Diversity is one of the most important issues facing the tech industry today. In order to make lasting change and foster an inclusive tech sector, it’s imperative that all stakeholders – from educators and employers to government and civic organizations – are accountable for the role they play in shaping the makeup of the workforce.
The role of code schools
For many, code schools are the entry point to the tech ecosystem and where students go to get the training they need to secure their first job as a developer. As such, code schools have a responsibility to help grow diversity in the tech industry and the unique opportunity to make an impact on workforce demographics.
First, code schools have the ability to impact change quickly. The majority of our students at The Iron Yard are career changers, meaning we’re training people within the existing workforce to take on new roles in tech. This allows us, and programs like ours, to help generate more diverse talent pools within the tech industry more quickly than any other point of entry (e.g. k-12 programs, four-year degrees, etc).
Second, because we are often the first interaction and welcome point for people new to the industry, we have the opportunity to shape the culture and experience that code newbies are introduced to. At The Iron Yard, we host panels on women in tech, screen documentaries like “Code: Debugging the Gender Gap” and frequently speak about topics on inclusion, so that from the outset, our students know that the tech sector is open to all.
Third, we are educators at heart and strongly believe in the power of diverse classrooms. Our students’ vast range of perspectives create an optimal learning environment where in addition to obtaining new technical skills, students can learn from their peers’ experiences. Moving the needle on diversity in the tech industry begins with diverse classrooms.
Diversity initiatives at The Iron Yard:
So how are putting these ideals into practice? Below are the initiatives we are focusing on in 2017:
- Internal diversity council: In 2016 we launched our first internal Diversity and Inclusion Council at The Iron Yard. The Council is made up of team members from across the country who volunteered to work on a broad range of issues surrounding diversity and inclusion. The Council focuses on five major areas: Team (internal diversity and inclusion); Communication (how our organization presents itself to the world); Community (ways in which we are diligently working to create an inclusive community); Scholarships (opening up opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds); and student programming (what conversations, exposure and training we need to provide to our student population on the topic).
- #YesWeCode Fund: In partnership with a collection of organizations and code schools across the industry, we launched the #YesWeCode scholarship fund with the goal of raising $100 million in scholarships for diverse talent who have significant financial barriers to gain tech education. This is the first need-based diversity scholarship fund at this scale. To quote one of our partners in the fund, Rodney Sampson, “we believe that genius is equally distributed but opportunity is not.” Education is empowering and we are confident this scholarship will help create a more diverse workforce in tech. The Iron Yard committed $40million in scholarships to the Fund.
- Diversity scholarships: Since we opened our doors at The Iron Yard we’ve had a $1,000 tuition discount Diversity Scholarship for individuals who face bias in the tech industry. In 2016, 40 percent of our students received the scholarship, proving that we’re moving the needle on creating a diverse classroom and future workforce.
- Community partnerships: Each one of our campuses support local efforts around diversity and inclusion. We host organizations like Women Who Code, Girl Develop It, Black Girls Code and many more on our campuses and have their leadership teams speak to our students.
- Hosting events: The Iron Yard’s campuses are also places for open dialogue about diversity. We foster these conversations through regular event programming. For example, earlier this year all our of our campuses screened CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap and hosted panels after the screening to facilitate conversations about the findings in the film.
In 2017, we have two challenges for ourselves and the community at large. The first is to challenge people of all backgrounds to try their hand at coding. The industry is and will continue to grow and shape the world each of us live in every day. It’s important that people have an understanding of coding and if you love it, the industry would love to have you!
Second, we also want to challenge the community to create an inclusive environment for new and aspiring developers. We challenge you to think about the language you use in daily conversation and the way your company writes job descriptions, and intentionally choose inclusive language. Ultimately, it’s the subtle ways we show our support for inclusivity that will help us increase diversity in tech.