Episode 12: Diversifying Tech By Teaching Mothers How To Code

Welcome back to Tech Forward! This week, I spoke with Tina Lee, Founder and CEO of MotherCoders. Based in San Francisco, MotherCoders is a non-profit that’s expanding the tech talent pool by helping women with kids gain the skills, knowledge, and connections they need to thrive in today's digital economy. Tina’s career journey has taken her from management consulting and recruiting roles in the private sector, to philanthropy and nonprofit roles in the public sector. She’s passionate and prolific about the digital economy, especially the changing needs of women and families in a digital, globalized world. We discussed how MotherCoders came to be, and how Tina is helping moms of all types launch their tech careers.

Currently, 86% of women will become moms, and with millennials becoming parents, there are more moms than ever with college degrees. As a person with caregiving responsibilities of her own, however, Tina discovered first hand that the free or low-cost and easily accessible options like meetups and workshops were not easy for her to attend. Recognizing a huge opportunity to provide moms with both caregivers and a space to learn, she launched the MotherCoders pilot in 2014. Since then, they have trained over 150 women, both through standalone events as well as a part-time 9 week program.

MotherCoders — which serves working moms seeking career advancement, reentering the workforce, and starting down the path of entrepreneurship — isn’t a boot camp or job training program. Instead, it’s a space where moms can integrate their past experiences, skills, and resources with technical skills and contextual knowledge to get them into a role where they will have wage security and advancement opportunities. Providing this support for mothers now also supports their children down the line. Not only do children of working mothers go on to earn more as adults, but studies show children’s academic trajectory compares to that of their mothers. “It’s a great way to inspire the next generation! Why would you not do this for mothers?”

The structure of MotherCoders addresses the top 3 barriers for mothers: time, money, and caregiving responsibilities. Along with competitive pricing, they offer a mother-friendly schedule and on-site childcare. With this approach, they provide a welcoming environment for people who have been systematically shut out. MotherCoders is open to all women: “If you’re a woman, and you’re the primary caregiver for a child under 17, you are welcome here.”

Moving forwards, Tina’s ultimate goal is to expand MotherCoders to new locations. She wants to design a flexible program with core components that people can adjust according to the unique needs of their local ecosystem. If you’re interested in helping make this licensing model a reality and having MotherCoders come to your city someday, you can donate today. Tina, as a mom myself, I love the work you’re doing. Thank you so much for coming on the show, and thank you to all of you out there listening. See you next week!