It wasn’t clear what would happen to the Tech Lady Hackathon when founder Leah Bannon moved to San Francisco last year. Bannon had built the event from the ground up and made it what it was: an inclusive space for women of all backgrounds.
But this Saturday, the Tech Lady Hackathon is back for its fourth year with new co-organizers Jessica Garson, Kate Rabinowitz and Joy Whitt at the helm.
When Bannon announced her departure last August, no one really knew who exactly would be organizing the event. Garson and Rabinowitz both had the idea of bringing back the event for about six months. One day, they found themselves at the same event when Garson suggested bringing it back. Rabinowitz was immediately on board, and the duo invited Whitt to join the crew.
“We all kind of had our start with Tech Lady Hackathon,” Whitt said. “That was my first hackathon that I had ever attended, and I had just gone on a whim.”
What’s unique about the Tech Lady Hackathon is that it’s catered towards women from diverse backgrounds — women of color, queer women, women with little tech experience and so on. Garson said that’s why she loves this hackathon, in particular, so much.
“Before going to the Tech Lady Hackathon, I tried going to a few other hackathons, and I felt like ‘All of these people are going to know that I don’t know what I’m doing, they’re going to think that I’m a fraud,'” Garson said. “And the great thing about the Tech Lady Hackathon is that each of the projects have been handpicked to have some beginner friendly aspects to them.”
Whitt, who was charged with picking the projects for the day’s event, said she focused a lot on reaching out to minority groups in technology and how to best serve them.
“My brain doesn’t naturally work in the tech way,” Whitt said. “But my brain does naturally sort out social aspects and connecting communities, so for me, it was pretty easy to think of a handful of organizations whose missions are catered towards women, women of color, queer people and young people — specifically people from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
The hackathon, which is sold out, has attracted over 100 volunteers. Projects have more of a civic tech aim to them, and they’re designed for people with all ranges of experience.
“I had written about 10 lines of HTML and CSS at the point,” Whitt said about her first Tech Lady Hackathon. “I had zero tech experience at all, and I just wanted to check out the offices that it was hosted at, and it ended up being this incredible launching pad.”
With that, here are this year’s Tech Lady Hackathon civic tech projects:
Mapping Bike Accessibility
- A Washington Area Bicyclist Association project started at DCFem Tech Hack for Good back in June. Participants will continue to build upon a map of every bike lane and trail across the D.C. region.
Tapping Technology to Fill Gaps in Foster Care
- Brought about through a partnership with foster child advocacy group Think of Us, this project will develop a secure request system for documents or visitations for both foster children and their case workers.
- Participants in this project will work to create a curriculum by women and for women for the local women in tech group Hear Me Code.
Hacking a Path to Self-sufficiency for Returning Citizens
- Brought to the hackathon by Mission Launch, this project will have people analyze how many people come home daily or monthly to DC and Baltimore from prison or jail. Mission Launch works with people with prison or arrest records to help them become more “self-sufficient” through entrepreneurship.
Data Dive into Gender Diversity of DC Tech Meetup Speakers
- Those in this project will take a look at the gender breakdown among speakers at DC tech-related meetups.
Image used via CC 2.0 – credit WOCinTech Chat