Brioxy Is Attempting to Replace Privilege with an App

If you're a minority in tech, you might need a hack.

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Jun 3 2015, 8:44pm

Image: Shutterstock

Tech's diversity problem is nothing new—it's something we've heard from women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups working in the sector for a long time.

Finding a solution to the problem of diversity in tech requires a multipronged approach because at the root, the problem is one of social capital. People of color may not have access to the same social capital or networks that others do.

Enter Brioxy, a new life-planning tool and networking platform for young people of color that is taking aim at tech's monoculture.

Brioxy is essentially a task management program with a built in network of peer users, positioned to be able to support one another and the overall strength of the network. Ultimately, its creators hope to see it become something of a special interest group for young people of color in tech.

The platform will charge users a $5 monthly fee for access, and that money buys site users "membership." Membership means access to travel, discounts, a database of fellowships and internships to apply to, and a network of 400 users to turn to if you have any questions. Brioxy hopes to break a thousand users this summer.

The task management portion of Brioxy is not unlike Trello or similar to-do list apps with a simplified design. Your calendar of prospective goals can run months or even years into the future, and you can color code and categorize items at will.

"How do we learn to hack and learn to access social capital?"

B. Cole, founder of the Brown Boi Project, a nonprofit that serves "young masculine of center womyn, trans men, and queer/straight men of color," understands that social capital is an amorphous problem.

The first person in her family to go to college, she found that in order to manage her life and pursue extracurricular opportunities, she needed to develop a system that could mimic the built-in advantages that students from more privileged backgrounds enjoyed. It became clear that landing a dream job in tech wasn't as simple as having the right grades. Without the right support or access to the same opportunities or information, you would have a much harder time getting in the door.

Cole needed a hack.

"The backbone of Brioxy's online system is something I developed on paper when I was 19," Cole said. "I was struggling to juggle all of the pieces. Not only was I a full time student, I had three jobs, I was active on campus. I was managing all of those things. When you don't come from a place of privilege, you have all of these competing interests that most other students don't have."

Brioxy is part life planning and design, part networking, mentorship and access to information. "Ultimately what we're trying to build is the insider guide to the world for young people of color," she told Motherboard. "How do we learn to hack and learn to access social capital? And how do we translate that experience for other young people of color? That's what my life journey has been about."

One of Brioxy's early beneficiaries is 18-year-old Mills College freshman, Gloriana Tran.

Tran is new to tech but beginning to get a sense of the obstacles she faces in entering and succeeding in the tech sector workforce. She was planning to study poli-sci and public policy, but took a computer science class and fell in love.

"I've noticed at places like SalesForce and Google there aren't a lot of people of color," Tran explained. (Last year, when tech giant Google released internal demographic data on its staff, the report indicated what many of us already knew: tech is astoundingly white and male.) Furthermore, "when representatives from big tech companies come to recruit at our school, they're mostly white or male," she said.

She believes that may be part of the problem. If potential recruits can't see themselves represented in the field they want to work in, even while they're still students, they may be alienated.

"When I think about women too, there aren't as many of us. One of the biggest struggles in tech is that there are a lot of issues around how companies treat employees based on their gender," Tran says. "I'm worried about that when I graduate because Mills is an all-women's college. I don't think I have to face that at Mills, and I'm trying to prepare myself for the future when I leave."

Tran believes Brioxy will be a valuable tool if women of color like herself are able to find other women of color and allies working in tech.

"I think what would be really nice, would be if there was an online community of people who had been through these things, who had the experience, to share that, who can give the inside scoop on that [internship] or that application process," she said. "That is very significant."

Through Cole, Tran was able to add an internship to her resume: eventually she was paid to help work on Brioxy's front end.

Next on the agenda for Brioxy is a convening of thought leaders in the corporate tech world in Las Vegas, who will work with Brioxy's youth of color in an exclusive "life design" session. Cole thinks of it as a beta summit. She looks forward to tinkering with the tool, so it can better serve the most young people of color, women, and underrepresented folks who want to enter tech.

"I'm really interested in taking Brioxy to scale," Cole said. "I want to reach millions of young people of color."