By Jenny Hoff, Photos by Christina @ wocintechchat.com
When Chandra Sanders was a single mom in Louisiana raising her children on $50,000 per year, she knew that in order to have a chance at increasing her income, she would need to pick up her family and move across the country to California. Within weeks, she was making six figures and operating with a much more flexible work schedule than she ever dreamed of, while making more money than she imagined she could.
“Not everyone can move across the country,” says Sanders. “And now they don’t have to. That’s perhaps the one good thing to come out of this pandemic. There are so many more remote work opportunities for high-tech companies.”
Sanders is now determined to help others like herself—women of color who are single moms—achieve financial security, while also having the flexibility to be involved in their children’s lives. As a director for The Mom Project, she seized the opportunity COVID-19 provided. She started a program called RISE, which offers scholarships, mentorship and job placement assistance to women of color who are ready to enter the tech industry, no matter where they live.
RISE to the Occasion
In just one year, RISE awarded 2,000 scholarships to women across the country. Many of the scholarship recipients came from the hospitality industry. Unlike tech companies, which were able to transition to remote work with few disruptions, hospitality was hit hard during the pandemic and didn’t have remote-work opportunities to keep staff employed. The RISE program pays for online upskill certification courses. RISE also provides mentorship on resume writing, interviewing and connecting with tech companies for immediate job placement.
“Four million households financially depend on a Black woman,” says Sanders. “We need to give them a leg up so they can stand up and rise after.”
While RISE is a fully immersive program with mentorship and support included in their scholarships, there are other opportunities for women of color to get free training and certifications to join the tech industry. Google offers a program called Black Women Lead, which provides free classes, seminars and certification opportunities to women of color. General Assembly, a global company that offers multiple ways to upskill and certify in tech skills, has launched CODE for Good. With the specific aim of helping underrepresented groups of people enter the tech industry.
Certification for All
While the tech industry has grown exponentially in the last 20 years and is projected to add 667,000 new jobs by 2030—more than any other industry—Black women only make up 3% of the tech workforce. With one of the highest earning potentials of any industry, tech offers a great opportunity to close the wage gap and give women of color a more secure financial future.
For this reason, Sanders encourages women to research opportunities to gain tech skills for free or at a reduced rate. She believes this pivot is the one that offers financial freedom and the support system women need as they take on the responsibility of supporting their families and communities.