Meet Code2040: The Organization Paving The Way For Black & Latinx Tech Workers
By Tai Saint-Louis
June 13, 2022
In June 2020, Code2040 CEO Mimi Fox Melton and her predecessor Karla Monterroso wrote a poignant opinion piece for Fast Company. It was the type of content many scholars, professionals, and creatives were finding themselves having to create as white America acknowledged the realities of police brutality and systemic racism for what surprisingly seemed to be the first time.
Fox Melton and Monterroso took advantage of the opportunity to address an unspoken truth: “High-wage work in America is not colorblind; it’s not a meritocracy;” the op-ed read, “It’s white. And that goes doubly for tech.” Code2040 was working to disprove the idea that Black and Latinx people in America start their careers on equal footing.
Yes, tech firms – and all companies working in STEM – have a racial equity problem. But the point Code2040 has been working to prove since 2012 is that the “diversity and equity problem” starts long before young Black and Latinx professionals even make it to the workforce.
Bridging the racial tech gap
Closing the equity gap is necessary with technology seeping into every industry and space.
“About 8,000 Black and Latinx people are studying computer science at any given time in the country, and 18% of Computer Science degrees go to Black graduates, but only 5% to 8% are getting hired,” Fox Melton added.
“Our program requires companies to commit to not using school pedigree or GPA in evaluating applicants,” she said.
When Code2040 was first founded, the organization’s goal was to help Black and Latinx computer science majors from elite universities get into tech companies. The organization started its first Fellows Program months later with just five students. Since then, Code2040’s mission has evolved “to dismantle the structural barriers that prevent the full participation and leadership of Black and Latinx people in the innovation economy,” as stated on their website.
Today, the Fellows Program has grown into a community of over 7500 students, company partners, volunteers, and allies. The tech world also seems to have changed in that time: data shows that 20% of computer science graduates and 24% of boot camp grads are Black and Latinx.
“My role here has been to help us shift from Black and Latinx people deserve the jobs in tech, to what does it look like for us to try and fundamentally change this industry so that less harm is caused,” she said, reflecting on her time with Code2040, which she joined in 2015.
Impacting the next generation of Black and Latinx tech employees
While the endgame is a wide-reaching change, the approach is much more honed. Since 2018, rather than find ways to help Black and Latinx tech workers assimilate, the organization has been creating programs to address systemic racism and identify opportunities for meaningful change in real time. In other words, Code2040 focuses on each corporate partner’s unique environment to eradicate systemic racism one high-wage gig at a time.
Fox Melton is committed to fostering an organization where Black and Latinx employees can thrive. One where they feel grounded and connected.
“To me, global change has to start from within. We can meet people only as far as we’ve met ourselves.”
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