Bringing Mothers into Technology

Tina Lee : Founder of Mother Coders

Photography : @salaam_ali

Photography : @salaam_ali

My parents got divorced when I was very young so I was raised by my grandparents in San Francisco Chinatown. My father was a gambling addict so my mother left him. Both my grandparents were immigrants and grandmother worked in a sweatshop while my grandfather was a janitor. It’s the challenges I faced growing up that made me so passionate about bringing social justice to the world and wanting to empower women. Growing up I had a front-row seat in what happens when women are not economically stable and I wanted to make sure I create positive change for them.  


Despite my challenges in childhood, I feel blessed because I ended up getting a pretty solid education. I was admitted to a public prep school in the city and even though I didn’t enjoy my time there, I was immersed in a culture of wanting to go to college and ended up becoming the first person in my family to attend college. I did my BA and MBA from Mills College (which is the oldest college and one of two women’s college’s on the West Coast). I then went onto pursue a graduate degree in education at Stanford University where I focused on learning, design, and technology. Because my college years were right before the dotcom boom, technology was a huge deal that made its way through a majority of my courses via case studies. In my MBA program, I did a course in Management Information Systems and it made a lot of sense to me. So right after college, I ended up taking a job as a technology consultant and that’s how I entered the field.

As my career progressed I could see how the digital divide was affecting marginalized communities. You could see a global shift towards a digital economy on one hand and how low socioeconomic communities did not even have internet access on the other. Something as simple as doing homework online was not a possibility for some kids and I could see the impact that it would have on their future.  I returned to Stanford because I wanted to leverage technology to teach civic participation. You could see how quickly technology was exacerbating the income divide between people very early on and unless we could bring everyone onto a level playing field those divides would just keep getting bigger.


After my first child, I started learning to code again and my husband and I were able to manage our schedules easily. When my second child came into the world, work-life balance became a lot harder. I wasn't able to go to in-person classes anymore and had to continue to learn online. I remember one night I just had a breakdown. I was extremely lonely because I didn't have a community around me that knew what I was going through.  For some reason as soon as you become a mother, that’s all your known for in society from that point forward. For the longest time, I felt like my career was going to stagnate and that I wouldn't be equipped for the digital world. That meltdown lead me to start Mother Coders. There was all this technology content out there but there no easy way for someone who is new to the industry to understand which career they should take. My initial vision was to get together with other women who wanted to get into technology and finding someone who would babysit our kids. Coding camps had just started coming up during that same time, and none of them were conducive to mothers (which I thought was ridiculous). You had all these women with college degrees and work experience who wanted to get into technology but were missing one tiny piece and nobody was addressing that market. I had all the knowledge I needed to turn this into a proper program for moms, so I decided to do a small crowdfunding campaign which eventually turned into what MotherCoders is today. Our primary goal is to help moms gain the technical skills, industry knowledge and the community support they need to take the next step towards a career in tech. We take a holistic approach to learning by providing things like on-site childcare and family-friendly hours. In our most recent success survey, we found that the women who complete our course see an income increase of 68% on average. This income increase changes the trajectory of their families economic mobility and inspires the next generation of tech makers. For more information on how you can contribute visit www.mothercoders.com .