Learning to code: The forgotten population

BOSTON — Just 3 percent of computing-related jobs are held by African-American women, 6 percent are held by Asian women and 2 percent are held by Hispanic women.

That’s according to this tech website.

Software engineer Rizel Scarlett said she likes the work.

“Why do I like to code? Because I get to create things,” she said. “Also the money.”

You got to love the honesty, but most people who look like Scarlett have never been exposed to coding.

“I had no idea that software engineering was a thing,” said Scarlett. “I didn’t know what they were doing and thought they were just typing on the computer really fast.”

Those fast typers make it possible for all of us to use apps, websites and social media.

“There isn’t a facet of our lives that’s not impacted by tech,” said Bridgette Wallace, founder of the G-Code House. “We want young people particularly young women of color and non-binary folks to not just be consumers of that but producers of it.”

Wallace purchased the Roxbury home six years ago and has spent the last couple years fundraising with tech companies and the community around her. The home is vacant now but the plan is after about six months of renovations there will be 14 young women and non-binary people of color who will live in the eight bedroom home while learning to code.

“We know that as tech hubs encroach or move closer to urban centers it accelerates the gentrification,” said Wallace. “If the neighborhood is close to a tech hub, why can’t we invest in the resources that are here and for me it’s the people.”

Those people include more than 60 women between the ages of 18 and 25 that Wallace has begun teaching to code for free.

“We are focused on that demographic because as a young woman graduates from high school not a lot of resources follow you and so if you have an interest or want to pursue a career in tech, the programs that exist primarily are costly,” said Wallace. “A six month program could run a young woman anywhere between $16,000-$25,000.”

Soon her pipeline program will be able to provide housing for her students and once they graduate from her G-Code House, some of the tech companies helping to fund the program will be ready to hire the girls.

“Tech can be a harsh environment, a lot of white males to be honest, and it can be feel isolating and alone,” said Scarlett. “It could have impact on creating more diverse products that can work for everybody. I think right now a lot of the problems we are solving may be geared towards a certain population.”

For more information about the program, visit the website.

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