Code2040: Opening Pathways for Underrepresented Minorities in Tech, Funded by Knight Foundation

We’re here at the MIT Knight Civic Media Conference, where Alberto Ibarguen and John Bracken have just announced the winners of the latest news challenge, which asked the question “How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation?Sands Fish and I were there to liveblog the presentation of grantees. Willow Brugh provided illustrations.

Code 2040, led by Laura Weidman Powers opens pathways for underrepresented minorities to top jobs in technology, and bolstering professional support networks

Laura starts by describing her organization’s start two years ago, which was created in response to two trends: Firstly, science, tech, and engineering jobs are the fastest growing jobs in the US. This is where the open jobs are in the country. 1 million jobs in tech unfilled by 2020. Secondly, 90% of population growth comes from minorities. In 2040, people of color will be the majority of people in the US. At that point, 40% of Americans will be black and latino. Blacks and latinos currently make up 30% of the population and earn 20% of computer science degrees, but they’re in less than 10% of tech roles. It’s a new workforce, when we think about who’s going to be filling jobs in the future.

Founders are only 1% black and latino: We’re leaving talent on the table, Laura tells us. Tech jobs are not just any jobs, they’re actually great jobs.The average salary of a tech worker is greater than the median household income of a black family and a latino/a family combined. Connecting this portion of the population has the opportunity to lift families and communities out of poverty.

Last year’s class of 18 Code 2040 fellows spent a summer as interns in companies, mentored by Code 2040. Some students worked on SMS banking communities; others worked to open source parts of the code of their company’s codebase. Across the summer, students get mentors, work with coaches, do company visits, and explore different facets of the tech center. They work with diversity and tech, and not just kickstart their own career, but help people of different backgrounds come together and move the internet forward.

With funding from Knight, Code 2040 will be able to welcome 27 students to a wide range of tech companies in the Bay Area. Students come from a wide range of schools, from top tech schools to community colleges.