Empowering Women in Tech Through Hands-on Experiences
Bridging the Digital Gender Gap
Having tech experience on a resume can be key to forging a solid career path in the digital economy, but research shows that less than 20 percent of bachelor’s degrees in computer science go to women, even though female graduates hold 60 percent of all bachelor’s degrees.
This translates into a significant disparity in the workforce, where women are underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and hold only 27 percent of all computer science jobs.
To help close the gender and skill gap in tech, Capital One has partnered with AngelHack to create Women in Tech Demo Days, hands-on experiences that bring together hundreds of talented women and male allies—developers, designers and entrepreneurs—to complete hackathon events across the country.
“The hackathon community is reflective of the tech industry, with a male majority across the board, but at Women in Tech Demo Day, women were the majority. A significant number of women shared that this was their first hackathon, and now they have the increased confidence to be more active in similar events across the industry,” said Julie A. Elberfeld, Commercial Banking Divisional CIO and executive sponsor of Capital One Technology’s Diversity & Inclusion Initiative.
The hackathons also serve as networking and bonding opportunities for the participants, who are often the only women on their professional teams. “I met more female software engineers today than I have in my entire career,” said one attendee.
Using Tech Skills for the Greater Good
In addition to being fun, inspiring, and great for networking, the hackathons serve a greater good. They’re designed to connect participants with nonprofits in their communities, giving participants the opportunity to use their tech talent to develop a product or tool to help each nonprofit better serve their mission.
“Women in Tech Demo Day gives designers, developers, and entrepreneurs the opportunity to use their tech skills for social good in an inclusive and welcoming environment – something that participants said made the difference in their decision to sign up for the event” — Julie A. Elberfeld
Women Helping Women
The challenge presented to the Demo Day participants aims to solve a problem they naturally feel strongly about: build a technical solution (mobile app, web app, etc.) that empowers girls and women in tech and supports nonprofits that are dedicated to helping them.
The winning team receives a scholarship to General Assembly, an organization devoted to solving the global tech skills gap and a leader in digital instruction, valued at $10,000 to put toward the training of their choice, and the local nonprofit partner is awarded a $15,000 grant in honor of the winning team. Winners also get to attend the Women in Tech experience in the fall.
To date there have been Demo Days in a number of cities throughout the country, including Washington, DC, New York City, Dallas, Clarendon, and McLean. Partner nonprofits include Black Girls CODE, Girls Who Code, and Girls, Inc.
The hackathons result in innovative and inspiring tools like Link With Women from this summer’s New York City hackathon. The app was developed by Ruth Naebeck, Rachel Cohen, and Christine Leverett, who had noticed that LinkedIn’s software engineer recommendations skew heavily toward men. The team worked to make networking among female engineers easier by elevating women’s profiles.
Elberfeld, who attended several sessions last summer, says “I felt so much energy in the rooms as the teams brainstormed technology solutions around unconscious bias, being powered by perspectives, investing in networks, and celebrating role models.”