Bridging the Opportunity Divide

Internet Pioneer Invests in the Diversity of the Tech Community

October 17, 2014
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Internet Pioneer Invests in the Diversity of the Tech Community
Venture capitalist Marc Andreesen wants to help get more women and minorities into tech. JD Lasica/Flickr
Recent findings reported that the existing workforce is predominately white, male and Asian.

In the wake of Silicon Valley’s glaring issue with diversity and women in the workplace, Marc Andreesen and his wife, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen are stepping up to help solve the problem.

Marc, one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture capitalists (he coauthored Mosaic and cofounded Netscape), and his wife, a well-known philanthropist, have announced plans to donate $500,000 to a select group of nonprofits focused on bridging the gender and diversity gap in the tech industry.

The lucky recipients? Girls Who Code, Code2040 and Hack the Hood.

“Laura and I basically set out to identify three groups doing an effective job,” Andreessen says. “These grants are intended to boost their capabilities and help them scale for the next several years.”

Reports released earlier this year from some of the industry’s biggest companies reveal that the tech workforce is overwhelmingly white, male and Asian. Research has shown that a diverse group of employees drives innovation, which is why industry leaders like Andreessen are sending a message by supporting these nonprofits.

“Tech is not yet inclusive enough,” Andreessen tells USA Today. “There is no question that there is a huge opportunity to make it more inclusive and open it up to traditionally underrepresented groups, such as women and underrepresented minorities.”

Code2040 focuses on helping African American and hispanic engineers find internships in Silicon Valley and will use the money to support an alumni program. Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani plans to use the funds to develop its technology platform and alumni network as well.

“This is not a token donation. This is really an investment and a partnership,” Saujani says. “We see their grant not as an investment in our program but an investment in our future.”

“Diversity and innovation go hand in hand, in my opinion,” Arrillaga-Andreessen says, “you can’t have one without the other.”

Hack the Hood, which Google recently awarded $500,000 for a San Francisco Bay nonprofit competition, aims at helping underprivileged children build websites for local businesses, while also providing guidance for a career path in tech.

Part of the donation comes from Andreessen’s recent award from the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (QEPrize), for his work on Mosaic. Andreessen — who runs venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and sits on the board of Facebook, eBay and Hewlett-Packard — is sending two students from Code2040 in his place to accept the prize from Queen Elizabeth II.

MORE: Young Women in Technology Band Together in Texas to Succeed

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