This Nonprofit Wants to Teach 20,000 Women to Code by 2020

Fed up with how slow progress has been, a U.K.-based charity is going full throttle on closing the gender wage gap in tech.

Code First: Girls, located in Britain, is an award-winning nonprofit dedicated to teaching free computer programming skills to women. The organization recently made headlines when it announced its 20:20 campaign—an initiative to train 20,000 women to code by the end of 2020.

It’s bold, it’s revolutionary, and it’s inspiring. But most importantly, it’s possible thanks to myriad supporters both domestic and abroad.

One such supporter is global investment firm KKR, which will provide financial backing for the campaign beginning December 2017. The firm’s generosity reflects a company culture that’s been cultivated by co-CEOS Henry Kravis and George Roberts, who have continually backed initiatives related to diversity and inclusion.

“Coding is becoming an increasingly important skill that should be available equally to all, regardless of gender,” said Jean-Pierre Saad, Director of KKR’s TMT team in London. “We are hence [sic] delighted to partner with a pioneering organization like Code First: Girls and support them in tackling gender diversity in tech, which we believe will drive better outcomes for businesses and our communities.”

“One of the biggest barriers to women entering the tech industry is education, and our 20:20 campaign is designed to address this by providing skills that are critical to the digital economy,” said Amali de Alwis, CEO of Code First: Girls. “Our partnership with a leading investment firm like KKR, which has such a deep and wide network with companies in the U.K. and worldwide, is a fantastic opportunity for our organization. Their support is key to us delivering our 20:20 campaign.”

Since its initial founding in 2012, Code First: Girls has taught over 4,000 women how to program. If the organization is to meet its 20:20 campaign goal, they will need to teach approximately 16,000 women to code over the next three years.

Challenging? Yes. Impossible? No.


Hillary Clinton Encourages Tech Companies to Give Back

Hillary Clinton
Image: Alan Freed

While speaking at Dreamforce 2014, a tech convention for cloud-based data management company SalesForce, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton focused on the ways tech companies can—and should—give back to their communities.

“What we have to be really focused on now is making sure that the benefits of technology to people’s lives outweigh the pitfalls,” said Clinton, adding that it was important that companies such as SalesForce are “creating more jobs, connecting up more families and communities, and expanding our horizons.”

SalesForce in particular has focused on charitable causes with their 1/1/1 model, which commits SalesForce to donating 1% of its time, products, and financial resources to humanitarian organizations. That’s meant $68 million in grants and 680,000 volunteer hours from staff for more than 23,000 nonprofits and schools around the world in the last 15 years.

These comments come at a time when companies at large, and particularly tech-oriented businesses, are cutting back on philanthropic giving. In 1986, corporations were giving 2.1% of profits to charity; by 2012, that percentage had dropped to 0.8%.

And though tech companies are generally doing well financially, many have still seen fit to take from their communities instead of giving back: Twitter negotiated $56 million in tax breaks from San Francisco to support its expansion, and Oracle convinced the city to use public funds to host America’s Cup race, which cost $11.5 million after dismal fundraising attempts fell short.

On the other hand, Google remains one of the most philanthropic US companies, donating $1.1 billion to charity in 2012—8.5% of its profits. However, most of these charitable donations go to international charities, begging the question of whether or not tech companies should be focusing more locally, or if all philanthropy is equally necessary.

In the wake of these events, Clinton’s Dreamforce speech encouraged industry leaders to fulfill what she described as their duty to use tech for social good, potentially kickstarting a new wave of philanthropic giving.