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How Women in Tech Are Transforming Philanthropy

Sadie Evans

March 31, 2023

In recognition of Women’s History Month, as well as the continuation of Salesforce’s dedication to gender and racial equality, the Salesforce Women’s Network joined Salesforce Philanthropy leadership to engage in a dynamic conversation on how organizations can partner with communities to close the representation gap in tech.

Led by Salesforce’s Susi Collins (Senior Director of Equality Programs and Strategy) and Becky Ferguson (COO of Salesforce Foundation and SVP of Philanthropy), the webinar featured two Salesforce Catalyst Fund grantees: Kristina Newton (Founder and CEO, HYPE) and Ayanna Lott-Pollard (Executive Director, Resilient Coders). The conversation dug into the importance of investing in underrepresented leaders, challenges and opportunities for women founders, and how to advance gender and racial equity through philanthropy with an intersectional lens.


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Introducing two Salesforce Catalyst Fund grantees 

Black and Latinx nonprofit leaders today receive only about 4% of philanthropic funding in the U.S., and the unrestricted net assets of Black-led organizations are 76% smaller than their white-led counterparts. The Salesforce Catalyst Fund addresses these disparities by providing unrestricted startup capital to underrepresented leaders of up-and-coming nonprofits like HYPE and Resilient Coders. Becky explains: “The Catalyst Fund aim[s] to tackle and address the gaps in the philanthropy sector of the flow of capital and intentionally seeks to support organizations in key stages of [their] growth journey with meaningful funds to help them grow and deepen their mission and impact.”


HYPE is an Atlanta-based nonprofit empowering middle and high school girls of color with technology skills that prepare them to thrive as future leaders in 21st-century careers. Fewer than 4% of Black women are taking the AP Computer Science exam, and more than 50% of Black women leave the tech industry within the first 5 years. As a Black woman who personally experienced doubt and isolation due to lack of representation, mentorship, and upward mobility opportunities in the tech workforce; Kristina is committed to changing these statistics for Black and Brown girls who pursue computing and tech pathways. To date, HYPE has empowered more than 1,200 girls in Georgia with computer science education and leadership development, and the organization has a goal to reach 2,500 girls by the end of 2023.

“You can do hard things. Let's look at all of the hard or difficult or challenging things you've done in your life and see that this is just one other potentially hard thing you can master and you can overcome.”

Resilient Coders provides a free 20-week program to low-income people of color in the Greater Boston and Philadelphia areas. The boot camp provides students from any professional background with technical, professional development, and lifelong skills that set them up for successful and high-growth careers as software engineers, then connects their alumni to hiring organizations.


Resilient Coders has trained over 400 people of color in Software Development while providing every student with a $1,000/bi-weekly stipend to support their financial health during their program tenure. Executive Director Ayanna is a creative strategist and transformational leader with more than 20 years of experience in marketing and operations who uses influence to inspire and develop teams while serving as a collaborative force and “connector of dots” to business initiatives.

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Kristina Newton, Founder and CEO of HYPE

What role can organizations play in advancing underrepresented communities in tech?

Kristina emphasizes the importance of what it means for an organization to be a true partner: “The reason why partnership is important for organizations like HYPE is because [we work] with middle and high school girls...our partners may not see or experience what they believe advancement looks like for a few years down the road. Computing and tech fields are the fastest growing and high paying.


Young Black girls are being left out of opportunities for economic mobility and sustainability. The issue doesn't suddenly start in corporate America. We have to start with our 12-year-old nieces at the local public school who may not even step into a job for five to ten years down the line.


I am grateful for organizations like Salesforce and the Catalyst Fund that allow us to partner in the ways we understand that we needed funding. [A true] partnership doesn't put limitations on how and where and when we use the funds, but says I see how you know and understand the communities you are part of, [and] we want to partner with you and support the work you are doing....We are here to elevate the work that you are doing in the community whether it gets done in a day, a year or...ten years down the line.”

“Persist. Persist. Persist. Do not quit. If you go into the room and don’t see someone who looks like you, find the room, find your people. [Y]our bigger than any obstacle you can face.”

Ayanna Lott-Pollard, Executive Director of Resilient Coders

Ayanna reflected on corporate philanthropy as an opportunity to improve the future of the workforce: “It is an opportunity to remove the paper ceiling so people can get the skills to do the work. They are contributing to society and contributing to the tech industry....Some of our professionals are now leaders. They are now influencers. They are now hiring managers. They're now creating opportunities for people who look like them. They come back to their community, and they help the current cohorts come through classes.


[Our] communities have been able to create pathways, alternative talent pathways for young adults ages 18 to 30 [who] may not have a degree....In five years or six years when there will be so many automated jobs removed from the industry, we are preparing leaders to take space and to take that professional first step to be the folks who are creating change in problem-solving for organizations for years to come. We can do that because of philanthropy.”


What is your advice for the next generation of women and girls of color in tech?

“Persist. Persist. Persist. Do not quit. If you go into the room and don’t see someone who looks like you, find the room, find your people...Don't quit. The very serious impact of racism and bias and equity is a distraction to keep you from doing your work and keep you from becoming all you know that you can be. So understand that your bigger than any obstacle you can face.” - Ayanna Lott-Pollard, Executive Director, Resilient Coders


“You can do hard things. Let's look at all of the hard or difficult or challenging things you've done in your life and see that this is just one other potentially hard thing you can master and you can overcome. [Don't let] something being hard or new or challenging stop you, ever, because you have many examples of hard things you have done, and you can continue to do hard things.” - Kristina Newton, Founder and CEO, HYPE

Business as a platform for change

Susi Collins cites Salesforce’s philanthropic efforts as one of the reasons why she joined the organization. “Corporations have the responsibility to support nonprofits in the communities they serve. I’m proud to be a part of a company that values investing in businesses like HYPE and Resilient Coders to create a more diverse tech industry.” The driving force to give back and support local communities played a deep role in the entire panel’s discussion of equality and philanthropy.


Both Kristina and Ayanna started in the corporate world before choosing a career in nonprofit. Their personal values to make a difference, give back, and lift up their communities drive them to continue their efforts. The leaders shared a moment they had witnessed their efforts pay off: the life-changing impact on their students when each individual realizes a career in tech is within reach.


Inspiring stories of the programs’ successes are powerful evidence of how HYPE and Resilient Coders are improving the lives of program participants and the future of the tech talent pool. Salesforce’s Catalyst Fund continues to empower organizations like these— and just announced a partnership with ten more — to support the work of changemakers like Ayanna and Kristina and the communities they impact.


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