Best Buy Co. Inc. is investing $600,000 as one of a dozen technology companies involved in the latest initiative by philanthropist Melinda Gates to address the gender gap in technology. Gates wants to double the number of women of color getting degrees in computing by 2025.
Others involved in the project — which goes by the clunky name of Reboot Representation Tech Coalition — include Adobe, Dell, Intel, LinkedIn and Microsoft. The companies have pledged $12 million in all.
Despite a decade of effort to diversity the ranks of the tech industry, the number of women continues to lag well below norms, according to a new report by management consulting firm McKinsey.
The trends are particularly troubling when it comes to black, Latina and Native American women. Their numbers have dropped from an already-paltry 6 percent to a current 4 percent over the past decade, according to the report, which was prepared for Pivotal Ventures, an investment and tech incubation firm created by Gates.
Companies have spent as much as $1.2 billion over the past five years to recruit, retrain and advance the careers of women already in the field. Addressing the chronic underrepresentation of women in the tech field requires “dramatic intervention,” the McKinsey report argues.
Women earn just 19 percent of computing degrees, and most of them go to white women. Although black, Latina and Native American women make up roughly 16 percent of the population, they graduate with only 4 percent of computing degrees.
Gates’ initiative with the tech companies includes focusing corporate social responsibility dollars and diversity efforts toward programs that have a strong track record and that get girls involved at an earlier age.
Less than 0.1 percent of philanthropic giving is aimed at women and girls of color, according to the report, and much of the current investment is directed at middle and high-school students.
Best Buy is involved in several efforts to get more women into the field, recognizing their future workforce needs depend on it.
The Richfield-based retailer has pledged $2 million in additional funding this year to Girls Coding Clubs, a free after-school program for students in grades 6-12 nationwide. It also continues to expand the number of Teen Tech Centers around the country. There now are 20 centers open, with plans to open 60 by 2020.