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Innovators of the New Americana
Written by Matt Campbell on 28th September 2016, 11:21 AM
Coding schools have opened their doors to women and minorities, filling a major gap in the mostly white, mostly male tech culture of Silicon Valley. Despite the Marissa Mayers and Sheryl Sandbergs of the world, very few women have upper level jobs in the largest tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft—only 16% of the technology workers at Facebook are female, for instance. Stories of sexism and lack of ethnic diversity in the west coast epicenter of tech industry abound, even in the wake of promises from the top to consciously diversify.
But women and other underserved racial and cultural groups are finding ways around these barriers, crossing through and somehow making waves in the tech space. How are they getting their start? Not through the boy’s club at Silicon Valley. The new faces of technology and innovation come from all over the country, and they are empowered by the DIY attitude and hands-on skills gleaned from a scrappy upstart on the information technology scene: coding schools.
According to an annual study by Course Report, 43% of coding boot camp participants are women, compared with 15.7% of undergraduate Computer Science majors. To start coding, you can come from anywhere. You don’t need a fat bank account, you don’t need personal connections, and you don’t need a college degree (60% of boot camp attendees have undergraduate degrees). What you do need is a can-do mindset and the willingness to work hard, to pull your dreams into focus.
One of major barriers to a career in tech has always been the pipeline—the Ivy League computer science departments spitting out whip-smart, internship-rich, designer hoodie-wearing programmers every May. But now almost every company needs a technology plan, and at least one trained person to enact that plan. This is where coding schools come in and break things up by offering huge opportunities to anyone who can make it to a class—and a lot of times the classes are online. The digital workforce coming out of coding classes and boot camps around the country looks different from the Silicon Valley boys.
And this trend is likely to increase as coding schools reach even younger demographics, offering kids coding classes far outside the glass covered structures of Northern California. Code.org has partnered with public schools in area with some of most low-income, ethnically diverse student populations in the nation, to provide free coding classes—60 percent of students in these programs are black or Hispanic.
We are a country of immigrants, built on the principle that our strength comes from our difference, that what sets us apart is our dreams. We are bold and expect a lot and because of that, we have created massive industries, like Hollywood films, airplanes, cell phones and, ahem, the Internet. Our innovators are sometimes born here and many times are born elsewhere, emigrating to the U.S. to enjoy a democratic government, an active economy, great universities, and an ethnically, religiously, and socially diverse culture. The prestige surrounding entrepreneurship in the U.S. doesn’t hurt either.
In a land of immigrants and multicultural convergence, the United States continues a great tradition of innovation by collaborating on the strengths of our differences. Here is what the new American innovation fabric looks like.