Preview: First Annual UCSB Womxn/Hacks Aims to Empower Female Programmers

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Image courtesy of Womxn/Hacks

Annie Huang
Staff Writer

UCSB will host its first hackathon specifically aimed towards women, Womxn/Hacks, this upcoming January. The event takes place over one weekend and invites female-identifying and non-binary students of all skill levels and backgrounds to participate. Participants will gain valuable experience, connections, and prizes in a competitive, yet supportive environment.

Womxn/Hacks, which is verified by the official student hackathon league, Major League Hacking (MLH), will give participating programmers the standard 36 hours to collaborate in teams of two to four people to create projects from scratch. Their products are then judged by industry professionals.

Coders with less experience can opt for a different itinerary, participating in workshops led by professionals and graduate students. The beginner friendly options of Womxn/Hacks give women with less coding experience an opportunity to get started in what may otherwise be an intimidating environment.

Making the event friendly towards programmers with little to no experience connects back to the goal of Womxn/Hacks: to empower women and help them build confidence in their technical capabilities in a traditionally male-dominant field.

According to Sarina Abrishamcar, the lead organizer of Womxn/Hacks and a third year pharmacology major at UCSB, the goal of this event is to empower women by giving them a venue to channel their passion and potential into creating something alongside other women.

To help women address some of the issues in the tech industry that may affect them, Womxn/Hacks will have workshops focusing on problems, such as harassment and prejudice, that affect women in the tech industry and beyond. These workshops aim to strengthen women’s confidence and teach them what they can do when they are being mistreated.

According to Abrishamcar, part of the reason organizers believe this event is so important is because women are losing confidence in their programming skills before they even enter the workplace.

“A lot of women [in computer science] rank themselves lower in experience than they actually are,” said Abrishamcar in an interview with The Bottom Line. “We’re hoping that through this [event], women are able to go into the workplace [empowered] and continue empowering other women throughout their lives.”

Although Womxn/Hacks is a new event, it has already gained the support of software development giants like Microsoft and GitHub. The event also has support from the Office of the Chancellor and Executive Vice Chancellor.

Most of the prizes at the event will be provided by sponsors, although in an interview, Abrishamcar joked about adding a Nintendo Switch to the reward pool. Even though prizes will be only be given to the best projects, all attendees will receive free merchandise and snacks.

Two hundred attendees will be accepted for the event, with a soft cap for different skill levels, so Abrishamcar encourages everyone who is interested to apply as soon as possible, regardless of major or prior experience. Registration ends on Dec. 20 and acceptances will be revealed on Dec. 22.

The event takes place in the Student Resource Building from Jan. 25-27, 2019. For more information or to apply, visit womxnhacks.com.

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