Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, announced earlier this month that the company will give $850,000 to support Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. Barra is focusing on four non-profits that specifically work with young women and minorities. These four programs are Black Girls Code, Institute of Play, Code.org, and Digital Promise. All four companies are well established and promote diversity in STEM education. Barra believes that the future of automakers depends heavily on a deep and diverse pool of skilled engineers. Not only is General Motors interested in helping to ensure a brighter future for these students, but with the rise of automated cars and related technology, the automotive industry needs STEM-skilled employees more than ever, to push forward automotive innovation.
While there have been leaps and bounds made in technological advancements, not everything is equal yet. Computer Science still sees a sizable gender gap in both degrees earned and the number of employed professionals. Barra noted in a recent conference she led at Cadillac House in NYC that women comprise just 18 percent of computer science majors and only 10 percent of information security professionals. A wide gap, indeed. This gap isn’t just limited to adults; it is also seen as early as high school, where female students are less likely to show an interest in or choose classes that are STEM related. There is a lot to be done to close the gender gap here, but many organizations are showing themselves to rise to the occasion.
General Motors hopes that their financial contributions will help to expand and improve access for both women and minorities to quality STEM educational programs. These new contributions come after General Motors partnered with Girls Who Code in January of this year. General Motors contributed $250,000 to expand the Girls Who Code programs, bringing free after-school programs to high schools, universities, and community centers alike. General Motors seems determined to make a difference in STEM education, especially for minorities, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Also aware of this gap is educational robotics company, RoboKind. With the launch of their Robots4STEM program and curriculum, they were also eager to make STEM education accessible to everyone, regardless of income level, ethnicity, or gender. RoboKind started by making their robots racially diverse and is currently developing a female robot. Their program is taught by these robots, using a drag-and-drop coding language called JettLingo. What makes it especially unique is that JettLingo can be used anywhere because of its virtual avatar interface, meaning that any connected device can become a learning tool, both inside and outside the classroom. The Robots4STEM program allows teachers to successfully teach coding with little to no previous experience in the subject, making it easier to be put into more schools nationwide.
Be sure to read the original article by Leon Kaye, featured on Triple Pundit, here.