Apple is putting more of its money where its mouth is when it comes to building a more diverse workforce for the tech industry. Denise Young-Smith, the company’s head of human resources, revealed in an interview with Forbes that Apple is donating a total of more than $50 million to organizations that aim to boost participation of women and African-Americans in the tech industry.
The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which provides support for students studying at public, historically black colleges and universities like Howard University and Grambling State University, will get more than $40 million. That massive infusion of cash – the fund’s largest ever – will be used to “create a database of computer science majors at HBCUs, train both students and faculty and offer scholarships.” Apple will also create a paid internship program for students from those colleges.
Apple is also giving the National Center for Women in Technology about $10 million to double the number of four-year degree recipients who are receiving support from the organization through its resources including internships and scholarships, as well as encourage 10,000 middle school girls to join the tech industry.
Ultimately, the contribution addresses only part of the problem when it comes to diversity in the tech industry. Helping to create opportunities for women and people of color to enter the industry is an important, but ultimately easier move than improving a culture that often systematically excludes them. A MIT study published last year showed that men were 60 percent more likely to succeed at startup pitch competitions than women, with gender accounting for 42 percent of that difference. Working in the tech industry can be difficult for African-Americans, who often face pressure to conform in a workplace where they’re vastly underrepresented. Then, there are the instances of outright bigotry and harassment.
The news comes the same day as the company’s annual shareholders meeting, where Rev. Jesse Jackson is expected to speak in support of the Cupertino-based company’s diversity efforts. Jackson, through the RainbowPUSH Coalition, has advocated strongly for greater diversity in the tech industry over the past year, making appearances at shareholder meetings for Microsoft, Google, Facebook and other tech giants.