5 Ways to Make Your Virtual Hackathon More Gender-Inclusive

Fiona Whittington
Published in
3 min readDec 17, 2020


Photo from TechTogether New York 2019

According to The MLH 2020 State of the League report, 39% of hackathon attendees identified as women and non-binary. Although this number is a significant improvement from a mere 21% in 2018, many barriers still prevent us from achieving gender parity within the hackathon community.

If you want to make your hackathons more gender-inclusive, here are 5 actions you can take.

1. Encourage Pronoun Usage

Why are pronouns important? According to Fen Slattery in An Organizer’s Guide to Pronoun Buttons, “Simple, it helps us trans and non binary people to be safe. If everyone wears them, it helps remind attendees that pronouns shouldn’t be assumed, and that we should respect the pronouns other people use.”

Make it easy for hackers to add pronouns to their Discord profile with the YAGPD bot.

Screenshot from the TechTogether Boston 2021 Discord

2. Create Affinity Groups within Discord

“Affinity groups are gathering opportunities for people who share a common identity. Affinity groups provide opportunities for people to connect with other people who share aspects of their identity, especially in situations in which aspects of their identity are in the minority or are marginalized.” — Source Holderness

Affinity groups within a Discord provide hackers with safe spaces to ask questions and access support. If you want to go the extra mile, you can organize virtual meetups for each affinity group.

Make sure these groups are monitored for inappropriate behavior and prepare a response as to why these spaces are important for your community in case you are asked.

3. Ask Less & Give More, Partner with Gender-focused Hackathons

TechTogether gets hundreds of inbound promotional requests every year from co-ed hackathons looking to diversify their applicant pool. Rarely do these emails ever offer to give back to our community or mission in any way. Therefore, I almost never respond.

If you want the support of gender-focused hackathons and clubs, focus more on what you can give them and less on what they can give you. For example, offer to co-host a workshop in exchange for help promoting the event.

Need help finding gender-focused hackathons support? View all upcoming gender-focused hackathons here. TechTogether releases this list yearly.

4. Donate to Gender-Focused Hackathons

Gender-focused hackathons are a driving force in improving the gender-diversity of the hackathon community and they need donations to survive.

By investing in organizations like TechTogether, we can improve the equity of the hackathon community for people of marginalized genders.

An easy way to make room in your budget for donations is to give them away as prizes. For example, TechTogther gave away $4k in donations to a select group of BLM organizations as prizes for HobbyHacks.

5. Diversify Your Hackathon Organizing Team

I don’t really think I need to explain why this is important. If your hackathon team has always been led by cis-gender men then it’s time for a change.

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Fiona Whittington

A marketer with a passion for startups, technology, and education.