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Blog, Hackathon Info
The term “hackathon” has most likely been in informal use since the word “hacking” was coined. But in terms of official events with the “hackathon” label, the first on record was the OpenBSD Hackathon of 1999.

This gathering didn’t have much of a formal structure, as it was really more about a group of American developers side-stepping export regulations. The event must have been fun (or at least very productive), however, since it spawned an annual invitation-only series that switched focus to freeform OpenBSD coding. Sun also used the term for an event at the JavaOne conference that same year shortly after the OpenBSD event took place.

While there’s still no formal structure to (or even specific dictionary definition of) a hackathon, their increasing popularity over the past decade has led to at least something of a standardized format. They’re usually organized around a central theme — game development for a particular platform, work on an open-source project, developing apps, or even a particular intersection of science and tech such as bioinformatics. Things kick off with some presentations, maybe some workshops. Then the participants are turned loose to code amongst themselves, often organized into groups by their areas of expertise.

A few interesting branches of the hackathon have been emerging in the last few years. One is the socially-focused or charitable hackathon, such as the annual NHS Hackaday and Random Hacks of Kindness. Another is the company-sponsored hackathon, held internally for employees by major tech players like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Netflix. And some are demographically inclusive, like the hackathons hosted by the Meera Kaul Foundation that focus on increased representation of women in the STEM fields. Whatever the form it’s packaged in, the hackathon is ultimately a celebration of code, and an excuse for techies to get together and geek out in an environment resembling a cross between a college LAN party and a sleepover while still creating something productive (or at least interesting.) Beginners who are interested in the idea but aren’t sure where to start might want to check out CodeDay, a regular event held in cities throughout the United States that welcomes newcomers in all different fields. SaveSave

Blog, Community
Getting its start in the¬†1990’s, hackathons began as a way for organizations and companies to brainstorm about various issues through the use of many diverse opinions.¬†Hackathons¬†provide a venue for self-expression and creativity through technology. By engaging in an atmosphere of teamwork and collaboration, those with interest in coding and technology are able to come together around an issue until a solution is found. The solutions¬†will generally take the shape of a new website, mobile app, or robot. Hackathons have taken the idea of brainstorming to a whole new level by bridging the gap between collaboration and competition.

However, women are rarely in attendance at traditional hackathon events.

In order to understand the¬†popularity of hackathon events & the low attendance by women,¬†we have to begin by pinpointing why more women don’t attend hackathons and how the rise in hackathon popularity over the years have been greatly contributed to by the women who do attend and get involved in organizing..

According to common responses, there are several reasons why women tend to stay away from hackathon events.

The first reason is that they don’t like being surrounded by sexism. Women are not a minority, they are 50% of the majority. They have great visions to offer the world of technology but only when being treated as an equal part of the solution. Feeling safe and supported is a higher priority for women and gender non-conforming individuals.

Even though women make up 56% of the general workforce, only 25% of IT jobs held by women and only 5% of tech startups are founded by women.

Second, a lack of confidence. It is not uncommon for a woman to feel like an outsider, (even if she’s an experienced programmer) when standing in a room full of men who might tend towards sexism. These feelings can drive women away from wanting to get involved in the “brogrammer” culture. The third and final reason is a lack of time. Although the pace of the world has sped up over the last decade, women are still doing it all, just with less time in which to do it. When NASA researched the ebb and flow of women attendee’s at their hackathons, they saw that women, “often have family responsibilities and couldn’t just attend a hackathon for fun.”

With that being said however, there are plenty of women who have stepped up to the tech plate in order to create better opportunities for the next generation of women in STEM.

Female code initiatives such as Girl Geek, Women Who Code, and Girl Develop It have contributed, not only to the rise of female attendance at hackathons, but also to the social acceptance of the vital role that women play in field of technology. They continue to pave the way for more women to step into their destiny through the use of technology.