How many of you are trying to hire diverse candidates, but it seems like there are none out there? How many of you value diversity on your team, but are struggling to have a variety of perspectives and life experiences represented? Research shows that there is a clear business advantage to creating diverse teams, but within Philadelphia’s tech and startup communities, a lack of diversity is the norm.
In a majority minority city, the tech community is the complete opposite. Earlier this year, Technical.ly released a study that just 6 percent of tech employees in Philadelphia are black or hispanic. The tech community is growing, but the diversity in our community is largely staying the same. This is an issue — not just for the technology and companies we create, but for the city we are dedicated to growing our businesses in.
For over a decade, Philadelphia has faced a stubborn 25 percent poverty rate, borne largely by residents of color. In the nation’s largest, poorest city, it is telling that so many people of color are left out of the tech industry. An industry which, according to a recent report published by the Brookings Institution, is a driving force of economic growth and opportunity in our region. The success of our tech companies relies on their ability to recruit and retain talent, and huge swaths of the city A.) don’t know about the opportunities available, B.) don’t have the skills to compete for tech jobs, or C.) Both.
Let’s be honest — Philadelphia is never going to attract talent as easily as Silicon Valley. We can, however, create a generation of homegrown talent while simultaneously changing the narrative about poverty and poverty reduction strategies in our city.
The solution, as Coded by Kids sees it, is to invest in our students and equip them with the development skills, programming languages and project experience they need to obtain entry-level positions in the tech industry. By connecting students to instructors with real-world experience (in tech) and a focus on mentorship, we can create pathways into technology for students who never considered tech an option.
Last school year, Coded by Kids began three-year, cohort-based coding programs in Philadelphia high schools. Designed for motivated 9th and 10th graders, our Pathways into Tech program helps schools provide high-quality, tech-focused learning opportunities for their students. Each year, the students receive 24 hours of intensive coding instruction, add a project to their web development portfolio and learn professional skills like working with clients, working on teams and showcasing their technical capabilities.
What started as a pilot program funded by Councilman Allan Domb has now, with the support of the business community, grown into a full-fledged effort to identify and support tech talent in high schools across Philadelphia.
Imagine building your first website at 6 years old in a rec center, and graduating high school with not only a portfolio of web development projects, but also deep connections to the tech community through volunteers, instructors and mentors you met through Coded by Kids programs.
That’s the vision.
Pathways into Tech is the latest addition to the system we are building to put high-quality tech education within reach of every Philadelphia child — regardless of race, gender or zip code. Combined with our year-round, drop-in classes at rec centers and our after-school programs at elementary and middle schools, we can ensure that all students have — at minimum — exposure to tech education.
This system, and the tech community’s participation in it, is how we make our community more diverse and more accessible to anyone living and growing up between the Delaware and the Schuylkill.
With the help of tech companies like Turn5, Elite SEM, Stitch Data and the Message Agency, we have funded Pathways Into Tech programs at 15 high schools in neighborhoods like Strawberry Mansion, Kensington, Southwest Philly and Hunting Park. This effort will create opportunities for 225 students over the next three years, but with your help we can make an even bigger impact.
Attend our CbK 20 for 20 fundraiser on Oct. 12 to learn more about our organization, meet our students, and see how you can get involved in our efforts!
Can’t make it to the event? Donate to Coded by Kids here.
Want to bring Coded by Kids programs to your school or community? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how.
Full disclosure: Technically Media cofounder and CEO Christopher Wink is on the board of Coded by Kids. He was not involved in this report.-30-