All-girls hackathon encourages careers in tech


Anika Bagga, a junior at Cupertino High School, attended several hackathon coding competitions during her high school career. But every time, Bagga noticed that she was one of only a few girls in attendance.

"One of the reasons why many girls are scared to go to hackathons is because they don't feel accepted or comfortable in that kind of environment, or they feel like they'll be underestimated because they don't have the same skills," Bagga said.

She found a solution in XXHacks 2017, an all girl's hackathon, on Feb. 18 at the Symantec World Headquarters in Mountain View.

Some girls may be deterred from competing in hackathons because of the hackathon stereotypes that involve long hours and "coding away through the night," she said.

"That's why we wanted to create a 12-hour hackathon which would be a smaller-sized event, but it would still kind of give girls the exposure to what hackathons are like and to help them make some positive impact," Bagga said.

The event was headed by Bagga and planned with four students from nearby high schools Ruoyun Zheng (Monta Vista), Anusha Kuchibhotla and Anushka Narverkar (both of Cupertino) and Celeste Tran (Los Altos) in partnership with the Stanford organization Girls Teaching Girls to Code.

"I really wanted to create an all-girls hackathon which would be a safe and inviting space for any girl to come in and learn technology and not be afraid or not be underestimated for her skills," Bagga said.

Ninety-seven girls attended the event with the goal of creating a mobile application or website to advance women's rights or advance social and civil rights.

Nina Vir served as one of the judges for the social and civil impact category. Vir founded her own company, Daily Dress Me, when she was in high school.

"I was really interested in attending this event and giving back because most of the attendees were me about five years ago," Vir said. "When I walked into that room full of girls that were 15, 16 years old, all coding away, it was really quite amazing."

Vir said an app that helped people find local protests and an app that educated people about their constitutional rights really stood out.

One of the winning applications allowed users to review and rate local bars and clubs based on how the employees and customers treat minorities.

"I was very, very impressed by the quality of the presentations," Vir said. "This is definitely a very impressive bunch altogether."

Contest winners earned prizes sponsored by Kate Spade, and Microsoft sponsored the runner-up prizes.

Bagga invited a panel of women in tech as speakers and judges and said organizing the event took three months of hard work.

A post-hackathon survey indicated that 96 percent of attendees want to attend a similar event in the future and 85 percent felt that XXHacks positively affected their opinion about computer science.

"We know this is a male dominant industry, but I think this event is clear evidence that girls are still interested and they are encouraged to pursue a career in technology," Vir said.

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4 people like this
Posted by hsnpoor
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2017 at 3:47 pm

Awesome idea! Technology on it's own is kind of like Adam in the garden alone; which was the first thing God said was not a very good idea of His. His fix....WOMAN!! Tech industry could and should take note and follow suit.

12 people like this
Posted by Men
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Feb 24, 2017 at 6:50 pm

The reality is however, women get paid SIGNIFICANTLY LESS than men for the exact same job. It's called gender discrimination, and ALL companies within the bay area does this.

3 people like this
Posted by hsnpoor
a resident of another community
on Feb 24, 2017 at 7:12 pm

@men...yes, this is true and I think that reality is a detriment to everyone; however, if you're responding to my comment, I'm not sure I get your point.

5 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 25, 2017 at 11:11 am

One of the really great things about this was - it was organized by young women. Now, how to organize it to pull in the Target Student middle school students in Crittenden Middle School and Graham Middle School? There was a recent Mercury News articles on immigrant job placement in the Bay Area, It noted that there was a reasonably high placement of immigrant (women) in tech positions. However - mostly South Asian. Is it possible to broaden that representation?

Also a good Merc article on what appears to be a Latina "Dr. Mom" who helped save her son's life at a soccer game. More comp sci females and more female cardiac doctors, all good. "A mind is a terrible thing to waste".

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