Celebrating our Code2040 2017 Fellows and the Continued Push for Tech as a Tool for Economic Justice

by Christian Simamora, Director, Fellows Program and Laura Weidman Powers, Co-founder and CEO

When people ask us (as they inevitably do) if the tech industry lacks diversity because of a pipeline problem, we only have to look so far as our incredible Black and Latinx Fellows to disprove this misconception.

In 2012, we launched Code2040 with our first ever Fellows Program with just five students and five company partners. Fast forward to 2017 — our impact has grown along with our movement. Today we welcome our sixth class of Fellows, comprised of 136 Black and Latinx college students who have earned internships at 44 company partners, including Atlassian, Coursera, Medium, Salesforce, and Slack.

Eighteen of our company partners — including Airbnb, GitHub, Lyft, and Stripe — are returning for the third year in a row. And for the first time, we have expanded beyond Silicon Valley with 20 Fellows joining Intel in Portland — an important milestone in our goal to effect change across the country. We’re working hard to grow our community of Fellows, entrepreneurs, partners, community members and allies to 40,000 strong by 2020 to develop a diverse ecosystem of technologists and close the racial wealth gap in America.

A bit of context around why this is such a critical moment for this work: The median salary for a tech worker is higher than the combined median household incomes for Black and Latinx families. Tech is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. economy and the combination of these two facts means that tech presents the best path to economic equity for underrepresented communities of color. Our Fellows Program is a key lever, not just to creating a more diverse tech industry, but to a creating a more equitable country.

Our Fellows, rigorously chosen from 1350 applicants and 350 finalists, are some of the top computer science students in the country — but without Code2040 many lack a clear entry point into the industry. By connecting them with internship opportunities at some of the most sought-after tech companies, we are providing opportunity, access, and a network to those who may have otherwise been excluded from the innovation economy. And we’re proving that the obstacles that stand in the way of a diverse industry are cultural and systemic, as opposed to due to lack of talent or interest.

Many tech companies are starting to realize they need to rethink how they source and support diverse employees. Our company partners invest in a partnership with us, not just for access to our pool of talented Black and Latinx students, but also for guidance on creating more inclusive cultures, business processes and managers. They understand that this is a key strategy to remain relevant in a changing landscape — by the year 2040, the US will be majority people of color. Hiring and retaining Black and Latinx talent is imperative to achieving sustainable growth.

Today is an important moment for Code2040, but our job is far from done. We know that one in five students graduating with a computer science degree is Black or Latinx, but we still only make up about five percent of the industry.

If the tech industry can live up to its innovative reputation, it has the potential to disrupt the status quo and provide meaningful pathways to upward mobility for Black and Latinx folks for the first time in American history. When we look at these incredible Fellows and the company partners who will be welcoming them this weekend, we think there are all sorts of reasons to be hopeful about the direction we’re heading.

For a full list of the 2017 company partners whose commitment to this work gives us hope, see below:

2017 Fellows Program Partners

Affirm

Airbnb

Atlassian

AutoDesk

Box

Carbon Five

Circle CI

Clover Health

Coursera

Dropbox

eBay

Foursquare

GitHub

Handshake

Intel

Intuit

Juntos

Lyft

Macy’s.com

Medium

MustWin

NerdWallet

Nextdoor

Omada Health

Panafold

Pandora

PocketGems

Presence

PwC

Redfin

Robinhood

Salesforce

Schoolzilla

Slack

Stitchfix

Stripe

TaskRabbit

Tilt

Twitter

Workday

Yahoo

ZenDesk

Zillow

Zynga