By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota-based Best Buy is joining other leading technology companies to bring more women of color into computing careers.

In the past decade, the number of Latina, Native, and African American women getting computing degrees has dropped by one third. This new initiative, called Reboot Representation Tech Coalition, is designed to improve opportunities for under-represented women.

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WCCO’s Reg Chapman has more on this effort to reboot the IT industry.

”You just have to think that it has to start with me,” Qiana Hicks said.

Qiana Hicks is a successful IT professional, a senior manager at a Twin Cities company where her software engineering skills have helped her reach the top of the industry.

“I’ve been probably less than one percent in each job that I’ve had in software engineering,” Hicks said.

Hicks says that is still the case today.

Actually, the number of women of color in IT or computing field has decreased over the past 10 years. The numbers compelled Best Buy to join forces with other technology companies to reboot the face of the industry.

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“In order to get more women, particularly young women of color, interested in tech jobs and computer science degrees, you have to start early,” Andrea Woods said.

Andrea Woods is head of social impact for Best Buy. She says the centerpiece of the company’s youth engagement is their tech centers.

“We have our teen tech centers, which are free after school programs where they can come after school and learn robotics and 3D design and printing, coding and film-making. We have four of those open now in the Twin Cities,” Woods said.

Best Buy also has a Career Pathway program at its tech centers, where technical training ends in paid internships. Woods says diversity is a must in IT.

“When you don’t have diversity for developer of tech, you’re missing a lot of input and a lot of perspective on what populations across the country will need,” Woods said.

Hicks is encouraged by Best Buy’s efforts and looks forward to sharing a work space with other women of color.

“Education, awareness along with the opportunity I think will definitely open up the door where more women of color will step up to those opportunities,” Hicks said.

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Best Buy is joining Melinda Gates and 11 other companies to double the number of women of color who graduate with computing degrees by 2025. Best Buy plans to expand the number of tech centers.

Reg Chapman