How Bridgette Wallace’s Experience Motivated Her To Found A Co-Living and Co-Working Space For Women of Color

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Bridgette Wallace immigrated with her family from Jamaica to the United States and settled in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. At the time, “white flight” was shrinking the local economy and racial tensions were rising. She witnessed these disruptions within her community firsthand as industry then moved in, pushing the residents back out, and gentrifying the neighborhood. She remembers seeing neighbors turn from friends into enemies throughout the process. This persistent pattern and the emotions that came with it ignited a passion within her to try and do something about this destructive cycle.

Wallace went on to receive her Master's in Urban Planning with a concentration in Economic Development from Tufts University. She has worked in public health as a Program Manager for the Boston Public Health Commission and the Department of Public Health. And most recently, she founded G|Code House, a non-profit organization designed to educate and empower young women of color to pursue careers in technology. The G|Code community offers young women of color a safe co-living, working, and learning community where they can learn cutting-edge technology skills, gain employment experience, and connect with a world-renowned network of mentors and advisors.

We had the opportunity to chat with Bridgette Wallace, and some of her G|Code team and alumni, to learn more about how she continues to push hard for equity and inclusion in undervalued and overlooked communities.

Her Campus: Are there any specific individuals or mentors you credit in your success?
Bridgette Wallace: As the first grandchild, I had the good fortune of being raised by my grandparents. Their love and investment came in many forms, most notably they made sure that I received a good educational foundation. My home life and educational opportunities helped to illuminate my path to success by guiding me to eventually finding my purpose. Outside of my family, I also had a number of impactful mentors that poured into me both personally and professionally. One in particular whose words and example have guided my work and had a huge impact on my success was and still is Mel King, Professor Emeritus of MIT in City and Regional Planning. Mel demonstrated a commitment to service and community that centered love, access, and opportunity for all, not just a few. Despite his advanced age, Mel still manages to create and advocate for third spaces for the community to gather, grow, be nourished, valued and seen. These are goals I hope to help achieve as well.

HC: When did you start G|Code House and what is your ultimate goal?
BW: G|Code was officially founded in 2017. We welcomed our first Intro to G|Code unhoused cohort in 2020, hosted at the Copley Public Library. Our second online cohort begins in October 2020. G|Code strives to empower black, brown and indigenous young women ages 18-25 at their most human level. Additionally, our aim in creating this progressive communal living and learning space is geared towards developing young women of color into tech titans. The idea is for the home itself to quite literally serve as a common space where women can live under one roof, working together while forming a collective bond. The young women will learn cutting edge technology while also receiving career training, listening to speakers, honing their interview skills, and building their respective networks. Our short-term goal is to provide Black Indigenous Women Of Color (BIWOC) with the tools and support they need to feel confident entering and excelling in tech. Our long-term goal is to have G|Code be replicated in communities across the nation to house, support, educate and launch other marginalized groups for careers in tech.

HC: In your words, describe the community you have created.
BW: We’ve created a community within a community where young BIWOC are invited into a space that has been specifically curated for them to explore the possibilities of a career in tech. The community we created centers their needs, concerns, hopes, dreams and desires. We then work to provide them with the tools both personally and professionally to fight imposter syndrome and any other disparaging voices that seek to dim their light and dismiss or overlook the contributions they can make in tech. Our community is intentional in its design, purposeful in balancing both individual and communal reliance and impactful in its programming and confident in its outcome to produce BIWOC that reinvest in the community and each other.

HC: What has been the most surreal moment in your career thus far?
BW: It’s hard to just identify one moment, but if I had to choose it would be the moment when the first group of young women walked through the door to our class. The smiles on their faces confirmed that all our hard work, rejection, doubt and slow investment was for a reason. Their smiles entering and leaving the class gave me a renewed drive and determination to stay the course. 

HC: Where do you hope to be in ten years?
BW: In 10 years, we hope to have launched some amazing young women in tech companies across the Commonwealth and the country. Some might even go on to become entrepreneurs, and I’m excited to see what they’ll bring into the world. I’d also like to see this model replicated beyond the Boston region. What a venture like ours offers is not just opportunity but time. Time to develop, to get a grasp on where they want to be, to dream, explore, to learn to be part of a team, and the impact they want to make on the world. We take for granted that people have ample opportunities and time to develop themselves. My goal is that as time goes on, the program will only increase in size and scope so that G|Code graduates pay it forward and offer support as they’ve been given it.

Rizel Bobb-Semple: Curriculum Development and Recruitment Lead, Intro to G|Code Facilitator

Her Campus: Tell us a little about your involvement in G|Code House.
Rizel Bobb-Semple: Like any employee at a startup or small non-profit, I play a number of roles at G|Code alongside my coworkers. My main tasks include Curriculum Development, teacher-student recruitment, and facilitating lessons for our Intro to G|Code Program. It’s such a rewarding experience!

HC: What does G|Code House mean to you?
RB: Growing up, I never imagined myself as a Software Engineer. However, through non-profit organizations like Hack.Diversity, Resilient Coders, and Code2040 I felt empowered and enabled me to pursue my goals in an industry that I was initially unfamiliar with. To me, G|Code House is an additional avenue, a safe space, and a community for minorities to gain generational wealth. As I continue to work with each Change Maker and see them progress from absolutely zero knowledge of web development to building their own websites within 9 days, I realize I’ve found my purpose. Coding is fun, but helping people learn to code while achieving financial equity is my true passion.

HC: What is your favorite experience with G|Code House thus far?
RB: My favorite experience was meeting Bridgette! We actually connected over social media after realizing we were at the same conference and listening to the same talk.  We were both passionate about diversity in tech. Once she shared the idea of G|Code with me, I was ecstatic.  A co-learning, co-living experience for women of color? To me, that idea was revolutionary. She was right. We cannot expect people to succeed and thrive when basic needs aren't met. I know that when I've been in similar unfortunate circumstances achieving anything seemed impossible.  My second favorite experience was the first day of our first Intro to G|Code cohort. Bridgette delivered an amazing kick-off speech. I sat there thinking, ‘Wow! I cannot believe that this is REALLY happening! We are really about to teach 15 women about the world of software engineering.’

HC: Is there anything else you would like to share with the Her Campus audience?
RB: To some, increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in tech may seem like a cliché initiative, but it shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s an ongoing journey that should be baked into the culture of your company.  Adding more minorities to the industry will result in improved solutions for society. Additionally, it will close the racial and gender wealth gap. And increasing diversity in tech is more than offering mentorship, it’s consistent donations, initiating inclusive hiring practices, genuinely, and allowing people to be themselves. If tech companies are truly interested in overturning a broken system, this is a cause to invest in.

Bailey Siber: Strategic Partnerships Lead, Intro to G|Code Facilitator

Her Campus: Tell us a little about your involvement in G|Code House.
Bailey Siber: I joined the G|Code team about a year ago to serve as the Strategic Partnerships Lead. My role is to establish relationships in the community as well as in the private and public sectors to ensure that we can deliver an experience to our changemakers that is impactful, well-resourced, and rooted in equity and justice. In addition to my core role, I assist with the development, implementation, and oversight of our overall organizational planning and I have worked with my teammates to create and facilitate our technical programming. So basically, a little bit of everything!
 
HC: What does G|Code House mean to you?
BS: To me, G|Code is about demonstrating the significance of place-making and place-keeping. Many initiatives that aim to provide opportunity for marginalized communities suggest that we need to leave our places in order to develop and make change -- we are trying to reverse that narrative and show that people can flourish in their own spaces and reinvigorate the social and economic fibers of their own community by staying in their community. Especially in a neighborhood such as Roxbury, where over 70% of residents are renters and as such are prone to gentrification and displacement, our work can provide opportunities for economic and social empowerment that act as a radical stabilization amidst those forces. 

HC: Tell us about your career goals and dreams.
BS: I plan to continue to work at the intersection of community health, technology, and urban planning to implement place-based initiatives that move us closer to economic parity and health equity. My goal is to continue iterating on and prove the value of the G|Code model in our community before helping the team to scale the model in other cities across the country. 

HC: Could you share the vision of G|Code House in your own words?
BS: At G|Code we strive to invest in the entirety of each individual we engage with. Instead of preparing our changemakers with only the necessary skills needed to land jobs in tech given current industry needs, we focus on supporting their personal and professional development holistically. We believe this is the most effective way to prepare each individual so that they are able to be successful in their careers long term. We also intentionally break down the typical teacher/student, mentor/mentee dynamics to encourage leading and learning from every member of our community with a focus on empathy, vulnerability, and trust. All of our programming is designed by women of color, for women of color, and that ownership is key; we are trying to create spaces that we wished had existed for younger versions of ourselves. 

Carolin Diaz: Intro to G|Code alum, Resilient Coders student

Her Campus: Tell us a little about your involvement in G|Code House.
Carolin Diaz: I first learned about G|Code in early February from a co-worker. What first attracted me was not only the ability to learn how to code but being able to do it in a female-driven environment. Being in this type of environment provides a certain level of comfort and empowerment.  

HC: What does G|Code House mean to you?
CD: G|Code House was my gateway into the technology field and the segway into my future career. Before G|Code I had very minimal knowledge about coding and had not been in a space where I felt confident about my abilities to pursue it. Being in an all-female environment allowed me to be confident when asking questions and not be afraid to admit when I might be struggling without any added pressure. G|code is the supportive female community that I had always wished I had. 

HC: Tell us about your background in Digital Studio Arts. How do you plan to use your degree to break through boundaries for your community?
CD: Being the first in my family to graduate college my Digital Studio Arts Degree meant everything to me. This degree sparked an interest in Technology for me and created a base for my career. This degree has allowed me to implement many creative approaches to different coding problems and for me to feel particularly confident in front-end development. I want to ensure that my community has equal access to technology, resources, and opportunities. I want to bring new and creative solutions to the many challenges facing our community today. 

HC: How has G|Code inspired you for the future?
CD: Thanks to G|Code I continued to pursue Software Engineering as my full-time career and I am currently in a boot camp prepping to do so. In this boot camp, I have also decided to pursue a project that supports undocumented immigrants by providing them with access to different resources. G|Code has motivated me to not only have an interest in coding but to pursue it full time and provide myself, my family, and my community with a better future.

G|Code is also looking for individuals who believe in this concept and want to build a relationship with the G|Code community as mentors and volunteers! Learn more about the project at www.thegcodehouse.com.