Where Are the Girl Hackers at Hackathons

I brought my 11 year old daughter Kaia, to the Trojan Hack at USC Friday night and Saturday, which was a new experience for her. I wouldn’t say she is on a track to be a hacker like her dad, but she does have a Chromebook, iPhone and is pretty technologically literate.

She has asked me a couple times about teaching her how to build a game, or some sort of fashion web site. She has her own Wordpress blog and even went and setup her own Wordpress.com account to blog about Harry Potter without my help.

I asked her if she found any of the projects that were being built at the hackathon interesting--she said no, except the Wolves with Friends video game. Then she said, “maybe if there were more girl hackers, the projects would be more interesting”.

Kaia is at a very important age, where I think she can be influenced or turned off in many different ways, and within a variety of subjects. I don’t want to push my hacker ways on her, but I want to influence her as much as I possibly can--and leave the decisions up to her.

When I go to hackathons with Audrey (@audreywatters) and my daughter I can’t help but see it through their eyes--where not only the programming challenges are intimidating, but a room full of boys are a big turn off. Something that isn’t apparent to me, when I go by myself as hacker white guy.

One of things I’ve noticed at various places I’ve worked is that the tone of the workplace, the focus of projects, and the overall energy is different when there are more girls on teams. This is something that is very apparent working at CityGrid, not just the diversity of the workplace, but that there are many female managers and team leads, which sets a very positive tone for the company.

We HAVE to begin to have more discussion about how do we evolve the face of hackathons to include a more diverse range of problem owners, including making sure women and girls feel much more comfortable, and are a much larger presence at hackathons.