If an alien visited a hackathon today, it would assume that the only creatures populating planet Earth were men simply because it wouldn’t see any women or see so few that it probably wouldn't notice them in a sea of men.
We have to change that and the emphasis is on “WE” — both men and women in tech. Hackathons are one of the best vehicles for bringing people into the tech world. Dear women in tech, HACKATHONS ARE FOR YOU.
I recently connected with Dave Fontenot on this topic. He is running a series of hackathons around the US and would like to tackle the lack of women head on in 2014. Going into this with a completely blank slate, he is digging deep and experimenting with ways we can make hackathons both more inviting and an overall better experience for women.
Here are a three main reasons why women should attend hackathons:
It’s the Best Way to Learn
Hackathons have provided a really powerful vehicle for getting new people into the tech world. They provide the perfect opportunity to dive in and learn a ton. It doesn’t matter how basic or advanced your skills are, hackathon will be a great place to learn something new.
Become Part of the Community
There’s no better place to get more involved with the tech community than at hackathons. You will make friends, have fun and possibly even find co-founders for your startup. So whether you are an experienced hacker, CS major or just taking a peek at the tech world, you should start with attending your first hackathon.
Create a Ripple Effect
We have gotten really good at convincing young males to attend hackathons. Leaders in the male-dominated hackathon community have convinced their male friends to join. After someone goes to their first good hackathon, that person immediately begins asking when the next hackathon is, and the next thing you know, they have become evangelists themselves, inviting their friends.
We can achieve this same outcome with women. Already, leaders like Tess Rinearson, Katie Siegel, Amy Chen, and Taylor Barnett are taking up the mantle in their own communities.
If you’re a female or male leader in the tech community, reach out to your female friends and invite them to the next hackathon you’re going to.
If you’re reading this post and interested in tech, sign up for the next hackathon near you and make sure to bring at least one other female friend with you. Having her there would make it less intimidating if you’re going for the first time and would make a double impact.
Here are a few places to start looking for hackathons and getting involved with the community:
- Meetup groups
- Student-focused hackathons. They have special tickets at the Michigan Hackathon for women and are organizing a free bus from any city in the US that has the most women sign up: bit.ly/hackathonseason2
- Railsbridge — a non profit focused on helping women learn to code
- Hacker League has a list of upcoming hackathons worldwide
What it really comes down to is individual people stepping up to build a better community. If you are a female hacker, designer, creator, or just a female interested in technology, reach out to Dave and his team. They would love to not only convince you to come to a hackathon, but also hear your thoughts on how they can build the absolute best, most welcoming experience for you.
If you have any ideas on what Dave and his team should try to implement at hackathons this upcoming season, please let him know.
How can organizers make hackathons more welcoming to women?
About the guest bloggers: Aigerim Shorman (@aigerimd) is co-founder and CEO of Triptrotting. Prior to Triptrotting she was Teach For America corps member in Los Angeles and investment banking analyst at UBS. Aigerim is originally from Kazakhstan and is an avid world traveler.
Dave Fontenot (@davefontenot) started MHacks, sits on the board of Major League Hacking, and is currently building HackMatch, a platform that helps hackers find the perfect startup to join. Image credit: Rasmus Andersson via Flickr.