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No-code can shake up the status quo in the tech industry and give a more diverse group of people the power to innovate and build complex applications.
In a Wired article published earlier this year, author Clive Thompson suggests that “the success of no-code startups may [...] be a useful corrective to the cult of the Brilliant Tech Dude.” Titled “The New Startup: No-Code, No-Problem,” the article discusses the growing number of small businesses and startups using no-code technologies to get off the ground, rather than hiring expensive engineers to build out websites or applications.
Code is difficult and expensive to work with, but aspiring entrepreneurs and Silicon Valley hopefuls do so because they believe code is the only way to get the complex application they need. That’s simply not true anymore. With no-code, a dynamic enterprise application can be built with visual workflows — no formal tech experience required. “If anyone can do this,” Thompson argues, “some of the magic [around the brilliant tech dude] dies. And some new magic, possibly, is born.”
The “Cult of the Brilliant Tech Dude”
What does Thompson mean when he refers to “the cult of the Brilliant Tech Dude?” The article criticizes Silicon Valley as a whole, arguing that despite the attention and praise the San Francisco Bay Area region gets for its “innovative genius,” the applications coming out of it aren’t necessarily groundbreaking. In fact, he argues, most of the apps created by these brilliant dudes simply input information into a database and spit it back out.
Up until recently, however, even applications that wouldn’t be deemed “groundbreaking” might have required engineers with years of experience. Even if many of the products coming out of Silicon Valley and Seattle were relatively simple, these pockets of the country became synonymous with innovation, wealth, and genius overnight—largely because of the high concentration of developers in each area.
With demand for applications skyrocketing, people who knew specialized coding languages held the metaphorical keys to the kingdom. To keep the success of Silicon Valley going, developer talent was inevitably highly compensated and celebrated. Soon enough, the concept of the “tech bro” emerged, and it’s had a firm grip on the industry ever since.
A Privileged Few
In a cheeky article titled, “How to speak Silicon Valley: 53 essential tech-bro terms explained,” the Guardian defines a tech bro (n) as: “A US-born, college-educated, Patagonia-clad male whose entry-level salary [...] was at least $125,000 and who frequently insists that his female co-workers give him high-fives. Had he been born 10 years earlier, he would have been a finance bro instead.”
While this definition veers heavily into the satirical, it has roots in reality—tech has notoriously become an industry dominated by privileged, young white males. There’s no shortage of statistics out there highlighting the glaring racial, social, and gender disparities in the world’s biggest tech companies.
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Let’s use Facebook as an example. In 2020, 63% of Facebook’s employees are male, and 41% are white. The numbers get worse when you examine technical and leadership roles specifically—75.9% of technical roles are held by men, and 63.2% of leadership is white. Non-Asian people of color—Hispanic people, Black people, people of mixed race, and additional groups (including Pacific Islanders and American Indians)—only account for a combined total of 14.6% of the workforce. Even worse, they make up 9.4% of technical roles. To put this into perspective, the total U.S. population in 2019 was made up of 36.2% non-Asian people of color.
If underrepresented people do manage to break through in the tech industry, they continue to face adversity. According to a 2019 analysis by the job search firm Hired, Hispanic tech professionals were offered an average of $3,000 less than their white tech counterparts. Black tech professionals fared even worse, receiving offers that were a whopping $10,000 less on average. Within each racial group, female tech professionals also received lower average salary offers than their male counterparts.
In the face of these discouraging numbers, many prominent tech companies have pledged to increase diversity in the workplace. But what if these numbers are due not just to biased talent searches in a misogynistic and racist industry, but rather, code itself?
How Code Discriminates
At least part of the reason why the tech industry is predominantly made up of white males is because the opportunity to learn how to code isn’t presented to everyone. Numerous studies have shown that students from underrepresented groups and underserved communities are less likely to be prepared for a career in STEM, despite being just as interested in STEM as their privileged counterparts. According to ACT’s “The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2019” report, only 2% of students who met three underserved criteria (minority, low-income family, and first-generation college student) achieved the ACT’s College Readiness Benchmark in STEM.
This issue is multi-faceted, and cannot necessarily be linked to any single factor. However, one simple explanation for why students of color and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds don’t learn to code is because teaching computer science in schools, hiring CS teachers, and procuring the necessary hardware and software is prohibitively expensive for many school districts. As a result, some students learn very early on that certain careers in the tech industry are out of their reach—if they are exposed to such careers at all.
When you examine code and no-code through this framework, no-code becomes more than an exciting, accelerated way to build—it becomes a true democratizer of an industry struggling to achieve diversity and inclusion.
It doesn’t get easier to learn how to code as you get older, either. If you can’t go to college to earn a four-year degree in computer science, many might suggest looking into coding bootcamps, which purport to democratize coding education and level the playing field. Unfortunately, they often end up introducing more barriers to entry, costing students an average of $13,500 to enroll. This fee, of course, doesn’t even take into account the sunk costs of quitting a job to pursue a career in coding. With all of these obstacles, it seems obvious that code is largely accessible to a select group of people, continually fueling the cult of the brilliant tech dude.
True Democratization with No-Code
When you examine code and no-code through this framework, no-code becomes more than an exciting, accelerated way to build—it becomes a true democratizer of an industry struggling to achieve diversity and inclusion. No-code can combat the cult of the brilliant tech dude with one simple premise—there’s no code. When you strip applications of code, what’s left? By allowing anyone to build without code, we prioritize the quality of the idea over a highly specialized and exclusionary skill set.
The rise of the “tech bro” in Silicon Valley suggests that we had begun to conflate code with innovation and success. Instead of praising those who have the basic coding skills needed to build applications, no-code makes it possible for anyone to bring their idea to life. By making the execution efficient and effective for all types of businesses and enterprises, the definition of success can shift to focus on the best possible idea. We at Unqork think that shift makes all the difference.