100+ Women Attend DC TechLady Hackathon + Training Day

by Sarah Rigdon
12 Dec 2013

On Saturday, over 100 women attended the TechLady Hackathon + Training Day, an all-day learning event and the first women-only hackathon in DC. Code for DC champion Leah Bannon kicked off the program by explaining to the group why she’d organized it: “I go to a lot of hackathons and I’ve really benefited from them.. but I’m always one of only a few women there.”

The idea for this event was to gather women in a supportive environment for an introduction to a variety of tech skills and to recruit them to attend more DC tech events and hackathons.

After introductions, the classes quickly filled while hackers started working on a range of projects: the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative Open Data Project, data visualizations for the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index, Code for DC’s ANC Brigade, continuing art games created at The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s recent hackathon, ShutThatDown.com, Health and Human Services datasets, and GIS mapping in conflict zones.

As the day progressed, a few take-aways emerged.

Women want training. Technical classes took place throughout the day including sessions on HTML+CSS, APIs, Python, Ruby, SQL, Github, and open data. All were packed beyond capacity. As were the two nontechnical classes, both tailored to encourage community: one on imposter syndrome, the other an hour devoted to mentoring and career building. Though classes covered a range of topics, several participants expressed an interest in more. Organizers heard requests for Photoshop and Illustrator, taxonomies, and intermediate-level coding classes.

This was the first hackathon for at least half of participants. By the end of the day, many said they couldn’t wait to attend another. For those looking to get involved, the next Code for DC meetup is a great place to start!

Many participants expressed relief at the supportive environment. With people representing a range of expertise levels and areas in attendance, asking questions was encouraged. And it led to breakthroughs. After the HTML+CSS class, one participant announced she fixed a bug on her website that had been bothering her for months. Light bulbs were observed turning on throughout the day.

This was also a fairly diverse gathering in many senses. Women of all professional backgrounds, from experts in their field to those who were considering a career switch, were there to get more involved in technical projects. Participants of all ages and several moms joined in the fun, including a few with kids in tow.

So what happens now? We want to make the #TechLady Hackathon a regular event that continues to meet demand. Do you have ideas for making the next one even better? Add them to the hackpad, or submit your ideas anonymously.

We couldn’t have pulled off such a great event without our awesome sponsors. Many thanks to IREX, Github, Govtrack, MapBox, The Sunlight Foundation, and The New Organizing Institute.

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Further reading: TechLady Hackathon + Training Day on Storify