CODE2040 CEO heads to the White House by Jessica Guynn

CODE2040 CEO heads to the White House by Jessica Guynn

SAN FRANCISCO — Laura Weidman Powers, who has built CODE2040 into a major force for diversifying the technology industry, is taking her advocacy to the White House with her appointment as a senior policy adviser to U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.

For six months Powers will serve in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, focusing on diversity and inclusion in tech hiring and entrepreneurship, CODE2040 said Saturday.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to directly impact how we as a nation are hiring and retaining diverse teams, building systems to support minority entrepreneurs, and creating a more inclusive tech industry,” CODE2040 said in a blog post. “We’re proud and excited for this chapter of Laura’s tenure as CEO, and just as excited to see what incredible impact she has on the White House. We believe that Code2040’s knowledge, and the knowledge of so many other organizations, is pivotal to designing a better, more inclusive economy and nation. This is an opportunity to have those insights embedded in national policy and conversation.”

Powers is the co-founder and CEO of CODE2040 that helps prepare college-age African-American and Latino technical talent for careers in the tech industry through summer internships that place them in tech companies whose narrow recruiting efforts often overlook them. The non-profit’s name refers to the decade in which the United States will have a non-white majority.

The Harvard and Stanford MBA grad’s ambition is to take on inequality of opportunity in the tech industry and close the wealth and achievement gap in the U.S. for African Americans and Latinos by 2040. “Not to be overly dramatic, but it’s the future of America,” Weidman Powers told USA TODAY earlier this year.

People working to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in tech say more women and minorities should have access to the industry and the high-paying, fast-growing jobs it offers. Data show many more black and Hispanic students major in computer science and engineering than work in jobs in the tech industry. Nine percent of graduates from top engineering programs are black and Hispanic, according to a recent report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Representation for blacks and Hispanics at major technology companies is about 5%.

“Why We’re Sending Our CEO to the White House” @CODE2040
So excited 😂😂😂@CODE2040@tristanwalker@USCTO
— Laura Weidman Powers (@laurawp) July 30, 2016

USA TODAY analysis of the employment records of Facebook, Google and Yahoo revealed that African Americans and Hispanics are also sharply underrepresented in non-technical jobs such as sales and administration.

Technology companies in Silicon Valley have been pouring resources and money into diversity efforts since Google first disclosed the lopsided demographics of its workforce in May 2014. The efforts have focused on increasing the diversity of the tech workforce and making the culture of tech companies more inclusive.

Excited to be working with @laurawp on @USCTO team. Yet another fantastic teammate!
— Ed Felten (@EdFelten44) July 30, 2016

The push has gained growing urgency in the tech industry. Whites are expected to become a minority in the USA by 2044, Hispanic and African-American buying power is on the rise and Silicon Valley has ambitions that now lap the globe. Having women and underrepresented minorities brainstorming and building, not just using, the products dreamed here is quickly becoming a necessity.

Congrats @laurawp and big thx for continuing to make a difference and have big impact
— Jeffrey Siminoff (@jmsSanFran) July 30, 2016

The White House announcement came Saturday during CODE2040’s summit in San Francisco. The theme of the summit: “raising the industry bar,” the roles companies and industry leaders can play in creating a more inclusive workforce and greater racial equity.

“Laura is a great leader with proven results. She’ll bring her experience to the White House to make strides to keep moving the conversation forward that we all hope leads to policy and real changes for inclusion in the tech industry,” said Wayne Sutton, co-founder of Change Catalyst and Tech Inclusion. “My only disappointment is that she’ll have just six months.”


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