Girls Hack Ireland: Event aims to get young women coding

Dublin City University hosts first ever all-girls hackathon

Left to right: Sadhbh O’Muirí (Dunshaughlin Community College), Lydia Koilparambil (St Dominic’s Cabra), Mary Ishabigi (St Dominic’s Cabra) and Niamh Scanlon (Girls Hack Ireland mentor) at Girls Hack Ireland in DCU

Left to right: Sadhbh O’Muirí (Dunshaughlin Community College), Lydia Koilparambil (St Dominic’s Cabra), Mary Ishabigi (St Dominic’s Cabra) and Niamh Scanlon (Girls Hack Ireland mentor) at Girls Hack Ireland in DCU

 

What happens when 100 or so teenage girls gather for a day, learn coding skills and “hack” new websites? Add a bit of music, food, prizes and some helpful mentors and you have Girls Hack Ireland, which took place on Saturday at Dublin City University.

The challenge was to remix or build websites with a flavour of Ireland and Irish culture. Resulting “hacks” included sites with humorous takedowns of Irish stereotypes, insights on the uniqueness of Irish phrases, traditions and culture and a spotlight on the serious problem of homelessness.

The event aimed to get young women creating with code, according to Anne-Marie Imafidon, founder of UK-based organisation Stemettes, which ran the hackathon at DCU with the Insight Centre for Data Analytics.

She was impressed to see girls who didn’t know each other before working together in teams and getting so much done. “It’s about having a laugh and being creative,” she said. “I like that it is the beginning of some new friendships.”

Hackathon judge Prof Christine Loscher from DCU hopes the event will encourage more young women to be aware of opportunities in the digital technology sector.

“The future of technology looks bright, after seeing what these girls did today,” she said.

However, she cited figures for Ireland from the Higher Education Authority that of 2,613 applicants to study computer science in 2013, only 436 were female.

“Innovation needs diversity, and if we don’t have greater participation by women we could face a disaster for innovation in Ireland,” she said.

CEO of Silicon Republic Ann O’Dea spoke about the importance of “changing the ratio” and increasing diversity and female participation in STEM.

“It’s very important that women are part of shaping the future,” she said.

Plans are afoot to host a Girls Hack Ireland event at the Silicon Republic Inspire 2015 festival in Dublin in June.