In 2014, large tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple released diversity reports showing their workforce was majority white men. Since then, the number of people of color at these companies has changed very little. According to the study “Does STEM Stand Out? Examining Racial/Ethnic Gaps in Persistence Across Postsecondary Fields“, one-third of minority students drop STEM majors; and experts speculate the main reasons for this issue is minority students are being “pushed away from the field”.
Moe Hay Kaung, a rising senior at Mills, is leading the Google-affiliated student developer club at Mills. Her goals are to help share tech opportunities with students of color and LGBTQ+ identifying students within an industry that primarily focuses on students majoring in STEM. She believes that there needs to be more career representation of Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) in the tech industry.
Kaung noticed that BIPOC and first-generation students in and out of STEM had a sense of imposter syndrome as they came from different backgrounds than other students.
“I aim for this club to be a safe space where … they [BIPOC students] can talk about their aspirations … I just wanted the club to be a place of support. So while the other clubs at other schools are mostly about the machine learning [and] stuff like that, I wanted to expand beyond that and actually include resources for career development,” Kaung said.
Students are often intimidated by the idea of entering the tech industry because of assumed coding requirements. Kaung emphasizes that there are several job opportunities in Tech outside of coding that includes business or creative skill sets. During her first Hackathon with InternHacks, she was a Project Management intern.
Despite the current trend of companies curating social justice graphics and messages showing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, Silicon Valley has a lack of diversity in their executive boards. Tech companies such as Netflix pride themselves for celebrating diversity yet their workforce is 47% White and only 7% Black and 8% Latino.
“The reason why I want more BIPOC students to join the tech industry is because … it is only if they join [the tech industry] it will improve,” Kaung said. “That’s my belief because … as much as like Silicon Valley, Bernie bros say that they care about democracy … I don’t see it happening, I feel like the more BIPOC stakeholders and employees there are, the more social change is likely to happen.“
Through leading the Developer student club, Kaung and her 100% BIPOC team aim to encourage students to enter the tech industry even when they feel discouraged. Participants in the club can look forward to free workshops and connections to mentors as resources to support their ambitions in tech.
This semester, the club has several plans and events in store. One goal is to look for local Bay Area BIPOC-owned businesses to create partnerships and aid digital marketing strategies. They hope to partner with Mills to have participation in the club fulfill a Community Engagement Learning (CEL) requirement as they plan to collaborate on several projects with the local community.
“I feel like it could fulfill the CEL requirement while creating solutions for causes that they’re passionate about as well,” Kaung said. “I was hoping that professors, career counselors and peer advisors could share this information and drive the engagement on behalf of our club.“
Kaung advocates for giving students access to information and resources that were not previously available to them. She hopes to be able to help students build their resumes and build connections for a future in tech. Kaung, herself, is interested in the field — double majoring in Economics with a concentration in Strategy & Business communication. Through her LinkedIn profile, she was able to receive a summer internship at InternHacks that aided in her career journey. During this internship, she recruited several people to become mentors for students in the club as well as through MillsConnect, a site for Mills students and alumnae to make professional connections. She hopes to share these resources with students as well as tips on finding “hidden opportunities.”
“I have a lot of opinions about the tech industry, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have hope for it. Right now, I feel like the reason why the tech industry is the way it is, is because we’re in this weird like period of time when … people are just starting to realize that … they are meant for this industry,” Kaung said. “like they know [and] they’re starting to combat imposter syndrome and the tech industry is starting to accommodate them because … they feel like they could do better.”
The progress of the club has been affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic; communicating with other businesses and students has changed drastically. Meeting face–to–face with students is an important part of starting a club, but the students in the Developer student club at Mills are working hard to share their message, continually gathering resources for those interested in the tech industry.
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, Rewriting the Code and Out for Undergrad are tech organizations the club wants to gain mentors from. Rewriting the Code is an organization that supports women in college, graduate school and early careers to join tech with mentorship. Out for Undergrad supports LGBTQ+ identified students and students of color. These organizations would give prospective students support in how to enter the industry as well as cater to other facets of their identity, aiding in the future of more diverse representation in tech.
Kaung is currently planning two tech events with other Developer student club leaders globally. They are planning a Hackathon called the 2020 Student developer club solution challenge where students will participate in an official demo day and a presentation of their solution for a community-based problem. These events will be sponsored by large tech companies, like Google Cloud, where students can earn prize money. The submission deadline is planned for March 15-21, 2021.
To get involved with the Developer student club at Mills contact club leader Moe Hay Kaung at firstname.lastname@example.org or attend meetings on Fridays from 4-5 p.m. Meetings are subject to change based on members’ availability. Students can also follow them on Instagram at @dsc.mills.
“I’m hoping for the best for the tech industry,” Kaung said. “It doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be bad apples out there but if we are able to create more space for people like us, anything can happen.”