I used to believe that technology was the great leveling force of our generation. Almost every developer I knew had taught him/herself how to code. And so it follows, I thought, that anyone who had the right cocktail of talent and hunger could sit down and teach himself the basics of web development. And from there, given time and internet, continue honing the craft that could ultimately lead to lasting and meaningful employment opportunities. Anecdotally, the story works. You’re probably one such case, and know of many others.
But data tells another story. Tech companies have consistently struggled to hire a diverse workforce. Fewer than 10% of college graduates are either black or Hispanic. White and Asian students vastly outperform their black and Hispanic peers in STEM-related school subjects. We’re not talking about segregation at the workplace. This is a much deeper problem, with its roots in the neighborhoods and schools that make up our young people’s learning environment. If the stats are to be believed, then my idyllic vision of Good Will Hunting fighting his way into the tech community by sheer force of will is largely a creature of the white middle class; his time, his three meals, his personal safety all luxuries that are not available to everyone.
That said, ambition and brilliance are everywhere. What we aim to do at Resilient Coders is to identify, foment, and enable, rather than teach. There are no assignments or tests. We have a simple theory of change: Smart, ambitious young people working collaboratively, given the tools and a credible reason to succeed, will do amazing things. Our hackers are naturally curious, creative, and competitive people, which makes our job simple: Light the spark, and get out of the way.
This summer, we’ve been co-hosting the Media Leadership Institute with Press Pass TV. These young people have been learning audio/visual production, as well as HTML and CSS. They’ve been working in teams to design, pitch, and ultimately prototype out some civic software for the benefit of their communities. They pitched their concepts at OpenView a few weeks back, and now they’re ready to show you their work. On August 27th, from 6pm to 8pm, come celebrate with us, watch a couple of short films, talk to the hackers about their prototypes, and hang out with members of the tech community. RSVP for that here, for free.
If this summer doesn’t work for you but you’d like to be kept in the loop about future opportunities, sign up for the mailing list at resilientcoders.org/you.
Charles Blow poses an interesting question in an Op-Ed in the New York Times: “Will our future be highly delineated by who does and who doesn’t have a science education (and the resulting higher salary), making for even more entrenched economic inequality by race and gender?”
That technology will be at the center of tomorrow’s employment disparity is clear. The question left lingering on the table for us, the tech community, is this: What are you going to do about it today?