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Blog, Diversity & Inclusion


Women and non-binary hackers tackle harassment, equal pay, hygiene and homelessness

San Jose, CA: Hackers turned activism into action this past weekend at a new hackathon for women and non-binary folks. With only a weekend to build their projects, the teams in the inaugural Hack The Patriarchy hackathon went after some of the biggest problems facing women and marginalized communities – sexual harassment and abuse, workplace equality and HR, finding positive news in an aggressive media landscape, women’s health and hygiene, and helping the homeless.

The free hackathon received more than 110 applications and accepted 82 registrations. 58 people attended over the course of the weekend. Five teams with 23 team members made it through to the final presentations. The Grand Prize was won by Tusker App, which uses AI to identify and flag verbal abuse, discrimination, or harassment. The People’s Choice Prize was won by Help. (“Help Period”), a peer-to-peer app that helps women — including homeless women — who need tampons or pads in an emergency.

Julie Ramirez from the County of Santa Clara Office of Women’s Policy says, “It’s exciting to see so many women working on apps that have a direct positive impact on the lives of other women in need. What drives their work is the overwhelming desire to help others. Hack The Patriarchy creates a safe space for women and gender non-conforming individuals to bring their tech skills together to improve our community. The Office of Women’s Policy is proud to partner on this endeavor.”

Diana Solatan from Women Who Code worked with teams as a mentor during the hackathon. She says that there is less of a corporate feel to this event than most hackathons. “Everyone was focused on solving a real social issue. At other hackathons, you can see that people have their own agendas, whether it be to win a prize, to get a job, to find a co-founder, but here, everyone’s agenda was to make the world a more inclusive place.”

Eva Helén, CEO of Epiquette and one of the competition judges, also noticed the different vibe. “The atmosphere and energy in the room was focused and full of anticipation. Kali had encouraged the ideas to flow and the teams were working hard on projects that could solve ‘real world’ challenges. I was impressed by their creativity and their ambition to make a difference.”

According to Kali Williams, founder of the event, “We wanted to provide a safe and supportive environment where the attendees could work on problems that matter to them without the negative distractions you typically get as a woman at a hackathon. The response we’ve had from the hackers here is a resounding ‘yes, please.’The inspiring products built this weekend demonstrate that women and non-binary hackers are more empowered than ever to create amazing things when they have a room of their own.”

Williams felt that a women-focused event was needed after competing in hackathons that did not feel friendly to women. “It’s not enough to get rid of the Nip Alerts, the beer pong, and the coder odor. Hackathons are still heavily male-centric, with unhealthy food and uncomfortable environments, and they’re stressful and aggressively competitive. We plan to do mixed gender events with allies welcome in future as well.”

The hackathon was held at the ActionSpot co-working space and incubator in San Jose. Teams competed for a prize pool worth more than $4000, including a $500 cash grand prize, Amazon Echo Dots and gift cards, a membership to ActionSpot, and the chance to pitch to investors and join the incubator program.

“We all talk about diversity,” says ActionSpot’s co-founder and CEO, Olga Buchonina, “but this hackathon acts on it. It’s focused on doing social good and impacting lives, and moving from words to actions. I love it when we use our professional skills and create true impact.”

The hackathon attracted strong support for a first-time community event. In addition to ActionSpot, the event was also supported by sponsors Yelp, Slack, Balsamiq, and NumFocus, with swag donated by Linode and “I didn’t think we’d be able to attract commercial support as a first-time women-focused tech event,” says Williams, “but it is a testament to the commitment of these companies to diversity and supporting women and non-gender conforming folks that they got on board when this was just an idea.”  

Workshops and panels were held in the weeks leading up to the event, rather than during the hackathon itself, to reduce stress, give participants more time to focus during the hack, and provide an opportunity to meet potential teammates:

  • Data Science workshop held in partnership with NumFocus at the University of San Francisco Data Institute
  • API Workshop run by Bear Douglas, the Developer Advocacy Lead at Slack, who was previously at Twitter and Facebook
  • Founder Mixer Panel: featuring Guadalupe Rodriguez from Planned Parenthood; Carla Collins from Santa Clara County Office of Women’s Policy; Kelly Jenkins-Pultz from the San Francisco Women’s Bureau; Ruth Silver Taube from the Santa Clara University School of Law; and Aly Sheppard from Caminar, a mental health non-profit

The winning projects are:

  • Tusker App: an App that listens to conversations for “the elephant in the room” and uses AI to identify and flag verbal abuse, discrimination, or harassment, using sentiment analysis and natural language processing (Grand Prize Winner).
  • Help. (“Help Period”): a peer-to-peer app that provides a platform for empowering women to help other women in their times (of the month) of need. The App is designed to help women who need tampons or pads in an emergency, and to facilitate donations of hygiene and sanitary products to homeless women’s shelters (People’s Choice Award).
  • Choose Your Win: an interactive game to navigate issues that women face in the workplace and when job seeking, such as negotiating equal pay. Users user can play the game and navigate the recruitment and hiring process through their character (Most Original).
  • Athena: Your confidant in the workplace – an AI chatbot that collects experiences and provides training for appropriate behavior and reactions. It helps employees dealing with harassment and other issues to find information and coaching, and to navigate HR workplace processes (Best Chat Bot).
  • The Daily Reach: a news aggregator that features the accomplishments of women, trans, and non-binary people. In a world of negative news, this aggregator seeks out positive stories for marginalized communities (Most Positive Impact).

About Us: Hack the Patriarchy is a social impact hackathon where women and non-binary folks hack together in a safe and supportive environment to build projects that improve life for women and marginalized communities. Participants come from diverse backgrounds, ranging from first-timers to seasoned hackers, and form teams that include developers, designers, activists, marketers, and entrepreneurs. Teams have a weekend to build an initial product or prototype, and are supported with mentoring, resources, pre-event workshops, and training. Hack The Patriarchy is a mission-driven, not-for-profit community event founded to empower women and allies to take action and fix problems by hacking on solutions together.

Thank you to all of our sponsors: ActionSpot, Yelp, Slack, Balasamiq and NumFocus


Blog, Diversity & Inclusion
Paradigm for Parity is a women-led effort to increase organizational recruitment, sponsorship, and mentoring for women executives. Founded by three women: Jewelle Bickford, partner at Evercore Wealth Management; Sandra Beach Lin, former president and CEO of Calisolar; Ellen Kullman, former CEO of Dupont, the goals of the group are to provide thought leadership and an actionable roadmap for change regarding issues of gender parity among senior leadership. 19% of the top executives in corporate America are women. Gender parity in the workplace has been discussed informally and among networking groups, and in the popular media. But working for change on an organizational level has been problematic. Paradigm for Parity has partnered with 27 companies who have publicly agreed to address gender parity as an organizational goal, and to use Paradigm for Parity’s action plan. The action plan is critical, because the pieces all need to work together to accomplish the goal. The action plan includes the following:
  • Minimize or eliminate unconscious bias.
  • Significantly increase the number of women in senior operating roles.
  • Measure targets at every level and communicate progress and results regularly.
  • Base career progress on business results and performance, not presence.
  • Identify women of potential and give them sponsors and mentors.
A critical piece of an organizational goal for gender parity and other issues of diversity and inclusion among the workforce is transparency and communication about results. Sharing numbers internally about participation, promotion, recruitment, and other commonly measured metrics for diversity keeps this issue in the forefront, and measures progress. Paradigm for Parity hopes to have 50 companies agree to develop organizational goals for gender parity using their action plan by March, 2017. Some companies that have already committed to the plan are The Huffington Post, Cargill, Coca-Cola, LinkedIn, Nordstrom, and Bank of America.

Blog, Diversity & Inclusion

In many ways, start-ups are the ideal job for millennial and progressive people of all ages. They offer flexibility, innovation, and opportunity to grow. However, not all start-ups are as progressive in their social practices as they are with their business practices. Start-ups in Silicon Valley have been long criticized for their sexist policies and company culture. The following start-ups are woman-tested, woman-approved.

Kapor Capital

Investment is one of the hardest industries to break into for women, but this start-up investment firm is female-focused with more than of half of investments being led by a woman. This firm also demonstrated its commitment to women when it hired Ellen Pao, the woman who made history by suing a famous Silicon Valley venture capital firm for discrimination.


Although this company may not be seen as a start-up anymore due to its rapid growth, Lyft has distinguished itself by having one of the lowest gender pay gaps of only seven cents on the dollar. 81% of women report feeling valued by their coworkers. They also offer one of the longest maternity leaves in the United States at 12 weeks.


This tech company is most notable for starting and also owns the spam filtering software, Askimet. The start-up may only have a staff of 24% women, but men and women receive raises at equal rates. This is no small feat in the tech industry, where the gap is typically much larger.


Blog, Diversity & Inclusion
The Southern Poverty Law Center has a long history of teaching and providing educational resources on the subjects of tolerance, inclusion, diversity, and race through their Teaching Tolerance Project. Their roots in the civil rights movements in the 1960s has made them a long-standing expert in this field.

Children today are seeing different examples of systematic racism and violence, and the information they are accessing and discussing is not always balanced and accurate. The Teaching Tolerance Project has developed a crowdsourced group of resources for classroom teachers to use in discussing current issues of race, tolerance, and institutional violence in America. Race, Racism, and Police Violence is a collection of lesson plans, resources, blogs and articles, with external resources, and includes information about how to respond when violence touches the classroom.

These are complex, divisive issues. Our children are trying to make sense of what is happening. Teachers can guide their discussions and provide them with a balanced view of what is happening and how to respond. Education Week has a list of resources for teachers and by teachers about how to address race and deal with students of all grade levels responding to violence in their communities.

The DC Public School system has adopted a group of resources teachers can use to facilitate discussions in the classroom called Preparing to Discuss Race and Police Violence.  This list of suggestions and resources was adapted from the Teachable Moments classroom lessons of the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility.

Blog, Diversity & Inclusion
You know already that we have a serious shortage of women coders. Or if you don’t, you might check out Ciara Byrne’s three-year-old piece on the loneliness of women coders here. You know, too, that gender biases continue to devalue women’s salaries. Recall that whole 1990’s “women earn 72 cents to the dollar of a man” platitude? By 2015 women earned 79 percent of men’s earnings, and according to the group Women’s Policy Research, women won’t receive equal pay until 2059. You probably also know that New York’s Mayor Bloomberg warned we must learn to “program or be programmed“–that was all the way back in 2012.

Here’s what you don’t know:

In Feb of this year, a researcher at Cal Poly teamed up with 4 more researchers at North Carolina State to conduct a study of gender bias in open source. And they found that in open source software communities “women’s contributions tend to be accepted more often than men’s.” This was as long as women’s gender remained unidentifiable.

As soon as women were known to be women, according to the study, they were rejected at higher rates than their male counterparts. (See study cited above for details.) You’re angry, right? Our point is that women are killer coders. But that’s not the end. Today coding really can make our lives better, and we want to show you why:

1. Employment opportunities are greater in number than ever before: “In 2015, Intel pledged $300 million to increasing diversity in its offices. Google pledged $150 million and Apple is donating $20 million, all to producing a tech workforce that includes more women and non-white workers” (TechInsider). In short, by 2016 everybody wants anybody who isn’t a white man.

2. Related to the above, getting hired is suddenly just like Tindering. Except it’s the opposite of Tindering, because Blendoor does merit-based matching. Adios, gender-bias in hiring practices.

3. Flexibility, flexibility, and flexibility:
More employment opportunities means you’ll be more marketable, and this means you will have greater flexibility in choosing how and where and for whom (yourself? another?) you will work.

4. Coding pays better than cleaning.
And lawyering, and doctoring, and a lot of other things, too. Which means, if we are to believe those people who call coding “fun,” coding allows you to DWYL while continuing to spend too much on heels, or horses, or whatever your compulsion may be.Save

Blog, Diversity & Inclusion, Hackathon Info
Hackathons are leading the way in creating opportunities in tech for both women and people of color. With women making up less than 5% of the leadership roles in technology, and people of color even less than that being only 2% of the workforce in Silicon Valley, hackathons are making it possible for these numbers to increase over the years.

Let’s look at why we need more women & diversity focused hackathons.

1. Shines a Light on Untapped Creative Resources Problem solving is the name of the game in the tech industry. Having the ability to find creative solutions to everyday problems is what it is all about. But, it has been overlooking some of the most creative people in our entire society; women and people of color. Popular opinion has shown that the creativity of communities of color is an untapped resource and something the tech industry needs to recognize. They also need to recognize that women bring the fire when it comes to problem solving. Being known best for their ability to multi-task and dig into the heart of a problem in order to find the best solution, women are essential to the growth of any organization. Hackathons provide both demographics with the opportunity they need to shine.

2. Fosters Teamwork It takes teamwork to truly produce something worth any real-world value in the tech industry. When people come together in order to solve a single problem they are no longer individuals, they quickly become a team. Through hackathons, they are able to work with some of the most brilliant minds in the game in order to positively impact the rest of the world through the use of technology. Women and diversity focused hackathons bring women together with other like-minded women, allows cultural connections across the board, and inspires organizations to support the changes needed to further the industry.

3. Produces Self-Confidence In order to succeed at anything you must first have the skills needed to get the job done. This is where hackathons can have the biggest impact on both women and people of color. For those interested in the tech industry, whether you are new to the field or an expert coder, hackathons will challenge you. Women and diversity focused hackathons tackle one of the biggest challenges we face today, bridging the gap between differentiating ourselves as individuals while satisfying our desire to belong to a group who appreciates us. Creativity, teamwork, and confidence is what has made the tech industry one of the most successful industries of all time.

Creating more hackathons that are women and diversity focused will ensure that it stays that way.Save