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As a black programmer with about 5 years of professional experience, I've always asked myself the same question. Throughout all the job interviews, conferences and meetups I've been to I've met no more than 3 other black programmers. One is my dad while the other is a friend and his dad. I still haven't come up with an answer but I do have two theories:

Role Models: There is no black Bill Gates. Not everyone is a trailblazer and for the rest of us role models play a huge "role" when choosing a career path. This is especially true for the black community. It becomes much easier to convince yourself, and your parents, that your passion is a valid career choice if you can point to an existing success story.

Access to technology: When I was a kid growing up I was the only one of my friends whose family owned a computer thanks to my dad being a programmer. Kinda hard to develop a passion for programming without one of those. Before tech skills became a requirement for any decent job computers were seen as expensive and unnecessary so everyone else was told "we'll get you one when you get to high school / college."

However, as I apply these these theories to today, Obama is president and just about every kid, rich or poor, has daily access to a computer. I'm guessing in 5 years time, when the next generation begins their careers, the number of black programmers will increase drastically all on its own.

That said I do know a good number of black network engineers and sys admins so I'm completely lost as to why programming is the only IT profession with such a huge discrepancy. Any theories?

What about peer pressure? I'm not black, but I went to a public high school, fairly diverse, let's say 15%/20%/10%/55% black/asian/latino/white. My experience with black classmates was that in individual classes they were pretty typical in the mix of other students, reasonably friendly and participatory in class, etc. But then out in the hallways it was a whole different story. It just was not cool to be studious in any way. I saw black kids get made fun of by their peers just for carrying books. Kids who I was very friendly with in class would not even look at me in the commons, I'm presuming because associating with a white nerd would be social suicide.

Good point. For high school I switched to a private school with around the same demographics and since it was "college prep" all the black students understood that we were there to make something of ourselves. So I never experienced the anti-intellectual peer pressure in a school setting.

My friends from outside of school, however, STILL refer to me as "that corporate nigga". But since I know them from places like my neighborhood or sports teams where clics and social standings didn't exist there were no detrimental effects to being a nerd.

Anybody at any high school who is known as a programmer is going to be teased to some extent. What kept you from giving into the peer pressure?

Well I hung out with the stoners and freaks, which incidentally was one of the largest groups. I pretty much did give in to the peer pressure, but I was fortunate that A) I had a computer at home and B) I came up right as the web was taking off, so I learned as I went, thereby neatly bypassing the need for academic credentials. I did eventually finish a CS degree, but it was irrelevant to my career path.

My story is more one of taking advantage of opportunities, rather than overcoming obstacles.

Umm, I dont think Bill Gates at the height of his prime was ever a Role Model :) Even for Nerds..

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