The tech industry is responsible for the some of the most life-changing innovations of the past few decades. From the Internet to smartphones to the apps we use every single day, tech touches basically every part of our everyday lives. But while the tech industry’s audience ranges far and wide, the actual engineers, developers, and CEOs behind the products and services we rely on are overwhelmingly white and male, with women and people of color vastly underrepresented in the field.
According to statistics published by the National Center for Women & Information Technology, in 2017, women made up only 26% of the professional computing workforce in the United States. When you look at shares of that percentage by race, the stats only get worse: Black women made up 3% of 2017’s computing workforce, Asian women 5%, and Hispanic women only 1%.
Luckily, organizations like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code, and celebs like Karlie Kloss, known for her Kode With Klossy summer camps that now teach up to 1,000 girls per summer how to code, have led and joined the charge to diversify the industry. And recently, global superstar Priyanka Chopra has lended her power to advocating for the continued growth of coding education opportunities for underrepresented communities, by investing in and becoming a trustee for the Holberton School, a coding academy that teaches students a comprehensive full-stack curriculum — all without charging any tuition up front — with a goal to find people who “might not come across as fitting the usual ‘software engineer’ profile, but will nonetheless become leaders once in the industry, and give them the means to become just that,” according to their website.
“Technology is playing an increasingly important role in our lives, and yet too many people are being excluded from the opportunities that are arising from this shift,” Priyanka told Teen Vogue in an email. “This exclusion not only robs millions of people of potentially life-changing opportunities; the lack of diversity in tech also significantly impacts how technology is being built and even what gets built.”
Teen Vogue caught up with Priyanka to find out more about why Holberton’s mission strikes a chord and her favorite apps from which aspiring coders and tech entrepreneurs can gain inspiration.
Teen Vogue: What made you get involved with the Holberton School?
Priyanka Chopra: I was instantly attracted to their way of thinking and operating. I was excited to learn that Holberton School teaches students from all walks of life how to code. Unlike traditional schools that cost a lot of money and can send students into lifelong debt, Holberton charges no tuition up front. Students repay the tuition from a percentage of their salaries only when they find a job. The graduates get meaningful, interesting, and well-paying jobs at companies like Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Tesla. I’m inspired by the school’s mission and am excited to show women what they can accomplish.
TV: Why is it so important to you to get young women involved in tech?
PC: Only 25% of all IT jobs in the U.S. are held by women today. Yet, technology already plays such an outsized role in our lives, and that’s only growing. It’s imperative for women to be more involved in the creation of the technology that is impacting all of us so directly. We absolutely must take control of our future by learning the language of our future: technology. Without women actively contributing to what’s built, we’ve seen that technology can be coded in a way that includes racial and gender bias.
TV: What do you want young women to know about technology and the role it plays in all of our lives?
PC: I encourage young women to give coding a try. Just look at the amazing ways that technology is being used to enrich every aspect of our lives: education, retail, transportation, health, entertainment, even human connectedness. The only limits lie in our imaginations! I encourage young women to think big and then develop the skill sets — including technology literacy — to help transform their dreams into reality.
TV: What are some apps you recommend for Teen Vogue readers?
PC: There are so many! First of all, I think it’s vitally important that young people 18 years and older vote! Samantha Bee created the This is Not a Game: The Game app to help encourage young people to vote. Of course, in order to vote, it’s important to be informed. There are numerous fantastic news sources, many of them with apps, but Quartz and theSkimm are great options. Safety is also important, so bSafe is a good one in that regard. I think it’s important for women to take control of their finances, so Mint and Personal Capital can help with that. Finally, it’s important to have some fun! I recently invested in Bumble, which is a social network that encourages women to make the first move in relationship building, whether that’s dating, friendships, or business/career-driven.
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Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: How I Fought the Lack of Diversity at My Silicon Valley Tech Job