Hackathon inspires women in technology


Pearl Hacks, an all female hackathon, holds a Sponsor Fair from 11AM to 1PM at the lower lobby in Sitterson Hall on Apr 2.

Attendees went to workshops, created technological applications and supported gender diversification in STEM fields.

“There are so many hackathons and so few women in technology,” Emily Newman, UNC junior and Pearl Hacks co-executive director, said. “Pearl Hacks is a comfortable environment for all women to hack together.”

She said it is one of the first all-female hackathons.

Pearl Hacks hosts workshops for skills such as iOS development, fixing bugs in code and web development for all skill levels. Companies such as Google, Intel and Cisco give 30-minute Tech Talks and give prizes for best use of their technology.

“Women can win prizes at the end for the best women-centric hack,” Newman said. “People focus on things like sexual awareness and safety concerns.”

Madison Pfaff, UNC senior and Pearl Hacks director of marketing, said Pearl Hacks gains a lot of interest for sponsorship from companies because they are geared toward women.

“Being a minority, I was very aware of the gap in technology fields for minorities as well as gender,” she said about the low number of women in STEM fields.

Pfaff is a computer science and mathematical decision sciences double major. She said in her computer science classes there are about 10 girls out of 100 students.

“As women, we try to find that community, and when we find it, we flock to it,” Pfaff said about why she got involved with Pearl Hacks.

Newman said boys are typically pushed to go into technology fields more than girls are.

“As kids, guys are given toys that would make them more into hardware, and girls are given Barbies,” she said.

Sophia Rowland, UNC junior and computer science and psychology double major, said she wishes there were more women in her computer science classes, but she finds there aren’t a lot of males in her psychology classes.

“There is a weird discrepancy where half of my classes are mostly boys, and half are mostly girls,” Rowland said.

This was Rowland’s first time attending Pearl Hacks.

“I think we should try to engage more interest in STEM fields, and Pearl Hacks is doing a good job of that,” she said.

UNC first-year and computer science major Rachel Yuan said the hackathon is a good way for women to get programming experience.

“I think it is sometimes hard to get experience programming things because in school the curriculum is already laid out,” Yuan said.

Pearl Hacks allows you to choose what workshops you attend and what skills you want to improve upon.

While this year’s Pearl Hacks has wrapped up, the planning for next year’s event will begin almost immediately, Pfaff said.


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