Alumna Ruthe Farmer (MBA, 2007) is the co-founder of Last Mile Education Fund, an organisation that boosts workplace diversity by ensuring low-income women pursuing tech and engineering degrees can meet their basic needs throughout their studies, ensuring they get to the finish line and into successful careers.
The Fund identifies women in financially precarious positions and helps them with unexpected costs - things that would threaten their education and career progress otherwise. Only 11% of US students in the lowest income quartile graduate within six years of starting college, and for many their studies are cut short because of food insecurity, emergencies like a broken-down car or broken computer, difficulties paying their rent and utilities, and problems meeting tuition fees. Sometimes even generous scholarships don’t stretch to covering these extra expenses, and this is where Last Mile comes in. Soft-launched in 2019 and ramping up in spring 2020 when so many students were stranded without the resources they needed due to the pandemic, Last Mile distributed $300,000 to more than 350 low-income women studying computing in 2020. The Fund has now secured $3 million from investors, and publicly launched in January - you can watch the launch here.
Now, Last Mile Education Fund has been named one of 10 finalists in the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge, which will grant three awards of $10 million each to organisations helping women - particularly Black, Indigenous and other women of colour - to make and shape policies, control resources, and make decisions that will impact on their workplaces and communities.
Before co-founding the Last Mile Education Fund, Ruthe served as senior policy advisor on tech inclusion for the Obama administration, and as Chief Evangelist at CSforALL. Prior to this, she scaled up Aspirations in Computing whilst serving as Chief Strategy and Growth Officer at the National Centre for Women and IT. Enterprising Oxford recently interviewed Ruthe about entrepreneurship - you can read the interview here.