Highlander Hacks works to reduce the computer science gender gap

Photo courtesy of Ilya Pavlov, via Unsplash

By Lily Angel

On May 7 and 8, Girls for Computer Science Equality (G4CSE) hosted the school’s first hackathon called Highlander Hacks, an event aimed at “hacking” the gender gap in computer science. The hackathon started from a grant of $1000 from Girls Build in Los Angeles for the field of stem and promoting equality in STEM.

The hackathon was created by G4CSE to inspire girls and non-binary people to explore the wonders of coding.

According to the American Association of University Women, women in computer science are paid only 94% of what men in computer science earn. Women also make up only 18 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients in computer science, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The gender gap so prevalent in STEM jobs in general is a major issue in the field of computer science. G4CSE is working to address these issues by motivating girls and non-binary people to pursue computer science.

“In computer science there’s a wide gender gap because in general computer science doesn’t always create a very friendly environment for women. That was a big inspiration for creating the event,” sophomore and project manager Angela Yang said.

On the first day, students entered the campus for workshops to teach girls and nonbinary people who were intrested in coding about computer science. They gave them tips and tools tobe able to code their own programs as the competition was beginner-friendly and open to all competition levels.

The next day students had until 2:00 p.m. to create a game with the help of their mentors. The competition included both a beginner and intermediate competition where students worked to design a game. The game was judged by a CSUN assistant professor of computer science and an information systems technician for a local pharmaceutical company.

“Our participants were mainly middle school students though there were some high school students. We were able to successfully establish workshops with SCATCH and App Lab as well as using our own skills and knowledge to teach attendees how to code,” sophomore Angel Yanga said.

The winning apps for the divisions not only worked to entertain but to truly immerse people in their respective games. One of the winning games allowed players to tour space.

“We hope to make it an in-person event next year. We want to continue our team’s hackathon because we know it could grow a lot more and we could engage a lot more people,” Yanga said.

With high hopes for the future and a successful first hackathon in the books, the G4CSE team is prepared to take on their next Hackathon inspiring many more girls and non-binary people.