"Despite Silicon Valley billionaires’ remarkable track record of
innovation, it appears they have decided to throw in the towel on higher
education. Each year, many donate millions to old-line American
colleges and universities that, together, graduate the same number of
engineers as we did 25 years ago." according to Daniel Pianko, managing director of University Ventures, a fund focused on innovation from within higher education.
STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) jobs will grow by more than 17 percent in the next decade, but an aging STEM workforce and small number of students graduating today with STEM degrees means there are more than 2.5 million unfilled STEM jobs in the U.S. Today, only 18 percent of Computer Science graduates are women. The numbers for underrepresented minorities are even worse.
Failure to transform American higher education may undo the very building blocks of our nation’s innovation infrastructure. Instead, today’s current generation of entrepreneurs are spending their energy and resources lobbying for band-aid solutions like H-1B visas, when they could be reimagining the current pipeline to address the lack of female and minority engineers in their companies.
The results at the top are stark: Of the fifty wealthiest billionaires in Silicon Valley, only one fortune was generated by a woman. At Yahoo!, which is led by one of the highest-profile women in the Valley, only about 15 percent of their tech team are female.
Yahoo!’s data is not remarkable in light of the number of female STEM graduates, but Silicon Valley’s response is both cowardly and contrary to their change-the-world spirit. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has effectively replaced NASA. His sights are now set on a Mars voyage. Uber’s frenzied campaign to disrupt the taxi industry has already reached presidential proportions.
Contrast these efforts to change the world with Facebook’s response to diversity concerns: “It’s clear that we still aren’t where we want to be.” And Peter Thiel is probably Silicon Valley’s most well-known contributor to the higher education innovation discussion by doling out $100K to students who want to drop out of college — not exactly a way to solve our education crisis.