XX in Tech

The Perfect Ratio: New Hackathon Brings Ladies and Gents Together to Build Cool Products

Hack'n Jill wants to change the conversation about women in tech through a gender-equal hackathon.
 The Perfect Ratio: New Hackathon Brings Ladies and Gents Together to Build Cool Products

Ms. Koo (twitter.com)

If you’ve ever been to a hackathon, you’re probably well-acquainted with the fact that the majority of attendees and participants are usually dudes. The paucity of gender diversity in tech is a controversial issue, but one that probably won’t be solved by responding to the over-saturation of Y chromosomes with an all-female hackathon. That’s where Hack’n Jill comes in.

Sponsored by Appnexus and hosted at the company’s headquarters, Hack’n Jill is a weekend-long summer hackathon that will bring together 50 men and 50 women in an effort to “create an environment where both genders feel welcome to build cool things together.”

The theme of the event, which will take place June 15th and 16th, is #HackYourSummer: “Think about what makes summer great — from going out and being active to chilling at home with friends — and be inspired to make it even better,” explains the Hack’n Jill blog.

“We went through a couple iterations of the event, and we ended up settling on a 50/50 split of guys and girls because we wanted to expose guys and girls working together, as opposed to just have women working on their own,” Kara Silverman, one of the event’s organizers, told Betabeat by phone. “We also wanted to create female advocates through experience.

“We were looking to demonstrate that it’s your skillset that should be emphasized,” added Eugenia Koo, another Hack’n Jill cofounder. “We really wanted to concentrate on promoting this diversity and really the type of positive outcomes that can come about through an event like this.”

Ms. Silverman said she had been to many tech events where the dearth of women was clearly visible. “In the line to pitch at Startup Weekend Mobile, there were maybe 50 people and 5-10 of them were women,” she said.

But in a city with far fewer female devs than male, won’t it be difficult to achieve that perfect male/female ratio?

“So far the signups are really, really close to 50/50,” said Ms. Koo. “We might have maybe three or four more guys than girls, but it’s right on target.”

The Hack’n Jill team is hoping that with the success of their inaugural event, they can expand the event to an annual experience.

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