The Girl in Hackathon
Hackathon, an event usually lasts a couple of days and involves a group of people transforming ideas into reality with the aid of technology, coding and programming, has become more and more popular in recent years and often serves as a part of the job recruitment progress. Team members have to demonstrate collaboration, decision making, project planning, theory application and to carry passion and perseverance to make things feasible, creative and sometimes sustainably profitable.
Last year the fall semester, I participated in a total of three hackathons, respectively organized by Cathay Pacific, HKUST and Microsoft. Some of them last for 24 hours whilst it is also possible to be a weekly project. At first I felt like I cannot fit in the setting where the majority of participants were from science or technology background, whereas I present as a pure business student with no specific knowledge in coding or web design. Never had I found myself so incapable of something but, in fact, no one can ever know everything in the universe. Although I was not the most suitable person for building prototypes, it was my pleasure to produce persuasive pitches, eye-catching presentation slides and to coordinate team work flow. It certainly brought me joy and delight and was an excellent experience to learn from people with diverse backgrounds.
Lily the Pink
Lily the Pink is a cider brand just like Somersby, which is quite popular in the U.K. for its gorgeous pink colour and sweet fruity taste (I currently take part in the student exchange programme there, that’s why I know). Obviously there is nothing to deal with alcohol here but just pay attention to the name, why is girl Lily, or we girls, always being labeled or matched with colour pink in whatever occasion? Is it because ‘pink’ was created as a feminine colour itself; or is it gender stereotype that girls were taught to love pink? Same logic when applied to current work fields particularly in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industry. Is it because STEM itself is a better fit as a male job, or that men were influenced to do STEM attributed by mainstream social opinions?
The gender imbalance issue has recently been a heated topic worldwide. According to an article published by South China Morning Post (SCMP) in 2016, less than 15% of those employed in the STEM industry are female. Moreover, of the 800 Nobel Prize winners, only 48 have been women. Many firms and institutions are now trying their best to encourage more women into such fields so as to strive towards a gender balance. Nevertheless, we might want to consider one point: is this transformation a PROGRESS to boost up national productivity and to bring significant result in company performance, or a CONGRESS to convince her public that she was doing something for perfection but with no supporting evidence behind? Is it really beneficial to bring gender equality into any context?
Science behind the Lack of Women in Science
Cultural stigma could be one of the reasons why there are fewer females in the STEM field, particularly in the West or Hong Kong. “Women were turned off computing in the 80s,” said Prof Dame Wendy Hall, a director of the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton. “Computers were sold as toys for the boys.” She added. It was not surprising to hear that the skills gap became huge because most females were not influenced to become a tech lovers during their childhood and puberty.
Moreover, there are possibly some opinions that make females think they are incapable of, or less talented in, doing computer work. Nevertheless, a research conducted by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, an academic at Cambridge University, has proven that there is “no evidence” either males or females are better at science. In other words, both sexes have equal scientific ability. “My view is that it reflects that more females choose to use their strong scientific ability to help and understand people, whilst more males choose to use their strong scientific ability to understand and create inanimate systems,” he added. With combination of all opinions above, the phenomenon of the lack of women in science could be justified in short: females have a stronger interest in people regardless of the equal scientific ability in both sexes.
Make a Step Up
It is an endless topic to argue about whether it is necessary for companies to achieve gender balance in STEM field. However, many firms have started to imitate and no doubt more women will demand work in science correlated industries sooner or later. Even if you are not majoring in relevant subjects, there remains a high possibility that you might have to read something related. For example, an SPSS report is commonly used in many business firms for statistic forecasting in which you might have been aware of. Many open resources or classrooms are available online that could help you to start off, personally I enjoy studying on Azure and MOOC. (It’s free!) It might sound difficult at first but everybody gets to start somewhere. So, act now or be regretful tomorrow.
(Written by Agnes, April 2018)