Shaw University professor Lloyd Williams is trying to bring diversity into computer science — an industry thought to be disproportionately dominated by white or Asian-American men. He’s doing so by bringing innovation to the classroom at Shaw University, a historically black college in Raleigh. Staff writer Ryan Smoot asked Williams about how he is trying to change perceptions of programming.
The Daily Tar Heel: Can you describe the current level of diversity in the tech sector?
Professor Lloyd Williams: It’s a known problem in the tech sector. There’s a Gallup poll where they talked to people about their perceptions — when they see computer scientists in television and movies, over 50 percent of the time the respondents said it’s a white guy with glasses. Asians, I think was around 20 percent, and African-Americans were in single digits.
DTH: Why is the stereotype predominantly white or Asian men?
LW: It’s very complicated, knowing the exact answer. I don’t think it’s grounded in fact — I think if you look at the composition of programmers in other countries, such as China, you’ll see a lot of female programmers that are highly successful. How we got here is a very complicated question to answer. These perceptions lead to people having implicit biases and making decisions they’re not even aware they’re making.