By Cosette Nunez and Jhacquelle Swaby
A five percent higher than usual female attendance in last week’s Hack@CEWIT hackathon marked a success for the first and longest weekend hacking event at Stony Brook University. Twenty-five percent of the participants during the 43-hour long February 17th to 19th hacking marathon were female, compared to the national average of 20% female participation, registered by the University of Michigan and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
“Usually if you go to a room where any tech company are, it’s guys everywhere and that’s an unfortunate part of our industry” Michal Wallace, Software Developer for 1010DATA said.
Softheon is one of the event’s main financial sponsors. The company hosts hackathons to get ideas for future software development. “We just want to see what comes out of it,” Vassili Bolotnikov, Softheon representative said. “It’s like throwing meatballs against the wall and seeing where it goes.”
Students entered the building with a laptop, sleeping bag and energy drink in preparation for the 43-hour weekend hack. Hack@CEWIT offered students region-wide a total of $5,000 cash prizes. One of their missions is to bridge student’s software solutions with industry relevant ideas.
Industry trends have estimated that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computing jobs available. Female U.S graduates are on track to fill just 3 percent of these jobs according to Girls who Code (GWC) , a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering women in computer science.
1010DATA offers a platform for data management, analysis and application building. The company attended the hackathon to scout for talent in real time. Stand-out students could be offered an internship for the summer Wallace said.
“1010 is disruptive, we hire talent regardless of sex. If you have the right fit you are a part of the family” Daniel Yount, 1010DATA project manager, said.
Hack@CEWIT featured hands-on workshops, interactive speakers and opportunities for recruitment. “It’s a platform for young people to grow their ideas outside of an academic environment” Iassogna said.
Hackathons provide the unique opportunity for students to receive feedback from a business perspective Iassonga said. It’s about merging innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship. Men still outnumber women at many hackathons where internships, money and recognition are all possibilities.
Hack@CEWIT was Hannah Kim’s first hackathon. “I wanted to learn how to assemble things” she said. Kim coded in a room reserved for females however she was the only one inside.
Disinterest for women in computer science occurs mostly between the ages of 13-17 according to GWC. Some females may feel less smart than their male counterparts before they reach adolescence Yount said. “It’s an unfortunate stigma of our society”.
Hackathons offer many academic and career benefits in an economy where computing skills are in demand. In 2016 only 24 percent of women are in the computing workforce according to the U.S Department of Labor.