By Robert Stitt
Major tech firms such as Apple, Facebook, Intel, Google, Microsoft and IBM have been taking heat for the past few years because of their lack of overall diversity and extreme lack of diversity within their management staff. Minority rights groups, including those led by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, have called on the large tech firms to make necessary changes to bring ethnic minorities into their ranks.
While each of the firms has acknowledged their challenges and put millions of dollars into initiatives designed to improve diversity, none have made a significant inroad into addressing and solving the root of the problems. Until now.
Apple announced that they will partner with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to create a “pipeline” to bring black students into their ranks through a program called “The Apple HBCU Scholars Program.” Johnny C. Taylor Jr., President of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund noted, “Many companies talk about wanting a more diverse workforce. Apple is actually demonstrating its commitment—and in a big way. Apple is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to workforce diversity.”
The program will be the first to specifically target students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). According to The Root, HBCUs “graduate thousands of students in science, technology, engineering and math fields.” Yet, these students are not ending up in the big tech firms.
The “pipeline” will take approximately 30 seniors or graduate students who have at least a 3.3 GPA and award them $25,000, approve a comprehensive 10-day visit to the company before their internship, and then a three-month internship. Each student will have an Apple employee assigned to them during their time at Apple headquarters.
This year, 31 students received the opportunity. M. Scott Lily, vice president of programs at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, said, “We’ve always thought we could identify and deploy talent into the world’s greatest organizations, and now, we have the opportunity to do that and really do something historic. There’s nothing like this Apple scholarship program.
If this program is a success, it could be the impetus needed to create similar programs in the other major tech firms. If it is not successful, there will be a platform from which to build. Either way, this is a great step forward.