The Coding School stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and unequivocally condemns the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Tony McDade and countless other Black lives that have been taken away as a result of police brutality and systematic racism. We have yet to make a statement until this point because we wanted to make sure we were not pushing words without action. Thus, we’ve taken the time to critically reflect and examine what we can be doing to further the call for reform and justice in the field of technology — which impacts and influences every aspect of society.
Data and technology at large are often seen as neutral and non-bias, but unfortunately, this is not the case. Biases in technology include gender, age, disabilities, and socioeconomic status, as well as racial bias. For example, self-driving cars are less likely to detect Black and dark-skinned individuals, and thus, Black individuals are more likely to be hurt — or even killed — by autonomous vehicles.
Since Day 1 of The Coding School’s founding, we have been committed to promoting diversity in tech. One of our main initiatives, codeConnects, is centered on this premise by providing 1:1 coding lessons to underrepresented students, including Black students and other students of color, females, those with learning disabilities, and from disadvantaged backgrounds. But in our time of reflection, we’ve realized that it’s not enough to simply ensure there are more Black engineers at technology companies; we must also ensure that all individuals who are designing technologies are adequately trained to address their biases to create inclusive technologies to benefit all.
The Coding School is committed to developing the next generation of inclusive technologists. By this we mean, we are committed to not only providing the most in-depth technical training possible to students but also must equip them with the necessary tools and education to create inclusive technologies that help address inequalities, not exacerbate them.
To this end, our commitment is two-fold:
- Continue to train and support the next generation of Black technologists
- Educate the next generation of engineers on bias and ethics in technology and provide tools and educational training so they can create more inclusive technologies through design, engineering, and management
Our Actionable Next Steps:
- Advisory committee — Form an advisory committee to advise on how we can ensure the next generation of technologists are inclusive and ethical in their practices and thoughts.
- Webinars — Change begins with conversations. To this end, we will be hosting webinars discussing racial biases in tech for students grades 3–12 starting on June 20th. Our goal is to make these discussions accessible to students — especially those who have never thought about bias in technology — so we can start the conversation about how future engineers, programmers, marketers, managers, and designers can begin addressing these biases that up to this point have been allowed to prominently be integrated into technology.
- Bias and ethics training — Simply highlighting problems does little to effect change without education and hands-on training. We are proud to introduce bias and ethics training for our students that will be developed by an interdisciplinary team of experts — including researchers focused on diversity, STEM, and ethics, diversity and inclusion officers, and professional engineers and designers. This will be the first program of its kind to provide in-depth, multidisciplinary training to be able to detect biases in coding programs and design, and furthermore, apply ethical thinking to the engineering and design process. While there will always be difficult decisions to make and it would be remiss of us to consider that any type of technology will do no harm, we must equip the next generation with the skills to think critically and ethically about what they are developing.
Beyond The Coding School
Many tech companies have come out with statements of support for racial equality and have donated to various organizations but have done little in examining their own policies and technologies to see how they could better promote and create inclusive technologies and work cultures. We commend IBM’s recent decision to stop selling their facial recognition technology to police departments, and we ask that all tech companies examine how they can help end racial inequalities and biases through their own work.
At The Coding School, we will continue to educate ourselves on racial biases and inequalities in tech. We do not have all of the answers, but we are committed to joining the long-term fight to achieve racial justice in tech. Below we have included a list of books, articles, and resources we have found helpful in better understanding the role technology often plays in perpetuating inequalities and disparities among various groups.
- Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil — Highlights how big data is often used to reinforce societal inequalities
- Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Noble
- “When Bias is Coded Into Our Technology” by Jennifer Lee
- TedTalks on bias in tech
Kiera Peltz and The Coding School team