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How Hackathons Can Become More Female-Friendly

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Young men and women at a hackathon.

Experts say hackathon organizers can take steps to encourage more women to participate.

Credit: PCWorld

Hackathons intended to encourage engagement with technology appear to not be attracting participation from women, who are already underrepresented in technology fields. Anecdotal evidence suggests women sometimes feel they do not fit in at hackathons, and they are noticed as female participants rather than for their work.

In addition, some female programmers lack the confidence to compete with men in a high-profile hackathon environment. Many women, like some of their male counterparts, do not want to participate in overnight coding events because of time limitations and family responsibilities.

Experts say hackathon organizers can take steps to encourage more women to participate. For example, a pre-registration period for women can make them feel more comfortable participating in an event, says Google's Amy Quispe, who organized hackathons as a student at Carnegie Mellon University. Organizers can minimize potential intimidation by not focusing on the competition aspect of an event.

In addition, organizers should ensure a clean environment and encourage questions from participants, Quispe says.

Medium engineer Tess Rinearson says organizers should ensure a diverse group of judges and mentors, connect with and invite women's groups, provide healthier food at the event, and avoid using aggressive language in advertising the hackathon.

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Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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