Innovators changing the face of tech

  • “You need men and women, African-Americans and Latinos – diversity is the catalyst to innovation. The world will be a better place if we are inclusive and not leaving out more than half of our population.” – Vivek Wadhwa, entrepreneur and co-author of “Innovating Women.”
  • “The opportunity in the tech industry is growing exponentially fast and we need to have a door in for women of color or they will be left behind. [Black Girls Code] has reached over 3,000 students to date, and we continue to reach more through our program. We’ve been at the center of bringing the issue [of race and gender] to the forefront [of tech].” – Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code.
Watch her msnbc.com exclusive: Breaking Glass: ‘If I didn’t step up to do something about it, who would?’
  • “For the majority of women entrepreneurs presenting at a Pipeline Fellowship Pitch Summit, it’s the first time they’re stepping up to the plate to pitch their businesses. We have created a safe, friendly, welcoming, and inclusive environment, and I’m committed to spotlighting for-profit social ventures launched by women, people of color, and LGBTQ entrepreneurs.” – Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder and CEO of Pipeline Fellowship.
  • “Latinos are heavy users of the internet and smartphone devices. However, we lack in numbers in the creation process. This is a great time to be in technology, and I believe there’s plenty of opportunities for Latinos to do more in the startup space where they can build businesses, create jobs, and increase wealth. Not only are Latinos the ‘majority-minority’ with huge buying power, but we need to be involved in the innovation process as well.” – Edward Avila, co-founder and CEO of Manos Accelerator.
  • “Young women will define the tech careers of the future. I’ve learned from the girls we serve that they want to integrate technology with an interest they already have. They will create more interdisciplinary tech careers in the future.” – Luz Rivas, founder and executive director of DIY Girls.
  • “Since launching Girls Who Code, we’ve seen girls just fall in love with technology. Once you break through the negative cultural stereotypes about computer science and give girls the tools to build apps and websites, they thrive.” – Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code.
  •  ”I believe Code2040 and Walker & Co. have the exact same mission, one is just for-profit and the other is not. The changing demographic in this country is the greatest economic opportunity of my lifetime. There’s an inevitability to this, and I think some of the greatest companies that will be built in the next 50 years will keep that in mind.” – Tristen Walker, founder of Code2040 and Walker & Co, told Fast Company.

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Voto Latino and msnbc have teamed up to showcase leaders who are diversifying the tech landscape. Through a series of events – including the Voto Latino Innovators Challenge and Twitter chats discussing diversity in the technology industry – the collaboration spotlights the tremendous strides that are being made to make computer programming careers and entrepreneurship more accessible to women and people of color. 

Before Spring 2014, tech giants like Google and Facebook didn’t publicly discuss data on the demographics of their employees. Across the industry, the percentage of Black, Latino and multiracial employees has been very low. Only 6% of U.S. tech workers are African-American, and 7% are Latino, while whites, who account for 71%, and Asian Americans who account for 16%, dominate tech.

WATCH: Swisher on Tim Cook and gays in tech

Vivek Wadhwa, who was once criticized by his peers for addressing Silicon Valley’s failure to include more women and minorities, told msnbc that venture capital, the source of money that funds many startups, has been declining because of the lack of diversity.

“Venture capital is in dismal shape,” said Wadhwa, an entrepreneur and co-author of the book “Innovating Women.” “It produces low returns because it’s been the bastion of the boys club, which is not the model that needs to be followed,” Wadwa continued. “You need men and women. African-American and Latino – diversity is a catalyst to innovation.”

RELATED: Tech training open doors for girls in India

Now, after confronting the industry-wide issue, some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley are making diversity a top priority. 

Along with Wadhwa, Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code; Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code; and Luz Rivas, founder of DIY Girls, have been major players in recruiting women to take on computer programming, or “coding” – the skill needed to build websites, digital systems, and apps.  

“We have a student who is 12 and has several apps in the Google Play and Apple App store that she has built on her own,” Bryant said.

WATCH: Breaking Glass: ‘If I didn’t step up to do something about it, who would?’

Another critical component to the tech industry is “angel” investors, who are the financial backers of these nimble startups. Edward Avila, through Manos Accelerator, and Natalia Oberti Noguera of Pipeline Fellowship have a unique model focused on recruiting women and Latino investors. Leaders in the field are focusing on diversity at all levels of the industry.

Wadhwa, who has worked in technology for more than 20 years, has noticed a major shift in Silicon Valley to support companies like Girls Who Code and Manos Accelerator. “CEOs are dead serious about diversity … We are winning this war.” 

Take a scroll through the slide show to learn more about these tech gurus and how they are changing the face of tech.

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