News & Analysis

Girl Geek Academy launches third annual She Hacks event to help create a pathway for women in tech

- July 15, 2016 3 MIN READ

Girl Geek Academy is calling for hipsters, hackers, and hustlers to apply for its third annual She Hacks event, a female-focused hackathon looking to bring together serial entrepreneurs and those making their first foray into the tech space to have them learn from each other and build new things together.

To be held across the weekend of July 22-24 in Melbourne, She Hacks encourages women of any age with programming, design, user experience, marketing, entrepreneurship, or project management skills to take part, with the aim to create diverse teams with a broad range of skills.

Unlike most hackathons, She Hacks won’t begin with a Friday pitch session, instead having participants get into teams and come up with ideas together; if a participant already has an idea they are asked to talk it through with their team and see if it’s the right fit.

This is part of the Girl Geek Academy’s focus on helping women network and build a community rather than just having teams work together for a weekend.

Established in 2014, cofounder Sarah Moran explained that the organisation emerged out of the Girl Geek Dinners movement, which saw women in tech around the world have dinner at different tech spaces; while great, she said she and her cofounders didn’t think it was enough.

“We wanted to be able to create something that was more proactive about the needs of women in the tech industry, and making sure that we’re actually building our community and building things together rather than just saying, ‘we’re women in tech and we work together’, particularly when we saw the startup movement coming through and saw that there weren’t as many women attending hackathons. We started to look at why and began building our own,” she said.

So what does She Hacks do differently? No pizza and beer, for starters, Moran said.

“We used to see at hackathons that you would get fed cheap pizza and beer and that was the fuel, and there was supposed to be some kind of credit for doing that, like you’re tough, hacking until 2 in the morning. We thought, that’s cool but really unsustainable, and so privileged to think that’s appealing to everybody,” she explained.

She Hacks, on the other hand, serves high quality food, spending around $120 per participant on food alone over the weekend, and has participants break for yoga. Meanwhile, the doing away with the Friday pitches and instead matching the hackers, hustlers and hipsters has teams work out together what they have the skills to build.

“It’s based around networking and learning the skills of the women in your community, rather than building an idea that someone wants to recruit a team for,” Moran said.

This year’s event will be assessed by an all-female VC judging panel, with Samantha Wong, head of operations at Blackbird Ventures, Rampersand analyst Eloise Watson, and Bonnie Tran, investment associate at Trimantium Capital, taking part. Anna Reeves, CEO and executive producer of That Startup Show, will MC the event.

The panel came together after Moran caught up with Wong after reading a blog post she wrote on the difficulties of getting women in tech themselves to support women in tech, something Moran said is a core problem.

“We don’t have clear pathways, so [Girl Geek Academy is] educating women as to what the startup industry is and what it looks like and how to raise investment, because our community hasn’t banded together to educate them about that process,” Moran explained.

“We’re bringing them in as early as possible, so it may not be that they win She Hacks and win investment, but we know we’ve have previous teams that have made it into accelerators and have built products off the back of She Hacks. It’s good to know what the next steps are and that it’s not just a flash in the pan event, that this is a pathway we’re trying to create.”

She Hacks is just one event run by Girl Geek Academy, with She Makes a ‘makerfest’ for women interested in the likes of 3D printing and wearables and She Makes Games introducing women to video game development. Coming up later this year is the inaugural She Jams, the first Australian game jam – essentially a hackathon for game development – aimed at women.

As well as these events, Girl Geek Academy recently launched a membership drive to help up the number and representation of women in the tech community. Run off the back of the ‘panel pledge’ movement, Girl Geek Academy will look to promote members by helping them develop their brand and make them visible to conference panel organisers.

The free membership drive saw almost 500 women sign up over six weeks; one year memberships are now priced at $99.

You can learn more about Girl Geek Academy and the upcoming She Hacks event here.

Image: Girl Geek Academy. Source: Yishan Chan Photography.