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Hey techies, it’s Computer Science Education Week! We’re excited to celebrate by highlighting some of our favorite computer science and STEM education stories. Computer Science Week (@CSEDWeek) is important for generating awareness of not only coding, STEM, and the study of computer science in the classroom, but also bringing attention to critical skills and achievement gaps (particularly K-12 minority and gender gaps) that will influence the future of technology.

Touted as the largest education event in history, Computer Science Education Week is a global education event that recognizes the transformative role of computing in the present day and in our future. The event encourages teachers, schools, and businesses to introduce students to computer programming with an Hour of Code which shows kids the basics of what goes into creating the programs and apps they use on a daily basis. Anyone can host an Hour of Code event from anywhere on the planet and tutorials are available in over 45 different languages. This year more than 119,000 individual events are scheduled.

Computer Science Week and STEM Education

Research shows that students perform better when engaged in “active learning” in the classroom as opposed to traditional instruction methods like lecturing. STEM (the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), project-based learning, coding, and computer science are just a few examples of this highly successful active learning format in action. The National Academy of Sciences found that active learning leads to increases in the average student exam performance by half a letter and reduces failure rates overall. As we know that education is a critical tool for allowing students to achieve greater social mobility and transform their local communities, it’s events like this which can make a real impact.

Addressing Talent and Achievement Gaps

The tech industry has long been struggling with finding the talent to keep up with the growing demand for skilled workers. This is troubling because the IDC estimates that by 2020, 50% of the Global 2000 will see the majority of their business depend on their ability to create digitally-enhanced products, services, and experiences. It’s clear that we need all hands on deck to meet the needs of our technology-dependent business goals, but when minority groups and women are seemingly missing in action, the talent gap is that much more difficult to bridge.

Diversification in the tech industry is critical because it’s an influx of different perspectives which will provide the key to innovation and growth. Unfortunately, the IT sector still lacks input from women and minorities who currently only make up 25% and 10% of the workforce respectively. And the gap only widens as you go up the ladder. Only 17% of Fortune 500 CIO positions were held by women in 2015. Worse yet, the employment of women in IT has actually declined since the 1990s.

It’s not just a hiring problem though, it comes down to education and who is pursuing and graduating from STEM disciplines. While 57% of 2014 bachelor’s degree recipients were women, only 17% of received degrees in Computer and Information Sciences. A similar problem is seen with underrepresented minorities in the university setting, particularly in the US.

Supporting STEM in the Classroom

In recognition of this growing disparity, Microsoft has several initiatives and programs for supporting and encouraging STEM and Computer Science in the classroom and beyond:

We recognize how important it is to inspire young people and computer science professionals to be a catalyst for change in their communities around the globe, and we hope you will join us in celebrating that commitment during this year’s Computer Science Education Week.

How do you plan to address the talent and achievement gap in your business? Share your thoughts and plans for the future in the comments below.

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