Why Traditional Hackathons Fail to Attract Women In Large Numbers
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.