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Narrowing the Gender Gap at Hackathons

Narrowing the Gender Gap at Hackathons

As hackathons become more prevalent, one thing has (mostly) stayed the same: the ratio of male to female hackathon participants is often lower than the ratio in the broader computer science community. How can hackathon organizers be mindful of this issue, and encourage a diverse pool of participants? As it turns out, the same changes that make hackathons better for female participants, make hackathons better for all participants.

This talk will cover the basics of how to run an inclusive hackathon. We will discuss several high school and college hackathons, and study which strategies hackathon organizers are successfully using "in the field", the lessons they've learned, and the results they've seen.

Amalia Hawkins

May 18, 2014
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  1. Narrowing the Gender
    Gap at Hackathons
    Amalia Hawkins, MongoDB

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  2. Why Does It Matter?
    Understanding Context

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  3. Since 2009, college hackathons
    have spread across the USA.
    Provide a pragmatic counterpart
    to theory-based courses.

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  4. In 2010, women were awarded
    18% of undergrad CS degrees.*
    * Statistics from the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
    College hackathons have a lower
    ratio than their degree programs.

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  5. Nothing I can do is going to
    change things.

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  6. Nothing I can do is going to
    change things.
    False.

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  7. The same changes that make
    hackathons better for female
    participants, make hackathons
    better for all participants.

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  8. Who’s Staying Home?
    Breaking Down Barriers to Entry

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  9. The Barrier of Unfamiliarity:
    Not being in the right “networks”
    to gain knowledge.

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  10. The Barrier of Unfamiliarity:
    Not being in the right “networks”
    to gain knowledge.
    Reach out to your community
    through a variety of channels.

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  11. Would-be participants
    cannot picture themselves
    at a hackathon.

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  12. Would-be participants
    cannot picture themselves
    at a hackathon.
    Provide mentorship:
    be accessible to first-timers.

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  13. Provide mentorship:
    be accessible to first-timers.
    Would-be participants
    cannot picture themselves
    at a hackathon.
    Re-examine your messaging.

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  14. Hackathons are about
    cooperation, not competition.

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  15. Organizers and
    attendees alike care most
    about creating great hacks.
    Hackathons are about
    cooperation, not competition.

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  16. How Do We Progress?
    Tweaks That (Are) Work(ing)

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  17. Involve women in your
    planning team.

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  18. Gather feedback from the
    people who showed up --
    and the people who didn’t.

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  19. Sometimes you’re going to
    try controversial techniques.
    That’s okay!
    (Nobody really knows what
    they’re doing.)

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  20. Hackathons are a microcosm
    of the larger tech community.

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  21. Fix the experience,
    and the ratios will change.
    Everybody benefits.

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  22. Thanks for your help!
    PennApps
    HackTX
    MHacks
    HackTrin
    VTHacks
    HackMIT
    HackDuke
    HackRU
    PearlHacks
    BitCamp
    Hack@Brown
    HackBCA
    DevFest
    TartanHacks
    HackCon
    … and others! !

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