When you consider that 18 percent of computer science degrees are awarded to Blacks and Latinos and just nine percent land a job in the tech industry, it’s clear that something needs to change. Entrepreneurs Tristan Walker and Laura Weidman Powers understand the high barriers to entry for minorities in tech first hand, and their two-year-old organization that acts as a stepping stone for Black and Latino developers just got a major boost.
CODE2040, a fellowship program that places Black and Latino developers with internships at top technology companies was just awarded $400,000 as part of the 2014 Knight News Challenge to continue its mission of closing the wealth and ethnicity gap by creating opportunities in technology in engineering. Along with internships at top technology companies, fellows receive leadership development and a support network to help them to leverage and sustain their success.
“We see 2040 as not a charity, not about doing a favor. It’s about connecting extremely talented, untapped pools of individuals with companies who are desperate to hire so they can grow,” Powers explained in an interview with Tech Republic.
The winners of the Knight News Challenge were announced at the 2014 MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference in Boston, where a total of $3.4 million was awarded to organizations and ideas that worked to strengthen the Internet.
Check Out the Internet, a program that would give wi-fi access to those without it through the NY Public Library and CODE2040 were awarded the top prizes receiving $500,000 and $400,000 respectively. Other projects include initiatives that tackle digital rights, censorship, and helps provide greater access to the internet and information.
But when it comes to diversity in tech, the need couldn’t be more dire. Just this week, Google, LinkedIn and Yahoo, three major technology companies revealed their diversity stats and the numbers showed one crystal clear picture — the tech industry is overwhelmingly male and white. Only two percent of employees at each of the companies are Black. The number goes up only slightly, to three percent, when we consider Hispanic employees at Google. At LinkedIn, their stats reveal just four percent of their employees are Hispanic. Yahoo’s numbers echoed that stat.
CODE2040’s programming aims to drastically change those numbers by 2040, the year that demographers predict that the U.S. will be a majority minority country with 42 percent of the population classifying as black or Latino.
“If you’re not including what will be the majority demographic in our country at the table in positions of leadership, your company just could not be destined for the level of success it should be destined for,” Walker said in a past interview with NPR. “If someone puts those two together and really understands that, they will have done something really special. And there are not enough people thinking about it like that.”