09 October 2018
Women in tech, what’s the point?
Hackathon as part of the Brighton Digital Festival
The alarm went off at 6am. There was no plane to get, no ferry to rush to.
In two hours the doors would open on a new event as part of the Brighton Digital Festival.
The festival takes place annually across the city to explore digital culture and celebrate Brighton’s creativity and talent.
The Hackathon for Women in Tech [SINC_HACK >17%] would take place at Sussex Innovation Centre at the Unviersity of Sussex.
I took a lot from this day. It is important that people from our industry take the time to engage in these activities. We can’t demand change from the sidelines without actively doing something to move the conversation on.
Feminism, as a label, has developed negative connotations. The spirit of the feminist movement is to get people working together for a better world regardless of gender. Whilst the event was targeted at women it was better as a result of having men and women engaged in the challenge. A lot of participants felt that they had not been treated fairly throughout their working lives. What can we change?
How can we move the education system along to keep step with the evolving landscape of employment, family, gender, and purpose?
The doors swung open, and one-by-one the attendees filed into their new home for the next 12hrs.
Mostly women, and some men filled the room. Each person collecting their tote bags, coffee cups, and giveaways for the day.
There would be talks on emotional intelligence, business modeling and experts in game design interspersed within a competitive hackathon. The most popular of the five themes were:
- The number of female school leavers into STEM subjects in higher education (most popular)
- Unconscious bias and sexism towards women in the workplace (one group picked this and won)
- The under representation in the media and popular culture in tech roles
Free to attend, there were coders, front-end developers, people from marketing backgrounds, mathematicians, a dog (truly) and physicians all wanting to come together to create something by the end of the day.
My expectation was that it would be mainly students. This was not the case. The age groups were varied with impassioned people traveling cross country or boarding rail replacement buses to attend.
David Lane of Fat Fish Games, a mobile games & apps studio in Brighton, did a tutorial on the programming language Python for beginners. With the industry being predominantly men they were looking to provide a window on their work and its career possibilities. Often this industry employs a small percentage of women. There are also fewer applying en masse, how do we increase the size of the pool?
There was a talk on emotional intelligence, by Lara Williams of Momentum4, focused on understanding your emotions and training yourself to recognise and (possibly) handle them differently. An important lesson for all.
The teams broke into sprints (an allocated time period to work in) to tackle the themes that were posted at the start of the day.
You immediately saw the importance of group dynamics. If teams gelled they would work together well, if not, ego or the loudest would dominate to the detriment of the work. This is true regardless of gender. The theme that resonated was getting more women into tech. We needed to explore filling the funnel by getting more people into the STEM subjects.
The Business Model Canvas – presented by Claire Pasquill formed a component of the judging criteria. The groups were asked about their business models. This stumped a lot of attendees who were more creative or coders. Business though, is at the heart of everything we create and gaining an appreciation for the commercial challenges would be invaluable for any initiative.
12hrs passed and there were awards handed out to the winning ideas.
The was a lot to reflect on. The industry, my role and where we are headed in general
There is a lack of female entrepreneurs. Establishing more support networks will help more women feel empowered and thrive. These events facilitate people coming together, sharing their experiences and that we are often more powerful as a group.
“New research by [Facebook] has found that female founders who are part of a business community are twice as likely to forecast growth compared to those who are not. Despite this, half of female founders say they are not part of such a network. The research revealed that women are aware of the benefits of tapping into business communities, with 49 per cent believing the opportunity to connect with other like-minded people would greatly benefit their business. However a third are unsure where to go to find these groups. 31 per cent of the women surveyed said the current business environment is better set up for male business leaders.”
Generally, I think women in tech may feel underrepresented in the media, as the sidekick or helper in tv shows and films. The tide is turning and more are being shown working in business roles, particularly stem subjects. We are working to create a different narrative. One that encourages participation regardless of gender.Perspective is vital. Women attending these events may ideate around problem areas that affect them directly and design solutions to improve them. It also allows men a chance to get involved in solving what are societal challenges rather than ‘women’s problems’. It was an exercise in inclusion and collaboration, improving the balance of participation.