Eva Snyder
Aug 10, 2015 · 5 min read

To the left is a screenshot of a post by Reddit sharing their support of a hackathon I co-founded at my women’s college, HackHolyoke. First, I’d like to thank Reddit, Alexis Ohanian, Lyndsey Scott and all of our sponsors for their amazing support of HackHolyoke.

Secondly, let’s talk equality. Just a quick search on Google you get that equality is “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.” So why did HackHolyoke put so much emphasis on achieving a 1:1 gender ratio? I’m not alone on the organizing team for HackHolyoke when I say that I’ve been to hacks and been discriminated against. I’m not alone when I say I’ve been told that I “don’t know what I’m doing” regarding the code I’ve written. I’m not alone when I say that I was told at a hack that the only reason I would get a job in the tech industry was so the “men in the office could get laid”. HackHolyoke was created to provide a space where comments like these are not acceptable — where everybody can learn and excel in a welcoming and challenging environment. HackHolyoke believes the best hacks are dreamt of, executed and created in a space that harbors equality.

Now — for these comments.

“I thought it was about hacking, turns out it’s about equality. Oh well.”

Reddit said it. Equality and hacking are not mutually exclusive. How does equality suddenly take away the ability to say that HackHolyoke is an environment “that welcomes hackers from around the country to be fearless, to truly be innovative, and to develop brilliantly new and disruptive technologies.”? Spotify did a 1:1 gender ratio hack recently, is that no longer hacking? Is Spotify not concerned about creating new products to change the world? Just because we encourage all genders to attend HackHolyoke does not mean we’re creating an environment adverse to hacking. In fact, it’s been researched and concluded that women and men working together is exponentially more productive than working separately.

In case there’s still some confusion here, here’s an article from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) that talks about the advantages of gender diversity and that companies that are gender-balanced “Demonstrate superior team dynamics and productivity.” And here’s an article by Credit Suisse saying how companies with women on the board have “outperformed those with no women on the board in terms of share price performance”.

Oh, and for the person who wrote “Focusing on equality is kinda ridiculous, it’s like focusing on equality for hobby lobby xD” — See above. Focusing on equality is exactly what we should be doing right now.

“Why do people call this hacking when its basically just making? Or working with components?”

Alright, first let me explain what hacking is. I like to define hacking as breaking the rules. You’re given 24hrs to create something you just thought of and it’s your chance to make it happen. In order to make it come to life — you hack it. You find quick ways to do things and the entire time you’re learning and making memories.

HackHolyoke is your place to break the rules of how you “should” code. We’re providing you with a space free of a teacher making sure you’re doing the “right” things and correcting your “mistakes”. For the 24hrs that you’re innovating and dreaming — those hours are yours to do whatever you can imagine. Don’t hold back.

That being said, while yes we are “making” and yes some people who decided to work with hardware are “working with components” they’re also hacking. They’re coming up with new ways to do things and experimenting with new technologies. All the while being extremely sleep-deprived and shower-less.

“I bet no hacking went on.”

For some strange reason in between the midnight easter egg hunt, the 2:00am dance party/karaoke and the mysterious hauntings hackers managed to find some time to hack.

Here’s an article by Intel describing some of the amazing hacks that came out of HackHolyoke. Here’s another article from HackHolyoke Fall 2014. Here’s a buzzfeed article about the Hashtag Gloves which came out of HackHolyoke Fall 2014 and here’s an article from TODAY.com.

And if you don’t want to read articles, read what some of our hackers had to say for themselves.

#HackHolyoke was a great experience & I met so many fantastic & smart techies from students 2 professionals.”

“24 hours, $25 on Amazon, and 1Tb hard drive (for best AWS hack). @HackHolyoke was the best hackathon I’ve been to!”

The kick-ass organizing team with our kick-ass speakers, Lyndsey Scott and Alexis Ohanian. #ILookLikeAnEngineer

Not only did people write positively about their amazing experience at HackHolyoke online — they weren’t afraid to stand up and say it to everybody in attendance and to others watching via livestream. During our closing ceremony Lyndsey Scott asked the male hackers in the room what it felt like to be in the 1:1 ratio environment and the response was just what I had hoped for. A male hacker stood up and said “it feels like this should be the norm”. At this point, I started bawling and many of the others in the room followed suit.

“It feels like this should be the norm”

I’m proud to say that I am the co-founder of HackHolyoke, but I’m disappointed equality still has to be defended. At the end of the day, HackHolyoke strives to be an inclusive environment for all genders and all experience levels. As an organizer I work tirelessly to speak to every attendee and get to know their hacks more in-depth and hope that each hacker leaves after the 24hrs with a new perspective on hackathons. I hope they’re encouraged to try new things and excited to step outside of their comfort zone. I hope that HackHolyoke provides a safe space for beginners to take the first steps and gives the opportunity for advanced programmers to learn something new.

HackHolyoke will be an annual hackathon, so if this is something you would like to attend, keep an eye out on our website for registration for the 2015/2016 hack.

And because you made it through this entire post — here’s the video we sent to Alexis to get him to come to HackHolyoke. We really do have a goose you can take a selfie with, her name is Jorge ❤

Ladies Storm Hackathons

A community of technical women growing and storming hackathons together

Eva Snyder

Written by

A blonde haired, blue eyed, dimpled wanna-be rapper computer science and music double major.

Ladies Storm Hackathons

A community of technical women growing and storming hackathons together

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