What’s the best way to close the race and gender gap in technology? Get them while they’re young. Teaching computer science to high school students, and even younger, is the best way to get girls and minorities to want a career in technology.

High-school is currently the biggest target for advancement in tech studies, but research shows that the younger the students, the likelier the chance they will focus on computer science and programming as they get older. The emphasis on college graduates and fun start-ups isn’t helping – very few women and minorities are focusing on careers in tech when they leave college.

Georgia Tech’s Barbara Ericson found that the majority of students taking the Advanced Placement Computer Science Test are still predictably white males. The percentage of female test takers was significantly low: 18%. According to the College Board’s findings, only 4% of test takers were African-American while 8% were Latino. In some states, such as Mississippi and Montana, neither females nor minorities participated. Only in California were the rates higher for both groups.

Ericson is finding ways to change this. As the Director of Outreach for Georgia Tech’s Institute for Computing Education, she is constantly implementing new strategies to close the gap, particularly in states that are dominated by white males. She and her colleagues are currently working on a new project that will allow technology classes to count toward state requirements for graduation (in either math or science) as a way to attract more students to computer science.

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