While philanthropist Melinda Gates spends much of her time working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on ways to resolve and prevent global health crises, she has also brought attention to the lack of women and minorities in the industry where she started her professional career: technology.
"Innovation happens when we approach urgent challenges from every different point of view. Bringing women and underrepresented minorities into the field guarantees that we see the full range of solutions to the real problems that people face in the world," Gates said on Monday to kick off her partnership with Code.org's "Hour of Code" initiative, part of the annual Computer Science Education Week.
During her remarks, Gates called computer literacy an "essential skill" and said computer science has the power to change lives and change the world.
"The more we encourage different kinds of people to get interested in technology the better that future will be," Gates said. "One of the reasons I'm so optimistic about the future is tech can make the impossible possible, but only if we're all involved in the effort. That's what CS education is all about."
As a Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing keynote speaker in October, Gates used her computer programming expertise to reveal the problem with how women are currently led onto a career path in tech and the simple solution to improve inclusion.
"Right now, a lot of diversity efforts focus on women getting into the so-called 'pipeline' but that pipeline isn't producing more than a trickle and has a lot of conditionals built in, a lot of 'if-then' statements, " Gates said.
Examples Gates gave of those conditionals in women's' lives include:
But Gates pointed out that "not everyone is going to meet those conditions and many don't want to and there's no reason they have to in the first place." She proposed that society instead begin from the "premise that people get interested in computing in different ways, at different times in their lives and for very different reasons."
These are the four steps Gates said she would like to see implemented with women as explained as for-loops:
"All of this comes down to the same point: For anyone and everyone who has talents and interest, there should be a way into tech," Gates said. "This is a transformative moment for women, men, tech and the future."
"Women did not create the barriers in tech and we cannot break them down all alone. Male allies are absolutely critical in this work and we'll need more of them. But we can lead the way."
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