Dear Wired Magazine,

I want to thank you for sending a photographer to PennApps.

PennApps is the University of Pennsylvania’s biannual, student-run hackathon. It was a big honor to be featured visually in “The Hackathon Is On,” and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing photographs of my friends in your magazine. Some of my classmates are upset that you didn’t mention PennApps anywhere in the article, but this doesn’t really bother me. I understand that you’re trying to tell a story that is appealing as well as accurate. For the most part, you did an excellent job. It’s an appealing piece and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

However, there is a glaring inaccuracy: Reading your article, I got the impression that hackathons are only for men.

This, of course, is ridiculous. I should know better, and I do. (In the past six months, I’ve been to four hackathons, and I’m definitely not a man.)

But your article mentions exactly one woman: Shannon Rucobo Callahan, and she’s not even going to the hackathon. She works for Andreessen Horowitz. Compare this to the 15 men mentioned—most of them hackathon participants or engineers. Meanwhile, your photos tell a consistent story: I see 24 men pictured, and approximately half of a woman.

The photographer was there for almost all of the 48 hours. I asked him why he was there so long—he was a very nice guy—and he said he felt it was necessary to be there in order to fully capture the spirit of the event. I’m not sure if he really captured it or not. But it doesn’t really matter, because Wired didn’t run it.

It’s true that computer science is largely a men’s game. Women are greviously underrepresented. But I see plenty of them at hackathons. I could make speculations based on stereotypes and tell you why I think women like going to hackathons. (Chiefly, they’re very social events, and they require a broad skill set beyond number crunching and debugging, which helps draw a diverse crowd.)

But why women go to hackathons doesn’t matter so much here. What’s important is that they do.

And you need to tell that story, too. This is important.

I’ve been reading your magazine for a long time. When on a school trip in middle school, we stopped in the airport to buy magazines. Most of my female friends picked up copies of Seventeen or Teen Vogue. I chose a copy of Wired. Had “The Hackathon is On” been published in 2006 instead of 2012, I probably would have gathered—consciously or not—that hackathons are not places where women are welcome.

I wouldn’t want that happening to 13 year-old me, and I wouldn’t want that happening to any 13 year-old today, either. So, can we be clear on this? Women go to hackathons, too.


Tess Rinearson, @temiri, Penn CIS Class of 2015



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