to high school will soon have computer science classes as a mandatory part of their curriculum.

CNN Money revealed that high school students won’t even be allowed to graduate without meeting certain computer science requirements.

“In three years’ time, you can’t graduate from high school in the city of Chicago if you didn’t take code writing and computer science,” Emanuel announced at a tech conference. “We’re making it mandatory.”

Emanuel announced the plan last December and now there is an increasingly large need for the plan to come to fruition.

Nearly 40 percent of Chicago’s public school students are Black. More than 45 percent are Hispanic.

If computer science programs are successfully integrated into the school’s curriculum, that means thousands of minority students will be given the type of skills that could eventually grow into a budding career in Silicon Valley.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the plan is to have computer science incorporated in the schools’ curriculum even at the elementary level.

“Just having kids jump into computer science at the high school level, they don’t have a good context for it,” said Cameron Wilson of to CNN Money. “Having them exposed early and building on concepts year after year is really important.”

And that’s exactly what the mayor and authorities have in mind. has already successfully partnered with 30 school districts in order to promote computer science education, but the partnership with Chicago is the most ambitious one yet.

“This plan will also compete with countries where children take coding classes as early as first grade and create an environment where we can support the next Bill Gates and Marissa Mayer,” Emanuel added.

In addition to being a major step toward adding diversity to the tech industry, this could also help close the major deficit of workers needed in computer science careers.

It was recently revealed that by 2020, there will be 4.2 million job positions for computer science. Based on the current number of computer science students in college and employees already working in the computer science field, there won’t be enough people to fill all those positions.

Exposing students to computer science at a young age and building on those skills throughout their years in school, however, could spark an interest in the field and make the future graduating classes out of Chicago viable candidates to fill those positions.


Even Tech Pioneer Ken Coleman Can’t Escape Racism’s Persistent Grasp

Ken Coleman still faces racism despite impressive achievements

Technology pioneer Ken Coleman has earned an MBA, worked in the technology space since the ’70s and has held several leadership roles at Silicon Graphics.

Despite such an impressive resume, Coleman knows none of that really matters when it comes to racial profiling by police and racial bias in the industry.

There is a common misconception that if African-Americans simply “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” they can overcome racism completely.

Coleman knows that’s not true.

If anyone has worked hard and managed to reach incredible feats despite racism in America, it’s Coleman; but that hasn’t changed how others perceive him.

During an interview with USA Today, Coleman revealed that when he gets pulled over by police officers he is very well aware that to them he is just another Black man – and that puts him in a dangerous position.

“When I’m stopped, I want to say, ‘I’m not what you think, I’ve got an MBA, I live in Los Altos Hills, I own a home in Maui,’ ” Coleman said. “I want to say that because I know through experience that person might have an image of what I might be and view me as dangerous. And to not feel that way would be foolish.”

Some people may look at all the things Coleman has managed to accomplish and believe he serves as living proof that there is no real diversity issue or racial bias in the technology space.

Once again, Coleman knows that’s not the case.

While he certainly boasts an incredibly impressive resume, Coleman asked a very important question during his interview with USA Today.

“The real question is — what might I have done or been if I had been white?” he said while still holding a smile, according to USA Today.

The 69-year-old Silicon Valley veteran explained that there were many times he was passed up for opportunities that were given to his white counterparts who were less qualified for the position.

While the same white counterparts were being added to company boards, Coleman accepted numerous requests to join nonprofit boards that sought diversity.

From there, he “worked it hard to show people how [he] could be helpful as an adviser to a company.”

The unfortunate truth is that we will never know how just much more accomplished Coleman could have been had he been white in Silicon Valley.

Recent diversity reports released from major tech companies like Google, Yahoo and Apple revealed the stunning lack of diversity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

Only 2 percent of many of the companies’ employees were African-American and those employees rarely held any leadership positions within the company.

“Diversity doesn’t happen naturally,” Coleman said. “Social systems, which a company is, want to reproduce themselves. If a founder went to Harvard, they’ll want to replicate that.”

The solution to the diversity issue, in Coleman’s eyes, is to look at things a little differently.

“I don’t think diversity should be a deficit model,” he explained to USA Today. “It’s an opportunity model. If I know something you don’t know about the marketplace because of my staff, I will beat you. And that’s something every company out there should be concerned about.”

Watch Coleman’s full discussion about the lack of diversity in the tech industry below:


Could A Boost In Diversity Be The Solution to Filling Up Tech Jobs Over The Next Six Years

By the year 2020, a staggering 1.4 million job positions will be left unfilled, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The growing gap between the number of positions in the tech space and the number of qualified workers available to fill them has members of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field worried about what the future may hold.

As it turns out, however, the solution to a rather daunting problem could be to boost diversity within the field.

As Twitter, Facebook and other tech giants revealed earlier this year, minorities are struggling to find their way into the tech field. Some are finding it hard to find entry while others can’t seem to find interest.

If things continue the way they are, 70 percent of all STEM positions will be left unfilled in less than six years.

“There’s a huge pipeline problem,” Van Jones, the former special adviser for green jobs to the Obama administration, told The Guardian. “It’s across IT, Silicon Valley and yes, cleantech.”

Many entrepreneurs in the STEM field are taking action by reaching out to minorities in hopes that increasing diversity could also help close the STEM worker gap.

Jones launched #YesWeCode back in July along with Fission Strategy CEO Cheryl Contee. #YesWeCode reaches out to underprivileged youth and tries to spark their interest in STEM careers.

If the program is able to successfully complete its mission, it will create a pipeline of 100,000 children who will already have sufficient knowledge of coding and other skills that will make them ideal candidates for STEM careers.

Minorities are currently severely underrepresented in the tech business despite the fact that many reports suggest that minorities, particularly African-Americans, use technology more often than their white counterparts.

The cleantech industry presents an even more disappointing array of statistics simply because it has decided not to share its statistics at all.

While Google and Facebook have agreed to make commitments to addressing the diversity issues within their companies and being more transparent with the public, cleantech companies are keeping quiet on the matter.

A recent report by Dorchet Taylor, a University of Michigan professor, revealed that minorities only represent 16 percent of leadership or staff positions at environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), foundations and government agencies.

Despite their lack of representation in the cleantech workforce, minorities represent nearly 40 percent of the overall population.

“The creator class doesn’t reflect its consumers,” Contee told The Guardian. “That means that there are problems not getting solved.”

In addition to preparing young minorities for STEM careers and getting major companies to open their doors to a more diverse staff, it’s also key that minorities are encouraged to look into STEM careers.

Contee explained that STEM careers need to be portrayed in a way that will be “attractive” to minorities, especially when minority children are often not exposed to or educated about these types of careers.

“Nobody in a community of color will be motivated by the word ‘sustainability,’” he said. “Even the way we talk to communities of color has to be different.”

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas also pointed out that minorities are often the most impacted by environmental distress yet they are the “least capable to effect change.”

“We don’t just want to integrate the sustainable place, we want a diversity of ideas,” she said.

Preparing minority youths for STEM careers, sparking their interest in the field and getting major tech companies on board with increasing diversity may not be the sole solution to closing a 1.4 million STEM employee gap, but it’s certainly a powerful step in the right direction.

30 Young African Women Prepare to Revolutionize STEM Careers

A group of high school girls from South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia are prepared to revolutionize STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers by breaking down the barriers that often leave women excluded from such career paths.

On Aug. 30, the Taungana Movement STEM Expo awarded 30 young ladies with certificates to prove they have been given the skills and knowledge that will allow them to compete with their male counterparts for careers in STEM industries.

The annual expo is part of the Taungana movement that aims to take young African women from rural and disadvantaged communities and allow them to receive the type of specialized training and professional experience that many white males have become accustomed to.

The organization was founded in 2013, making it a relatively new program, but the support for the program has already grown substantially.

Taungana was set up in partnership with South Africa’s STEM IT Forward, TechWomen Zimbabwe and Zambia’s Asikana Network.

The program also boasts impressive partners and mentors from companies like BMW, Anglo America, SAA, Eskom, NECSA, Thoughtworks Africa and the Innovation Hub.

The attendees at the expo were given the opportunity to visit all of these companies and speak to professionals who are already thriving in the fields that the young students hope to conquer one day.

For one of the attendees, 17-year-old Sibongumusa Xaba from Zimbabwe, the program gave her a better idea of what career path she wants to pursue.

“What I enjoyed the most was yesterday’s seminar with Dr. Thenjiwe Hlongwane from a hospital here in Johannesburg because I want to become a gynecologist,” she told Htxt.Africa. “Now I really have a better idea of the career path I have chosen.”

The expo focused on more than just education and training. It also made sure it worked to inspire the girls to conquer all the obstacles they are sure to face as they move forward in their career goals.

As the founder of Taungana, Sandra Tererai from Zimbabwe explained it is not common to see Black women working in STEM careers.

“Being in this industry, usually I’m the only female when I’m at meetings, and it’s very rare to see females in companies’ management,” she said. “I’m typically surrounded by males.”

She then began pondering why there weren’t more women at those meetings and working in those management positions.

“So I started thinking why there aren’t more women at the table,” she said. “Is it that they were never exposed to the industry? The drop-out rate of women studying STEM courses? That’s where the passion to get young girls interested in STEM came from.”

For 14-year-old Chipo Manda from Zambia, the program certainly served as a powerful form of inspiration. She hopes to pursue a career in medicine in the future and said that the expo taught her not to let any major challenges stand in her way.

“Dr. Hlongwane told us that being in medicine is hard, but if that’s what you want to do, then go for it, she really inspired me,” Chipo said.

In the future, Tererai hopes to expand the expo to more countries in Africa and bring in even more students who are passionate about changing the face of STEM careers.