Black Girls Code hits the jackpot after refusing Uber’s $125,000 funding

28 Aug 2017

Members of Black Girls Code. Image: BlackGirlsCode/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Black Girls Code has received $125,000 in funding from an unlikely source after refusing to take money from Uber.

Black Girls Code might have made its small-screen debut last year, but the non-profit organisation to support girls who want to get into tech is making new headlines for very different reasons.

According to TechCrunch, founder and previous Inspirefest speaker Kimberly Bryant revealed that the not-for-profit organisation turned down funding worth $125,000 from Uber, citing it as a publicity stunt in the wake of its severely damaging sexual harassment claims.

She said that it “seems a bit tone deaf to really addressing real change in how they are moving towards both inclusion and equity. It appears to be more PR-driven than actually focused on real change. So, we turned it down.”

Major crowdfunding win

Bryant added that this was just one of the layered reasons as to why Black Girls Code would refuse a significant amount of funding from Uber on the eve of a new CEO stepping in to replace Travis Kalanick.

“I’ve been quite open for some time about the fact that we as an organisation use Uber as a tool. We’re also headquartered in the city [of Oakland] where they have planned to move. So, I’ve been open to the notion that they can transform themselves. Yet their past history and ‘political’ nature of manoeuvring is, and was, troubling.”

In the hours that followed the news, Black Girls Code’s dedicated online supporters rallied behind it, not just with positive tweets and supportive messages, but also with cold, hard cash.

In a tweet, the organisation revealed that in the space of a day, it had surpassed the figure of $125,000 in donations made by the public.

Bryant herself also took to Twitter to welcome the news, with no sign that the donations are going to dry up in the coming days.

In other Uber funding news, the company revealed it made a donation of $1.2m to the organisation Girls Who Code, with Uber’s chief brand officer, Bozoma Saint John, joining the non-profit’s board.

“I’ve said it quite a bit, but I believe in representation and that it matters,” Saint John told TechCrunch.

“And there’s no better time than right now to talk about women in tech and women in these very specific ladders. We obviously want more leadership and want more women in tech, so we need to make sure the pipeline is strong.”

However, Uber’s decision to invest in Girls Who Code was met with criticism by some who said it should have spent the money on organisations to aid women who have suffered sexual harassment at work.

Here is Bryant speaking at Inspirefest 2015 about Black Girls Code’s efforts to get 1m girls to coding by 2040.

Members of Black Girls Code. Image: BlackGirlsCode/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic