Code Like a Girl: HackHERS 2017
HackHERS promotes diversity and inclusion while encouraging equality and education in STEM fields.
By Bhavna Bhatia
March 30, 2017
It’s 9 a.m. at Cook Campus Center, and there is a line around the building of young women with backpacks and sleeping bags. They are eagerly waiting to register for an event they’ve been looking forward to for months. HackHERS is a hackathon catering to women to promote inclusivity and diversity in the technological space. The beauty of HackHERS is that it’s open to people of all skill levels, and provides hackers of all skill levels with knowledge and space to really flex their creativity.
“The overall goal of HackHERS is to create a space in which women [and those new to programming] can explore tech and tech culture and be empowered to build with code,” says organizer Constantina Scoullis. “We are a hackathon geared towards women, but the problem of the gender gap within the tech sector is something that we need everyone involved in, regardless of gender. Because of that, we invite those who do not identify as female to participate.”
Participants in the event also agreed that this was an incredibly educational experience. While many participants were STEM students, those who were non-STEM majors also felt included during the event. The workshops curated by HackHERS are usually extremely popular. Some workshops this year included Data 101 (data science and modeling), Intro to Node.js (an introduction to backend development), and intro to iOS development.
“During the event, a friend messaged me asking about the hackathon,” says Briana Nema. “He asked, ‘Are you winning?’ I replied, ‘Yes, I am winning by gaining so much new knowledge!’ What I love about HackHERS is that it encourages everyone to join, no matter what skill level. My favorite part of the event are the workshops because they introduce new topics that I have no knowledge of. The community is very helpful, and I was able to meet new and old friends.”
Overall, the team felt that this was possibly the best HackHERS to date. Approximately 600 people applied for a total of 300 spots, which is double the number than last year and more people stuck around the entire 24 hours this year than ever before. A large number of non-Rutgers students from other universities also showed interest this year and workshops were well-attended by the students participating.
There were also some review sessions for upcoming exams to help students handle their academic workload while attending the event. HackHERS had several corporate sponsors, and all expressed interest in recruiting female STEM students to increase diversity and inclusion in their respective workplaces.