Why You Should Be Uncomfortable with Lady Problems

It’s a random weekday in Silicon Valley, and I’m on yet another conference call with a big tech company mansplaining to me why it’s a terrible idea to launch a hackathon series called Lady Problems. The only thing keeping my spirits up at this point is the humor in how they’re trying to avoid saying the words “period” and “menstruation.” This is not the first time I’ve had this conversation, nor will it be the last, and I’m starting to question everything. I Slack my team — “Should we be re-thinking this?”

“This makes me feel really uncomfortable,” says one of my male-coworkers, “which probably means we’re on to something here.”

Ah, discomfort. Discomfort can be meaningful, powerful even, because it can force you to do new things, things that you never thought possible. Our community, our partners, and our advisors were already telling us to go further, to do more — but we needed that voice of doubt, to be told that it couldn’t be done — to push it to the next level.

Exhibit A — The initial response to our first conversations about a hackathon series called “Lady Problems”.

I remember why we set out to do this in the first place. It started well before I joined AngelHack, through events including UnitedWeHack with UN Women in Singapore and the Open Source Hackathon at the UN Global Headquarters that focused on creative solutions for women and youth in tech, to our CEO’s TEDx talk “Technology doesn’t discriminate.”

It continued with Project WoAH, which highlighted the voices of the Women of AngelHack, and during our 9th Global Hackathon Series through our global partnership with Girls in Tech and our “Anyone Can Code” theme focused on inclusivity. More recently, we were honored to be part of supporting Capital One’s Women in Tech Demo Days, bringing together women and male allies to create solutions for nonprofits supporting girls in tech and computer science.

I believe in hackathons as a model for rapid innovation and impact, learning, networking and ultimately empowering entrepreneurs to be successful and do good at the same time. I believe that fostering entrepreneurship is one of the best ways to lift people out of poverty and to create healthy, happy communities no matter where people live.

And, at AngelHack, we know that the best products come from the most diverse teams — top teams we see coming out of our events typically include female hackers (for an awesome example — check out Testlio!) However, we also acknowledge that hackathons, much like the broader tech community, haven’t always been the most female-friendly environments, and as the world’s largest developer ecosystem and hackathon organizer, we see an opportunity to create change.

That is why our team is excited to announce that we’re launching Lady Problems: A Global Hackathon Series Addressing Problems Preventing Female Entrepreneurship. There are many barriers that prevent women from participating in technology or starting their own businesses. Let’s smash them, or better yet — hack them.

We know that the term “Lady Problems” makes people uncomfortable. That’s intentional.

We want people to be uncomfortable with the fact that women represent half of the global population, and reinvest 90 percent of their income into their families and communities, but earn just 10 percent of the world’s income. I want our community to get fired up about the fact that it’s been proven that female-founded can teams out-perform male teams, and yet around only four percent of women are backed by VC funding.

The most exciting part? I know that our community is made up of some of the most fearless problems solvers out there, and that they’re not afraid to take on new challenges that might be a bit uncomfortable.

Thanks for reading — comments welcome, including feedback about how to improve the hackathon environment for women. I’d love to hear from you.

To learn more, visit www.ladyproblemshackathon.com