Microsoft is working with the National Society of Black Engineers and hiring and promoting African-American programmers and engineers.
“The United States is not turning out from any group as many of the great engineers as there will be jobs for,” said Gates, who added that blacks are particularly underrepresented in the tech industry because high school dropout rates in the black community exceed 50%.
“That is a stunning number … the trends are very much working against somebody in that situation,” said Gates, speaking Friday at a conference hosted by the National Society of Black Engineers at Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters.
“There will be a huge number of computer science jobs created over the next 10 years, and the number of people majoring in those subjects is falling short of that,” said Gates.
According to a study by the National Science Foundation, fewer than 6,000 of the 52,500 computer science graduates in the U.S. in 2004 were black. “The shallow pool of skills is due, in part, to the lack of minorities being drawn into technology,” said NSBE executive director Carl Mack, in a statement.
Microsoft, named by the NSBE on Tuesday as the top employer for black engineers, said it’s trying to change that by partnering with NSBE and hiring and promoting African-American programmers and engineers.
The company also announced a software developer grant to the NSBE that gives its members a three-year membership in the Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance. The memberships give NSBE faculty and students access to a range of Microsoft products and technologies, including Windows Vista, SQL Server, and Visual Studio.
Gates said Friday that Microsoft will continue its efforts to build a diverse workforce. “We want to get black engineers, Hispanic engineers … everyone that we can,” he said.