Yahoo recently donated 200 servers to Howard University, a historically black university, and the University of Texas at El Paso, where the majority of the students are Mexican-American. This is the first time Yahoo has donated servers to the University of Texas at El Paso, and the second time Yahoo has donated servers to Howard — the first time was in 2013, when it donated 125 servers and created the Yahoo Data Center at Howard.
The goal is to give students, researchers and teachers at both universities “enhanced computing capabilities, enabling new coursework in distributed and cloud computing and the processing power to pursue serious data-intensive research,” Yahoo Senior Campus Relations Manager Don McGillen wrote on the Yahoo blog. More specifically, Howard plans to use the servers to implement a “private cloud” of computing resources within the university’s computer science and engineering college. Howard will also utilize the servers in its course on machine learning and a new course called “Big Data Analytics.”
Perhaps, more importantly, Yahoo hopes the donations will encourage diverse populations of students at the school to pursue careers in computer science and technology, as well as “cultivate interest among those students to pursue careers at Yahoo,” McGillen wrote. Tl;dr Yahoo wants to increase the pipeline of minorities in the tech industry — and, of course, at Yahoo.
Yahoo released an updated diversity report in July, showing that 62 percent of its global workforce is male and 47 percent of its U.S. workforce is white. Clearly, Yahoo, along with just about every other major tech company, has a lot of room for improvement, so ensuring that diverse students are aware of opportunities at Yahoo is a good first step.
It’s worth noting that Yahoo is not the only big tech company working to expand the diversity pipeline. Apple, for example, has partnered with the Thurgood Marshall Fund, a nonprofit organization that supports students who attend historically black colleges and universities, to help black students find and attain opportunities in technology.
Efforts to expand the pipeline are fine, but let’s all please keep in mind that the lack of diversity in tech cannot solely be attributed to the pipeline, which is the argument that there aren’t enough diverse, qualified applicants for tech jobs. Things like company culture, unconscious biases and employee retention also contribute to the lack of women and minorities in the tech industry.