How do we get more diversity in tech companies? Easy: Pay for it.

If the tech industry is serious about diversity, it’s time for them to invest in it.

That’s the way one woman saw it, at least.

When Michelle Glauser realized that less than a third of people in the industry are women who will likely never see the boardroom and that many major tech companies are employing people of color at astonishingly low rates — black Americans in particular make up just 7% of the workforce — she saw an opportunity.

“It’s not easy to find teachers who are willing to leave the industry in order to teach,” she explained. But that’s exactly what Glauser did.

Through her company, Techtonica, Glauser is teaching women from all walks of life how to code — and she’s called on companies in the industry to back her.

Techtonica is diversifying tech in the Bay Area by offering a tuition-free program that prepares women and non-binary people for careers in software engineering. The tuition is paid for by partner companies, who are then matched with students to hire after graduation.

“If the people who aren’t able to afford this education could partner with the companies, they could help each other out,” Glauser explains.

In a way, then, Glauser is playing matchmaker.

Tech companies have a diversity problem. This woman raised her hand to help solve it.

Posted by Upworthy on Thursday, July 20, 2017

Too often, calls for inclusion take an “add women or people of color and stir” approach.

But this assumes that diversity is about hiring more people, ignoring the serious lack of access to opportunity. Her company is addressing both by asking for mentorship and the chance to hire disadvantaged residents within their respective communities.

If we want marginalized people to get a foot in the door, we have to open that door first.

In the Bay Area especially, the tech industry has priced low-income residents out of the cities where they grew up, driving up the cost of living and increasing the wage gap.

The irony here, then, is that the tech workforce hardly reflects the communities where they’re based.

If tech companies are as serious about diversity as they say they are, are they now willing to invest in it? Techtonica is betting on it.

“I didn’t feel like there was the support to actually succeed in computer science as both a woman and as a person of color,” Tonka, a Techtonica student, explained.

That’s the real drive behind coding academies like Techtonica. Students of color like Tonka can’t — and shouldn’t be expected to — make support appear out of thin air.

Considering the cost of education (not to mention child care, a laptop, and living expenses), there are countless barriers to tech, so a tuition-free model seems like the solution.

This model relies on the good sense and good ethics of tech companies.

Diversity can’t just be a hiring philosophy. When combating a system that keeps marginalized folks out of tech, it also costs money.

It’s money well spent, though, as evidenced by the first Techtonica cohort. 71% of these students are low-income people of color, all with a serious passion for computer science.

Nefis, a student at Techtonica, shared, “I’m following something that used to be a dream and is now a goal. I’m a part of the world that I feel I belong in.”

The students at Techtonica aren’t just learning to code either — they’re organizing.

This team effort is not only getting Techtonica off the ground, but it’s challenging an industry that for too long has ignored the needs of their communities.

Utilizing social media and outreach efforts, they’re hard at work securing sponsors and mentors. The company also provides diversity training to the teams where graduates are placed, and they organize local coding workshops in an effort to maximize their impact.

Diversifying tech, however challenging it might be, is an important and necessary step. Not only do we create more access to exciting and stable careers for marginalized people, we also better the industry itself with new perspectives, experiences, and ideas.

Companies are truly only as strong as they are diverse. But the question remains: Are they willing to pay for it?

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