New Diversity Initiative, the YesWeCode Fund, Launches at HBCU@SXSW 2017

May 22, 2017 | Business, Diversity

On the second day of HBCU@SXSW 2017, March 12th, the YesWeCode initiative launched before student leaders and investors. The event launch was fitting in that it also aimed to promote diversity in tech, but this time, not just with race but with economic diversity as well.

Ultimately, the YesWeCode initiative is a way to lift people out of poverty and build generational wealth, one middle class person and family at a time. Access to education, and in this case access specifically to an education in coding will be the catalyst for change.

The program is a collaboration between Code Fellows, The Iron Yard, Operation HOPE, Opportunity Ecosystem, TechSquare Labs, Climb Credit, We Can Code IT, and #YesWeCode and brings together the collective goals of coding schools, civic and governmental organizations and employers to encourage applicants to say no to financial barriers and YES to social mobility.

Tech is a sector with a track record for employing a primarily white and Asian male workforce. So with a focus on women and minorities, this program is a real game changer. It will also add racial and gender diversity to a workforce sorely lacking in it.

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers. Over the course of the next five years, the Fund has the goal of awarding $100 million in scholarships to minority and women students, with $40 million as full-tuition awards. Code Fellow and We Can Code IT have included scholarships for their bootcamp courses.

The program has an unexpected origin. The YesWeCode program was started by Van Jones in collaboration with Prince, only one name necessary. Prince, with a penchant for being before his time, wanted to develop technologists of color to create a future where women and minorities were woven into the tapestry of tech.

Prince partied like it was 1999 in the 1980s and in 2014, along with Van Jones, foresaw the importance of nurturing the underserved tech talent of tomorrow. He wanted to help change something as both simple and complex as what it means for a black youth versus a white youth to wear a hoodie.

The goal of #YesWeCode is to “help 100,000 young women and men from underrepresented backgrounds to find success in the tech sector,” according to the program’s website. The talent will be homegrown to help to add to the local economies.

Learn more about #YesWeCode and the YesWeCode Fund here.