Activate, Connect, and Mobilize, but First Imagine: Code2040’s New Direction
By Karla Monterroso, CEO
Let me tell you about a tech company that I hold near and dear to my heart. It’s a translation app, when you speak into the phone in English it translates to a number of languages on the other side. It has found a market in healthcare but is starting to move into a number of different places. Its executive team is primarily people of color, half of those people are women of color. It’s board reflects the vast world it is trying to impact. The community in which the company is located is thriving, too. They have found this revolutionary way to hire folks from the community and train them from service roles into technical roles. The best part, these roles are not contract roles but actual full-time employment. People are not priced out of housing or excluded from opportunities. They are deeply embedded into the neighborhood they inhabit.
This isn’t a real company. But it’s one I often think about when I’m doing this work. A vision of what the future can be when we all have a seat at the table. What it feels like. Looks like. Sounds like. The impact it has on the people within its walls and inevitably beyond.
But this is just one vision. I’ve encountered folks who share my vision and who have imagined things I couldn’t. What binds us all together is the courage and the imagination to ask ourselves:
What does the future of tech look like when it’s racially equitable? How does the world change when everyone has a say in the products of tomorrow and the companies that build them?
We’ve seen glimpses of what this future can be
Fortunately, in the seven years we’ve been doing this work we’ve seen people act on their visions of an equitable and inclusive industry. And the timing couldn’t be more pressing. 2040 is the beginning of the decade when the United States will be majority Black and Latinx. (In some places, like California, this change is already happening.) Meanwhile tech is radically transforming how we interact with money, information, and each other.
Given these changes access to tech is not just about access to jobs but about access to power.
And we see the negative consequences of the lack of access every day— from the algorithms that determine our online searches or loan approvals, to facial recognition software. We also hear voices of hate getting louder in a racist political climate.
But just as we’ve seen negative consequences, we’ve also seen the promise of progress.
We’ve seen companies restructure their entire interview processes to be more equitable. Companies put their legal resources side by side with DREAMers. We’ve seen an alum of our program demand a strategy to move Code2040 Fellows from temporary hires to permanent ones. Members of our community enter class action lawsuits to hold companies wielding abusive power accountable.
We’ve seen people and companies willing to take decisive action that actually tackles structural racism.
In the midst of conversations and debates about the persistent lack of representation, the answer has been emerging right before us. The answer is community action.
Power of the community and new direction
In the Summer of 2018 we realized that if we were going to ensure Black and Latinx people were proportionally represented in tech, we needed to think beyond pipeline change and focus on systems change. We needed to prioritize community action.
After several months of work with staff and community we developed a new vision, mission, and strategic plan that we believe will get us closer to proportional representation and keeps our community at the center of our work.
Code2040’s new mission is to activate, connect, and mobilize the largest racial equity community in tech to dismantle the structural barriers that prevent the full participation and leadership of Black and Latinx people in the innovation economy.
We’re doing this in four ways:
- Deepen and expand racial equity community in tech advocating for proportional representation of Black and Latinx people in the industry. This means: Expanding the set of players who can move, discuss, and strategize for racial equity in the tech sector, building coalitions that address issue areas and power in a way that deploys our community effectively; catalyzing the transformation of Black and Latinx technologists into advocates for change.
- Build tools and resources for skill and capacity building so that our community can operationalize change. This means: Providing our community with the tools needed to succeed and foster the success of Black and Latinx people in tech; providing our companies with frameworks, goals, and language to support industry transformation.
- Advance racial equity movements to support Black and Latinx achievement in the industry. This means: Supporting our community by raising the bar of acceptable discourse for racial equity in tech; creating coalitions with multiple organizations to craft and support industry-wide agendas for change.
- Build an organization that reflects a healthy relationship with the intentions, tensions, and aspirations we have for our work in the external world. This means: Understanding the tradeoffs and choices that need to be made in search of operational equity and share our learnings with our community; wrestling with the equitable distribution of power; becoming more sustainable over time.
Through managing, mentoring, training, and/or organizing this community will impact 100,000 people — 10% of the entire tech industry — and shift the landscape of tech across the country. You can read about our direction in our strategic plan.
Our vision is the equitable distribution of power in an economy shaped by the digital revolution. We believe that change will only come from folks across the industry taking action, including how we work as an organization. We have to build the world we want to live in. This requires us to not accept the terms we are handed and to seize power to create new systems. New ways of being and belonging. The next leg of Code2040’s journey is supporting change makers — within our walls, community, and beyond — as they create a tech sector that works for all.
We invite you to celebrate with us at our anniversary party where we’ll talk more about this direction and hear from a community member on her journey to taking action within a tech company that led to lasting change.
We also want to keep you engaged and involved as we roll out new programs, campaigns, ideas, and opportunities. Sign up today to join the largest racial equity community in tech.
Action is required. And action becomes possible when we have courage, community, and imagination. Imagine (and build) a better future with us.
Code2040 is a nonprofit activating, connecting, and mobilizing the largest racial equity community in tech to dismantle the structural barriers that prevent the full participation and leadership of Black and Latinx technologists in the innovation economy. Through events, trainings, early-career programs, and knowledge sharing, Code2040 equips Black and Latinx technologists and their allies with the tools, connections, and care they need to advocate for and achieve racial equity in the tech industry.