By Shreya Shankar, Global Tech Leader
College Station, TX
I like free shirts. I really do. Who doesn't?
The thought first struck me as I entered Rackspace HQ for my first hackathon, SOHacks. (Hackathons are competitions that last at least 24 hours, and you're expected to submit a project by the end. Your project could be a mobile app, website, or anything tech-related). Countless companies lined their own booths against the walls, giving away free shirts, stickers, food, and more. I got enough shirts to last me more than a week. It was pretty cool.
I didn't know what a hackathon was like before I attended SOHacks. I was, at first, apprehensive. I'm not the best coder. I haven't developed 15 apps like some of the other kids have. I was just a beginner. But after companies such as Google, LinkedIn, and Microsoft gave me free t-shirts, water bottles and stickers, I decided that maybe the hackathon wasn't going to be so bad.
As we all congregated in a large room to officially begin the hackathon, I couldn't help but notice that there were very few girls. Again, another instance where females were underrepresented. As I talked to a few of the girls, I realized that many of them hadn't taken a coding class or computer science course before. Disappointed, I began to start working with my team -- which (yay for us) had 3 girls -- to develop our projects.
I quickly realized that my limited experience with seamlessly integrating APIs with my work wouldn't get me anywhere. Hour after hour passed by as my friends and I bugged literally the entire Android advising team to help us. At around 3 in the morning, we realized that we needed to come up with another idea, and we hastily came up with a website and text-messaging platform as our product (with a half hour nap in there somewhere).
At the awards ceremony, I was happy to see that a few girls were part of teams that placed in the top 5. However, the majority of award winners (15 or so) were boys. I'm not hating on boys here (they created some AMAZING products), but I want to point out that we NEED more females in hackathons.
After all, free shirts are pretty awesome, right?