It is no secret that Hispanics and African Americans are continuously missing in tech companies, especially in Silicon Valley, which is home to some of the world’s most powerful tech companies.
Google is looking to change that with a new pilot program called CODE2040 in three cities, Chicago, Austin and Durham, N.C.
The San Francisco nonprofit will give minority entrepreneurs in each city a one-year stipend, free office space, a trip to Google headquarters in Mountain View, mentoring from entrepreneurs through Google For Entrepreneurs and Code2040’s network and support from CODE2040 on building their diversity programs, according to USA Today.
Code2040 was founded in 2012 and strives to encourage and empower Hispanics and African Americans to join the tech workforce. The group is called Code2040 in reference to the year that the population of minorities in the U.S. is estimated to overtake whites.
Already almost 50 individuals have graduated from the program and ended up working for companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Uber, whose employee pools have been notoriously dominated by white and Asian men. Now, thanks to pleas for transparency from these tech companies, we now know the true proportions.
In May 2014, Google disclosed that 30% of its workers are female and in the U.S. 2% of its workers are African American and 3% are Hispanic.
Following suit, Apple, Facebook, Twitter and other major tech companies followed with their own statistics, all of which showed the same lack of diversity.
“Releasing our numbers last year was a really important first step and we were really happy to see other companies do that as well,” says John Lyman, head of partnerships for Google for Entrepreneurs. “This is an issue that Google really cares about. We really believe that better products are created by a workforce as diverse as the people who use them. A lot of the conversation is happening in Silicon Valley, which is great. But we also want to get it out to different parts of the country,” Lyman says.
Silicon Valley shouldnt hold a monopoly on revolutionary technology or new tech companies being born. Anyone, anywhere in the country is capable of creating a product that can change the world as we know it.
“There is no question that Silicon Valley is the epicenter of the tech world and as such there’s huge opportunity for impact on inclusion in tech,” says Laura Weidman Powers, co-founder and CEO of Code2040, who came to Austin to announce the launch of the new program at a SXSW panel Monday morning.
“However, working on diversity issues in Silicon Valley means going against the status quo,” she says. “(It means) trying to change the ratio of employees at large companies, trying to bring inclusive techniques to established hiring practices and trying to infiltrate relatively closed, powerful networks.”
Spreading to smaller tech hubs in other cities around the country allows entrepreneurs opportunities previously only offered in Silicon Valley. The three entrepreneurs around the U.S. will be able to build their start-ups while also engaging their community and the minorities within them in the endeavor.
“Here, rather than trying to change what is, we are trying to shape what might be. In smaller tech ecosystems around the country, often the cultures and norms around talent and inclusion are not yet set. We have the opportunity to help these places bake inclusion into their DNA from the ground up,” Powers says. “It’s an opportunity to create whole ecosystems where we never see the divides we see in Silicon Valley.”
CODE2040 received $775,000 in grants from Google in February to work on bringing more African Americans and Hispanics into tech. For a detailed list of the three dedicated entrepreneurs, check it out here.