diversity-tech-bootcamps

Yes, we get it – most high-salary industries need more diverse workers, and tech is no exception. But while the conversation about diversity in tech usually focuses on gender, diversity encompasses racial, socioeconomic, cognitive, and experiential differences. Think pieces and diversity reports show large tech companies admitting they have a problem and beginning to address the diversity in tech crisis, but do we really believe change is coming? Even if companies make public commitments to hiring more diverse candidates for technical positions, is the pipeline strong enough to fuel those hiring commitments? As we track non-traditional routes to tech at Course Report, it’s clear that talented, diverse coding bootcamp grads can fill that pipeline and play a role in shifting the demographics of the US tech industry.

The Current Landscape

What does the tech sector look like these days? According to the Depart of Labor, the number of tech jobs in the US grew to 6.9 million in 2016 (up from 6.7 million in 2015), and the average salary for a US tech worker is $108,900. In 2016, the industry was composed of 66% men and 34% women; 70% of workers held bachelor’s degrees in computer science and the average tech employee is 40 years old. If we look at the racial breakdown of employees in tech vs. the US population in 2016, it’s obvious that something is off:

diversity-in-tech-graph

As top tech companies start to dig into their demographics and share that data publically, it’s clear that the tech workforce lacks racial and gender diversity when compared to the actual population. Companies like NVIDIA, Microsoft, and Intel only have 27% of their technical roles held by women (even though generally 50% of the US population is made up of women). Black and Hispanic populations are represented the least in tech, while Asian employees dominate minority representation. Understanding the data marks the first step towards fixing the problem, but long story short: most tech companies retain White and Asian employees and usually keep their teams looking like a boys club. 

The Pipeline Issue

Of course, even if the aforementioned tech giants make commitments to hire non-traditional candidates and revamp exclusionary recruiting practices, the tech skills gap remains. It may sound shocking, but 1.4 million computing and engineering positions need to be filled by 2020. Companies can’t hire skilled employees who don’t exist, and the lack of women and underrepresented minority students in STEM starts young. 

So how do we retrain adults who are left out of traditional routes to high-paying tech jobs? Coding bootcamps present a solution.

A Needed Solution? Coding Bootcamps

For the uninitiated, coding bootcamps are intensive, accelerated learning programs that teach beginners digital skills like full stack web development, data science, digital marketing, UX/UI design, and more, in just a few months. The industry has grown 10x since the first bootcamps launched in 2012; coding bootcamps graduated around 16,000 developers in 2017 and is on track to earn $309 million in revenue in 2019. This alternative route to education is not only shorter and more cost-effective, but also more accessible to a wider range of potential students. 

For the most part, bootcamps are aware of the potential that this model holds. “Racial and gender diversity are things that ultimately create cognitive diversity, which is something that creates a better learning environment in a bootcamp and ultimately a better work environment,” says Kristi Riordan, COO of Flatiron School. “The bootcamp industry is trying to increase representation within bootcamps and within the tech industry. When different types of people come together, we see magical and special results.”

Structurally, Bootcamps Lend Themselves to Diversity

The unique structure of a bootcamp lends itself to include groups that are historically shut out of traditional education. Low-income and marginalized groups in the US have limited access to high tuition schools, better education, and better-paying jobs. But we know that while opportunity is unevenly distributed, talent is not. One way to solve the pipeline issue described above is to tap into communities outside of Silicon Valley, and coding bootcamps aim to do just that by lowering the barrier to entry. Here are some benefits that bootcamps uniquely offer:

  • Less time away from work: the average bootcamp is 115.1 weeks vs. 4 years for a college degree. That’s crucial to a single parent, the sole provider of a household, or a low-income earner who can't afford to spend 4 years changing careers. 
  • More affordable: The cost of a bootcamp can be comparable to one semester of college – average tuition for bootcamps are $11,400, with an average of $33,480 per year for private college. Bootcamp graduates are also seeing tangible ROI – low-income students see a $35,914 lift in salary. 
  • The industry is ripe with innovation; for example, online coding bootcamps and flexible, part-time learning formats help working parents and those not able to quit their jobs. “We felt that an online program was the best way to reach the audience of potential developers who don’t live in a big city,” says Actualize bootcamp founder Jay Wengrow, “Educational accessibility is very important to us, which is why we offer a part-time program.”
  • Most bootcamps believe that education background isn’t a predictor of success. This mindset expands access to communities that are typically underserved in education and underrepresented in tech. 
  • Acknowledgment of the problem: Bootcamp staff are typically industry professionals who have seen the gender/race gap and genuinely want to close that gap. “Having worked in a number of different technology roles myself, I've been the only person of color in a team or a department, or the only programmer of color,” says Jarryd Huntly, an instructor at We Can Code IT. “Being able to help other people start a career in this way, even just getting the idea out there that this is a viable career path, that tech is something you can pursue, was always something I was a big fan of – We Can Code IT’s mission and their focus and emphasis on diversity. That was a big draw for me.”
  • Incentives and encouragement: Scholarships and diversity initiatives fuel support for underrepresented groups. Check out these coding bootcamps with scholarships for women and veterans. And these bootcamps offer various diversity scholarships: Flatiron School, LearningFuze, Hack Reactor, Hackbright Academy, and We Can Code IT.
  • Bootcamps are outcomes-focused, meaning that they’re not successful unless they’re actually getting graduates jobs. More and more companies now appreciate the diversity of thought, skills, and backgrounds that come from coding bootcamps – see why these companies love hiring bootcampers.

Lower opportunity costs combined with accessibility in coding bootcamps gives more individuals a chance to join the tech industry (and change their lives with access to $70-100k salary ranges).

So Why is 2018 Poised to See a Change?

In 2013 (the early stages of the bootcamp industry), bootcamps were graduating diverse developers, but we weren’t seeing the face of tech change. Bootcamp graduates largely went into junior developer roles, not positions of power. We now see bootcamp grads moving up in their positions quickly – 2-3 years into their careers, bootcampers are getting promotions, working in powerful roles, managing teams, and making hiring decisions. For example, this Fullstack Academy grad now leads his data acquisition team and Iron Yard alum Shane now manages his mobile dev team.

It’s not just bootcamps impacting this change in workplace culture; companies must also do their part in hiring with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion. And once a company hires diverse candidates, they must do what it takes to retain women and underrepresented minorities. The companies we’ve seen be most successful at diversity and inclusion often employ the following tactics: 

  • Offer affinity work groups focused on racial and gender commonalities + specific professional development and mentorship for minority groups.
  • Expand partnerships + recruitment with a broader range of universities like Historically Black Colleges (eg. Google’s new Howard West campus) and recruiting from colleges that aren’t Ivy Leagues.
  • Revamp key business priorities and shift hiring priorities towards training non-traditional hires to excel in their field.

Coding bootcamps are one way to increase diversity and inclusion in the tech pipeline, but it will take commitments from hiring partners and US companies to solve this issue. From filling the tech education pipeline with diverse candidates to changing hiring processes that previously shut out non-traditional applicants, in 2018 we hope to see the tech industry start to reflect the diversity of its consumers.

Further Diversity in Tech Resources…

Get involved with these organizations helping to increase diversity in the tech industry...

Want to know how your favorite tech companies are measuring up? 

Learn More:
Podcast: Building Diversity in Bootcamps
How to Avoid Paying Tuition Until Landing a Job
Free Bootcamps / Deferred Tuition Bootcamps

About The Author

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Lauren is a communications and operations strategist who loves to help others find their idea of success. She is passionate about techonology education, career development, startups, and the arts. Her background includes career/youth development, public affairs, and philanthropy. She is from Richmond, VA and now currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

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