Next weekend, we will be hosting our third Hack the Gap all-women hackathon! This hackathon comes around once a year in Minneapolis. This year the event is on January 14th and 15th. We set a goal for ourselves in October as we started planning: reach more women by doubling the number of participants from 50 to 100. We hit 50 just 3 days after we opened registration. We surpassed our goal in just under a month and now have over 109 women registered.

Hack the Gap exists to create a space for women of different backgrounds and experience levels to hack and explore tech without the inherent bias and sexism in tech. Participants pitch ideas to the entire group on Saturday morning. They vote on the ideas and then form teams around the most popular ones. Throughout the weekend, they work on their idea with mentors from the community lending a hand along the way.

Sunday afternoon we celebrate the teams by watching the demos of everything they have created over the two days. Not only do we want to celebrate the hard work of the teams, but one of the theories we had when we started this is that the whole pipeline thing is just an excuse. We came to this conclusion because 1) we were among many, many women in tech all saying they wanted more and 2) because the numbers that companies were reporting were not budging.

And if we’re being really honest, we were experiencing great sexism in our own journeys. So we felt that the one thing we could do to take action was to use the headwinds of sexism as a way to lift off. Give women a space to hack among a community of their own.

We wanted to show that there are women in tech. So, that’s what we did.

We open the demo portion of the event up to the public because many of these women are flying under the radar or are going unnoticed. We want give them a stage to show that women are right here and we’re working on hard problems. We also specifically keep all spectators out of the non-demo portions of the event because this space is something we fiercely protect for the women to work uninterrupted.

This problem – lack of women in tech, lack of diversity in tech – is bigger than just us. We need the support of everyone in the community, we need the community to make space for women who are working on hard problems, to lift them up, to advocate for them, to hire them, to promote them, and to connect them to their networks.

Check out Hack the Gap if you’d like to join us as a participant, attend Demo Day, or just learn more. We’d love to have you!

Jenna Pederson
is a web developer, business owner, photographer, Co-founder of Hack the Gap, Minne* Board Member, Rails mentor for Thinkful, speaker, skier, traveler, lover of all things MN, shoe lover, wannabe yogi, migraineur, and all-around awesome person (but laced with a little sarcasm on a quite regular basis).

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