The first computer programmer was a woman. In the 1940's, more women than men were employed as human computers. As dramatized in this year's movie, "Hidden Figures," in the early 1960's, NASA employed African-American women mathematicians Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson to calculate how to launch astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and return him safely to earth.
Back in the early 1980's, the ratio of women computer science majors in college was approaching parity with men. But something started to happen around 1985 that caused women and minorities to lose ground in tech to this day. The reasons have been explored in some depth, in an award winning documentary and many, many articles.
It's time we changed this for the better. Five years ago, the StartFast Venture Accelerator decided to achieve gender parity, and we've done it every year since (parity in CEOs, team members, and interns, but not investors). In StartFast Code, our first cohort was diverse and somewhat gender balanced (5 women, 7 men). How can you help?
Here are five things you can do to help heal the digital divide:
Be supportive. Experts say women and minorities can struggle to overcome a confidence gap, a lack of support from their peers, and the challenge of building a career while raising a family. Changing your mind and words can help change the world.
Give financial help. Despite efforts to drive young people into STEM classes women and minorities still make up just 26 percent of the computing workforce. You can make a difference by donating to a StartFast Code student. You can designate the student the gift is for, or we'll apply your gift to a student who needs your help.
Invest. Even though there are several VC funds for female founders, women make up just 11 percent of tech executives at privately held venture-backed companies. You can help by investing in the StartFast Venture Accelerator, and our amazing diverse and woman-led startups.
Hire our grads. StartFast Code is about to graduate it's first class of Full Stack developers. These are amazing people who have taken the initiative and spent 6 long months training hard. Believe me, you want these people on your team. To paraphrase Ryan Bingham in Up in the Air, "Hire them and don't look back. It'll be the best decision you've made in a long time."