SAN FRANCISCO — You can now round up your Lyft fares and donate the extra cash to Black Girls Code, a non-profit that introduces girls of color to computer science with the goal of building a new generation of coders.
Over the past eight months, Lyft riders have raised more than $4 million for other organizations by turning on the feature in the service's app that rounds up each fare to the next dollar and contributes the difference.
Lyft’s head of inclusion and diversity, Tariq Meyers, says the Round Up & Donate campaign is the start of a new partnership with Black Girls Code and its founder, Kimberly Bryant, that is vital to the ride-hailing company’s efforts to grow the number of women of color working at Lyft and in technology. The organization's goal is to create a new, more diverse generation of computer code writers.
"We want to introduce an organization that we really care about to the world and provide the public with the opportunity to participate," Meyers said.
Lyft denies the partnership with Black Girls Code is a dig at competitor Uber, which had offered a $125,000 grant to the non-profit in August after a disastrous spate of negative publicity over its treatment of women. Bryant turned down the offer.
Bryant says she was skeptical of Uber’s sincerity as it began to hand out grants as part of a $3 million commitment to organizations focused on diversity in tech. She was also underwhelmed by the six-figure offer when stacked up against the $1.2 million grant Uber gave Girls Who Code, a non-profit working to close the gender gap in tech by teaching girls to write code.
Fans of Black Girls Code rallied on social media to crowdfund the money Bryant rejected. Bryant says Black Girls Code ended up raising close to $200,000.
"We were not happy with some of the things that were occurring in the organization around the treatment of women as well as the treatment of underrepresented minorities," she said about Uber. "We also wanted to make sure that we were supported in a way that we felt we deserved."
Since launching Black Girls Code in 2011, Bryant has introduced more than 8,000 girls to computer science with 13 chapters in the U.S. and one international chapter in Johannesburg. By 2040, Bryant wants to reach 1 million girls.
The stamp of approval from a respected diversity activist like Bryant is likely to give Lyft a boost in its diversity efforts.
Lyft faces the same challenges as Uber and other tech companies in the industry that is mostly staffed by white and Asian men. While Lyft employs more women, African-Americans and Hispanics than some tech companies, those groups are still underrepresented throughout the company.
"We want to see companies making a good faith effort and putting some tangible initiatives behind their pledge for diversity," Bryant said. "While there is still certainly much more work that needs to be done, Lyft actually believes in increasing diversity and inclusion within their workforce and also they believe in being a strong supporter of that in the community."