Why do all-women Hackathons matter? Why should we care about enforcing positive learning environments for women? We care because it builds a safe space for women to learn and network with others with similar interests. For fields that are generally male dominated, representation of women truly matters, and to be able to see hundreds of passionate women in one setting can be an eye-opening experience.
Let’s compare two Hackathons that happened this year:
My Experience at SB Hacks
This was my second year attending SB Hacks, however, my feelings for this Hackathon has not changed drastically. Hackathons in general amaze and inspire me because I get to be in a room with hundreds of other students with the motivation and passion to build a project within 36 hours. I was able to talk to people and create a new network of friends, however, I remember feeling nervous and inferior to everyone around me. Even I felt a bit nervous talking to the few girls at the end of the table I was working at. I hesitated to ask for help, even though I knew that Hackathons are for people to learn and experiment new projects. However, at the end of the weekend, I was able to be inspired and ignite my desire to keep working hard so that I could could be like the rest of the participants.
My Experience at AthenaHacks
AthenaHacks is my fifth Hackathon, but first all-women Hackathon. I remember being incredibly excited for this one because although I’ve been to a few before this one, I had always felt nervous about embarrassing myself and asking for help. At AthenaHacks, I truly felt a difference in the atmosphere because I was surrounded by women that I could relate to. I attended AthenaHacks on my own, in hopes of creating a team with strangers at the event. I remember feeling nervous because I was not very confident in my abilities, but the keynote speakers, mentors, and my teammates were supportive and easy to talk to. At the end of the weekend, I felt motivated and proud to be a woman in tech.
Notice how regular Hackathons, such as SB Hacks, open their admissions to everyone, yet there is a low turnout of female participants. All-women Hackathons exclusively open their admissions to women (trans, and non-binary inclusive). Although AthenaHacks is specifically for those who identify as females, they are open to having males volunteer as mentors. This gesture promotes healthy and positive collaboration between both genders and makes us realize how we can close the gender gap.
These Hackathons allow women to realize that there is a place for them to learn, grow, network, build their self esteem, and most importantly, have fun. It shows women that they are welcome, needed, and capable of making an impact on the world of technology and engineering.
As undergraduate college students, our goal is to reinforce an environment where women are supportive of each other. We need more Hackathons such as AthenaHacks, the Hackathons that are hosted by women, for women. This is exactly what women, as well as younger girls in the next generations, need to see, in order to envision themselves in the technology field.
How Can I Join the Fun?