With daughter as muse, Roxbury mom helps young women of color explore dreams in tech field

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BOSTON – News about artificial intelligence is everywhere. How it will change our lives; create efficiency and simplify tasks at home and at work. There are also concerns about the dangers of AI misuse. But there is no question that technology’s focus right now is on the next wave of AI tools designed for the masses.

How diverse is the workforce creating those tools? Not very, according to every labor and tech organization with studies and surveys available online. While women make up roughly half the workers in the U.S., just 35% of the employees in tech are women (AAUW) and only 3% are Black women (Women in Tech Network). “We’re not doing tech right if we don’t include women and people of color,” Bridgette Wallace explains. “It creates and sustains that gap-in knowledge, experience-that gap in how we interface and use technology,” Wallace said. “We want to ensure that it is useful and beneficial to all and not just a few.”

Bridgette Wallace
Bridgette Wallace, founder of G(Code)

CBS Boston

Bridgette Wallace is the founder of G(Code), Girls Code, an organization providing women and non-binary people of color ages 18-25 with an opportunity to learn tech skills. By education and training, Bridgette is not a “techie.” Her expertise is in housing and urban planning. As a state employee, she helped women and families transition from shelters into stable housing. In Roxbury, she saw firsthand how the neighborhood was changing and becoming less affordable. That only strengthened her advocacy for programs creating opportunities for long-term economic growth.

Inspiration behind G(Code)

The seed for G(Code) was planted when her daughter Madyson expressed an interest in technology. “I had always been a parent who sought out opportunities and resources for my daughter. Research is not too foreign to me,” Bridgette said, smiling. They found an enrichment program that provided Madyson with an introduction to the tech space with an emphasis in communication and leadership. Doors began to open. Before Madyson graduated from Northeastern University, she had interned at TJX Corporation and Intuit. The more she learned about tech, the more eager she was to begin her career in a field she could not have imagined years earlier.

The experience also opened Bridgette’s eyes. Madyson had stable housing, access to enrichment programs, a college education and family support. Yet, even for her, it was still challenging to find the way into the tech field. Bridgette wanted to help young women who didn’t have those advantages.

In 2017, she founded G(Code) and serves as its executive director. With a focus on coding, web design and data analytics, G(Code) provides instruction, training, and support. Through an extensive network of donors and corporate sponsors, G(Code) is able to provide fellows with computers, software, backpacks and more.

Initially, classes were held at the main branch of the Boston Public Library. When the pandemic hit, classes moved-and remain-online. But G(Code) offers more than training. Its mission is also to empower young women to believe in themselves and pursue possibilities they may have believed were out of reach.

300 G(Code) graduates   

There are 300 women who have graduated from G(Code) programs. Some moved directly into STEM jobs. Others pursued further education or more intense tech “bootcamps.” Some graduates now work for G(Code) teaching and inspiring the next wave of women exploring jobs in a field that offers professional and financial growth opportunities. Madyson calls it a “niche opportunity” to find your path in tech that can be life changing. “They get an opportunity to feed their family or tell their cousins and friends and communities about tech,” Madyson said. “Their families start to see the change.”

Madyson works at Adobe Systems in New York City. She sees a concerted effort, on the part of employers, to hire a diverse workforce. She says that the key-and an ongoing challenge-is helping young people of color, who may not have personal connections to tech companies and organizations, connect with employers who are trying to fill positions. Tech companies are employing new strategies, she says, to find diverse workers like visiting HBCUs (historically Black colleges) and programs that highlight diversity and impact.

Another persistent challenge, particularly for Black women, are the socioeconomic barriers to exploring technology fields including food and housing insecurity. During the pandemic after G(Code) classes moved online, Bridgette learned that some students were struggling. She reached out to companies for donations to buy grocery store gift cards and was able to provide thousands of dollars in support.

Future home base in Roxbury

And when a 1900 Victorian home went up for sale in Roxbury, she saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity-a chance to create a co-living and co-learning “home base” for 14 future members of the G(Code) community. For the women who will eventually live in the house, the barriers to focusing on studies will be gone; replaced with a safe, supportive environment in a beautiful space. “G(Code) is a place where the lights are always on,” Wallace said. “This house will be that flagship-that symbol-where the lights are always on. There’s always a place for young folks interested in tech.”

G(Code) house Roxbury
Future G(Code) home base in Roxbury

CBS Boston

The property includes a stately main house and a carriage house which will be home to the computer lab. Sasaki, ARUP, and Blackspace are all contributing architectural and design plans for the project. Jasmine Graves, a Blackspace member, explained the group’s design philosophy. The property will incorporate elements that members of the G(Code) community associate with home. Colors, spaces, textures and furniture will be, very intentionally, chosen with work and living spaces in mind. Jasmine described one example, “I want to have a space that’s large enough if I want to have a communal meal… but furniture that will enable us to have a moment of solitude.”

Bridgette closed on the house in 2015. There are still permitting steps to complete before the actual renovation work can begin. But as she moves through the home with its original stained-glass windows and carved banisters, she can imagine the energy, the vitality-the possibility-that exists in these old walls for women imagining their future anew in a supportive community with a track record of success. 

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