As a first-time judge for Pearl Hacks, an all-female and non-binary hackathon, I was proud to represent and share the mission of Rewriting the Code to such a wide range of participants. The participants I met were freshmen from Duke, sophomores from North Carolina A&T, seniors from Georgia Tech and women from many other schools. As I walked around the two and a half hour demo session, I was overwhelmed with excitement over the 74 projects that were submitted (a big jump from the past few years of Pearl Hacks). I would be judging 32 projects to determine which would be awarded the prize of Best Women’s Empowerment Hack.
Through hearing each group’s pitch, I recognized how women’s empowerment comes in a multitude of forms.
I was intrigued by how groups chose to tackle wellness issues by creating designs for websites and apps which personalize health and fitness plans, offering tools to chat with health professionals and connecting with nearby users to access menstrual products when you are in need. These groups recognized the importance of making women feel comfortable in their own skin and not being afraid to ask questions about their own body in order to empower them to make decisions confidently.
Other projects sought to uplift women economically by creating websites that allow them to elevate their economic status through financial literacy and investing techniques. These ideas reiterate how financial stability can be gained at any point in life and provide a unique space for women to learn and build these skills.
I also loved seeing games created to encourage girls to pursue computer science and STEM fields which are largely underrepresented by women. The objective of these games is to answer computer science related questions to advance to other portions of the game which creates a fun and interactive way to introduce young girls to STEM. This is something that I would have loved to use when I was younger!
Ultimately, I was drawn to how women feel empowered when they are able to seek help in unsafe situations. I saw such a promising design in “Hello, Gorgeous!”, an app created by sophomores and fellow Rewriting the Code members Niara Patterson, Caira McClain and Jaelyn Everett from North Carolina A&T. Their goal was to provide safety for women of diverse backgrounds in domestic violence and sexual assault situations in the form of a makeup app. By using language coded in the form of makeup terms, women can use this app as a safe space to reach out for help with features that find shelters and call emergency numbers. They came up with such a creative idea and were definitely deserving of the prize of Best Women’s Empowerment Hack.
Thank you to Pearl Hacks for giving these participants a chance to shine in a field that so desperately needs their perspectives. I absolutely loved sharing in their excitement about the projects they demoed and how these ideas can come together to empower women!