To Diversity…and Beyond!

By: Kaitlyn Long // Apex AOIT – Class of 2016

This past Sunday, the News & Observer published an article about the lack of diversity in the technology field. The article, written by Christopher Gergen and Stephen Martin, discussed the desire for minorities—referring to both racial minorities and females—to make their way into the tech circuit, but the minimal opportunities they are afforded to do so.

Equality is a red-hot news topic nowadays. Companies are attempting to reach out to persons other than white males. Politics is expanding in the same direction. The high-tech world is no different. According to Gergen and Martin, member corporations of the newly-created Triangle Diversity Business Council “agree to…interview a highly qualified woman and minority candidate for every open executive position and board seat.”

Gergen and Martin’s research reflected the likelihood of minorities entering the technology workforce without prior education in the subject. Only 2 percent of all computer science majors—regardless of gender or race—chose their major without any prior experience in it. So, without giving minorities exposure to technology, something they may or may not have access to in school, how can we expect the tech work force to diversify itself? That’s where organizations like Code2040 and Code The Dream step in.

Those organizations…and Apex AOIT.

This week, we reached out to all aspects of AOIT – the advisory board, teachers, current students, and former students. We were curious. Does AOIT do a good job of educating a diverse population of students? Is there something we’re missing?

Here’s what we found out.

In your opinion, how is AOIT doing in terms of diversity? This could be racial, religious, or gender diversity, or another form you’ve witnessed. Other topics to consider may be students with various talents, such as athletes, students involved in the performing or visual arts, or other interest groups.

Contrary to stereotype, AOIT students are not just geeky programmers focused solely on coding, discussing hardware/software, and gaming.  While the AOIT program is focused on technology as the key element of its curriculum, its student cohort is actually quite diverse in terms of their interests.   AOIT students are active in athletics, music and the visual arts, service clubs, and other student activities.   Many of them also are involved with community activities such as scouting and their religious organizations, as well as holding part-time jobs.

Evidence of this diversity is displayed during the internship process as students not only work at technology companies but at organizations such as small businesses, camps and schools, and professional services such as medical and law offices.  It has been fascinating to listen to the internship presentations each year and hear how students have applied their technology tools to the organizations in which they worked, perhaps even introducing technology in a manner that was new or innovative.  The internship guidelines have been adapted to encourage students to seek a variety of opportunities, including those that are specifically not technology-focused, emphasizing the concept that technology can be incorporated in all areas.

Student after-graduation plans reflect diversity as well.  While some will major in engineering or computer science, many note interests in health care, education, psychology and the arts. 

Those of us who have access and experience with technology often take it as a given.  The reality in our world, including our community, is that access and experience is not a given for all members.  For technology to reach its greatest potential, we need individuals comfortable with it (our AOIT students) to see how it can be applied in all settings and help others bridge the “digital divide”.  Our students’ diverse interests increase the opportunities for this to occur.

Mrs. Marcia Murto
Independent Technology Consultant
AOIT Board Member

My  thoughts are that the AOIT program has done a very good job of gender diversity. Maybe not perfect yet, but certainly we have a good mix of exposing men and women to the  broad world of technology. And we need more artists-creative people who don’t automatically think of the this field as the domain of programmers. Who designs the look, the music, the colors on a web page, and understands how to create a visual which communicates a  vision?  And it is not only the challenge of understanding that there is a place for creative people, but the conflicting demands of class scheduling between the arts students and the AOIT program.   Any student , no matter the background, interest or purpose can benefit from participating in this Academy, the challenge is getting them to see that  in  eighth grade.

Mr. Jerry O’Connor
American Airlines
AOIT Board Member

The Academy of Information Technology is a very diverse group in many ways.  Students differ in race, backgrounds and religions.  These same students also participate in a variety of extracurricular activities such as performing arts, athletic teams, clubs and student council.  This diversity leads to a cohort that learns to communicate, problem solve and work well together.

Mrs. Kelly Caudill
AOIT Teacher – POIT and Multimedia and Web Design

AOIT is lacking in diversity racially, because the majority of the students are white. The gender is pretty evenly spread in AOIT; there’s not an overwhelming amount of one gender to another. It seems like everyone in AOIT is an athlete. It’s not even a comparison of athletes to those involved in theater. But, the good thing about AOIT is that they are good with technology.

Female Students
AOIT Class of 2018

I feel like AOIT covers a wide range of different people. There’s a bunch of kids who you maybe wouldn’t imagine being in a program like AOIT who become very involved and end up loving it. AOIT brings lots of diverse people together; after spending four years with the same peers, it’s pretty easy to forget about differences. People from different ways of life—whether it’s race, religion, or interests like sports or video games—find themselves bonding together throughout high school.

Shelby Poliachik
AOIT Class of 2017

Both males and females are well-represented and needed for the nature of AOIT. People with different interests are also in high demand because of the way we work in groups and do team-building activities. Without a diverse group of students, the program would not be nearly as successful not only from an educational level, but from a social level as well.

Preston Long
AOIT Class of 2014

I think [AOIT] actually does a good job compared to most organizations, especially considering how much of a lack of diversity Apex High School has. But, I think [AOIT] could promote more of the benefits of [participating in] AOIT and the things it does to appeal to students with different interests.

Female Student
AOIT Class of 2014

So…tell us what you think. How is AOIT doing with diversity?

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