How do we get more women at hackathons?

9/10 participants are male. Not cool.

We’ve talked before about what hackathons are, and why they’re worth your time. Nonetheless, there’s a severe shortage of women at them, and we’re not the only ones who want to fix that.

Thomas Hedley from BeMyApp does too, not least because his company runs lots of them.

So how bad is the gender imbalance at hackathons, and what can we do about it? Here’s Thomas to tell us more.

The stats

So it’s official. 9/10 hackathon participants are men. Unlike the global tech scene where women are thriving, hackathons seem to be immune to female participants.

Why?

When you search for information on hackathons, this is the first picture you come across on Google. How many women can you see?

Hackathons have a reputation for being brutal: 48 sleepless hours of coding between 100+ developers who all want to show who’s boss.

This was probably the case for the first few. Now, though, the model has evolved into all shapes and sizes and everyone in tech can find a way to participate.

It’s not just about technical development

The core value of these events is to (surprise, surprise) hack new tech solutions to transform ideas into reality, all within a very short time frame. However, organisers have come to understand that participants want more. Here are the 3 main developments we’ve seen in hackathons lately:

Workshops: Hackathons are a great place to take on new skills by learning how to use a tool you didn’t know about. If you’re interested in filmmaking or photo editing, target the right hackathon and you’ll be able to learn the latest software.

Other skills that are often workshopped include public speaking and pitch training. Being able to give a killer speech in 3 minutes is a great skill to have in any job.

Networking: Hackathons are prime environments to meet new people. You definitely have a better chance of landing an interview with your dream company if you can meet the Head of Innovation at an informal weekend hack.

They’re also a great place for business opportunities. Countless startups and renowned products were born at hackathons – the Facebook Like button, for instance. You might meet the CTO of your million-pound startup at the next hackathon you attend.

Diversity of skills: This is the most important point I’d like to stress in this article: you do not have to be a developer to participate in a hackathon.

Although the majority of participants are still hardcore devs, most organising agencies reach out to other skillsets in order to feature more creativity, imagination and business strategy. Whether you are in marketing, design, creative thinking or advertising, you’re more than welcome to bring your A-game on the day.

What can we do to get more women to hackathons?

Communication around the event is essential. There’s no reason for women not to be interested. Agencies need to be more creative and target populations wouldn’t normally consider a hackathon. The goal is not to treat women as a minority group who’ll take part in an all-male event – we want to make hackathons a space where gender equality is the norm.

Ready to attend a hackathon? Come to one of ours!

BeMyApp is the global leader in organising hackathons, with 7 years in the business. Our experience shows that the more diverse the team is, the more chance it has to win.

We recently ran HackXLR8, London Tech Week’s official hackathon. With its focus on creating a smart future in the areas of transport, cities and homes, this event needed very diverse skills: everything from technical IoT development to marketing, not to mention long-term planning and strategic business vision.

We’re always adding details of new hackathons to our website, and we’d love to see you at the next one. Join us?


This is a guest post by Thomas Hedley from BeMyApp. It is not a sponsored post.

Main image: WOCinTechChat