Ethnic minorities

My classmates Laura Powers and Tristan Walker are the co-founders of CODE2040. CODE2040 is a San Francisco based non-profit organization that works to provide ethnic minorities, specifically blacks and latinos, with opportunities in the tech sector.

CODE2040 has a Fellows program that connects students with summer opportunities at leading tech companies, a Technical Applicant Prep program that gives ethnic minorities insights on how to enter the tech sector, and a Residency program in partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs which gives ethnic minorities support to launch a company. Companies that have worked with CODE2040 in the past include Facebook, Etsy, and Nest.

Together with their team, Laura and Tristan are doing a great job at CODE2040. I wonder if a similar program could be launched in Istanbul.

A key difference between San Francisco and Istanbul is that a larger fraction of the city’s population is composed of ethnic minorities in the former than the latter. Even if we take Asians to be non-minorities, 34% of San Francisco’s population consists of ethnic minorities. I couldn’t find the figure for Istanbul but it’s 25-30% in Turkey and this figure is likely an upper limit for Istanbul as there are more minorities living in Turkey’s Eastern cities than Istanbul. In addition to the smaller fraction of ethnic minorities in Istanbul, they’re less outspoken in claiming ownership of their ethnicity than those in San Francisco.

A second important difference is that the participation of ethnic minorities in the tech sector is lower in Istanbul than in San Francisco. Once again treating Asians as non-minorities, 5% of the workers of San Francisco’s tech companies are ethnic minorities. I conducted an informal poll among our startups to determine the same fraction for Istanbul and found that among our startups’ overall 1000 workers, there are less than 20 ethnic minorities. This is less than 2% of their workers. Since we’ve invested in over 40 tech companies in Istanbul, our startups are likely a good proxy for the city’s overall figures.

As a result, in order for a program like CODE2040 to be successful in Istanbul, it would first need to attract ethnic minorities to the city before then helping them land tech jobs.

The first step is a broader national, or at least city-level issue rather than one specific to the tech sector. It requires deep collaboration with the city and national level governments to make Istanbul a more attractive place to live for all ethnic minorities. It also requires a greater appreciation of ethnic diversity to encourage minorities to highlight the richness of their backgrounds.

CODE2040’s Fellows, Technical Applicant, and Residency programs are great examples of what can be done as part of the second step.