Why bother? How hackathons can become more female-friendly
Hackathons seem the antithesis of what we want to promote about computer science. On the one hand, they emphasize the Geek stereotype (it’s all about caffeine and who needs showers?), so they don’t help to attract the students who aren’t interested in being labeled “geeky.” On the other hand, it’s completely against the idea of designing and engineering software. “Sure, you can do something important by working for 36 hours straight with no sleep or design! That’s how good software ought to be written!” It’s not good when facing the public (thinking about the Geek image) or when facing industry and academia.
So why try to make them “female-friendly”?
OK, so there are a number of valid reasons women tend to stay away from hackathons. But what can hackathon planners due to get more females to attend their events? I found some women offering advice on this subject. Here are some suggestions for making your hackathon more female-friendly.
Amy Quispe, who works at Google and ran hackathons while a student at Carnegie Mellon University, writes that having a pre-registration period just for women makes them feel more explicitly welcome at your event. Also, shy away from announcing that its a competition (to reduce the intimidation factor), make sure the atmosphere is clean and not “grungy” and make it easy for people to ask questions. “A better hackathon for women was a better hackathon for everyone,” she writes.