Microsoft Founder Calls On More Minority
Students to Consider Computer Science
By Cassie Chew
From applications that allow you to scan business receipts and send the data directly to your expense account software, to a version of the Xbox gaming machine that makes the software “more social” by allowing you to link up with other users, information technology is destined to become more natural, more seamless and more visual, said Bill Gates, chief software architect and chairman of Seattle-based Microsoft Corp. in a speech at Howard University in Washington, D.C., last month. “My daughter, who’s nine, asked me as we went into a record store what a record was. Five years from now, people will say, ‘What’s a CD?’” Gates said, speaking before 1,500 Howard faculty and students. Sixth-graders from Howard’s math and science middle school and students from Benjamin Banneker High School, a public school in Washington D.C., were also in attendance.
But in order to develop what Gates calls “the digital lifestyle” the industry needs help.
“For Microsoft, we need to recruit the best and the brightest and get them involved in these projects,” said Gates, who started Microsoft 30 years ago. In 1975 Gates left Harvard at 19 to pursue his vision for personal computing.
“Your generation will drive this forward to the next level,” he said.
But the future of the industry is threatened by declining numbers of students pursuing degrees in computer science and technology. The percentage of incoming undergraduates indicating that they would major in computer science declined by more than 60 percent between 2000 and 2004, and is now 70 percent lower than its peak in the early 1980s, according to a May 2005 report published by the Computing Research Association.
“We want to make sure that there’s a rich pipeline of great talent that we can hire to build fantastic products, in our own company and in our partners’ companies as well, because it’s about the whole industry and not just the products that Microsoft owns itself,” says Kevin Schofield, general manager of strategy and communications for Microsoft Research.
According to National Science Foundation statistics, enrollment from 1990 through 2002 in engineering among Black, Hispanic and American Indian students increased, but there has been little growth since then.
The Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering, a congressionally-mandated advisory committee to the National Science Foundation, in a July 2005 report said that more needs to be done to encourage under-represented minorities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“…Getting minorities into those jobs, we’re not doing everything we should be to point out the opportunity,” Gates said during the speech. “These are jobs that pay great, these are fun jobs and so you’d think right now we’d be having more people applying than ever. But, in fact, somehow we haven’t gotten the word out, we haven’t made it clear the steps to get the skills to get there.”
Gates says decreases in the costs of hardware in other countries will lead to a demand for new applications. “This is a technology that’s destined to get into the hands of everyone, and it’s destined to allow people to create and communicate in new ways.”
The visit to Howard University wrapped up a three-day national college tour of “top IT and engineering institutions across North America.” In addition to Howard University, Gates visited the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Columbia University, Princeton University and the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
For Howard, Gates’ visit also served to kick off the University’s College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences Sixth Annual Student Leadership Institute. The institute features professional development workshops, plenary sessions and an executive panel discussion designed to enhance the professional skills of CEACS students by exposing them to leadership techniques early in their college experience.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com