Everyone Should Be Welcome In Tech

Sexism in tech can be as subtle as a false assumption about engineering competence or as blatant as a couple of hackathon apps that made it onto our stage last week.

Changing our hackathon rules will hopefully preclude sexist presentations. The salient issue is that we need to get more female participants onstage and in the audience at tech events — and change our culture to the point where being a woman in this industry is normal.

(Alexia note: We need to get more women in tech, if only to avoid the annoying, tired discussions that happen about there being too few.)

There’s no single change we can make to alter the entire tech industry immediately, but we hope they’ll add up over time. Here’s what we’re doing for starters, with more announcements to come.

We’re adding more structure to the way our hackathons are run. Samantha O’Keefe, who just joined to help us run our startup battlefield competition, will now be assuming responsibility for hackathon content.

Part of her current job includes outreach to any sort of startup-related groups in search of great applications to the startup battlefield. She’ll now also be looking for hackers to bring in from all walks of life and, yes, genders.

We’ll also be donating $50,000 annually to an organization that is successfully making careers in tech more accessible to everybody. In 2014 this will be Girls Who Code, which will use the money to provide a programming education for women in California.

We’ve already worked with a variety of groups to make our events more diverse, but we’re going to be more organized about this effort moving forward. We’re also going to start doing more partnerships with others around their events. Please contact us at hackathon (at) techcrunch (dot) com if you have ideas.

Our success in this initiative will be judged by those who show up to hack.

Zooming in from this bigger goal, we’re overhauling our conference policies to specifically reject any form of harassment by any attendee. People tend to ignore the fine print, and we have relied on the honor system and one-off rejections to keep our conferences safe for everyone. But we clearly need to do more, and putting everything in legal terms is one important step. You can view the general policy on our events pages, like this one for the Disrupt Berlin hackathon next month. The main text is housed here; look for it to be included in all terms for attendees, sponsors, speakers, etc.

Because our hackathons have gotten so large and unwieldy, we will also be instituting a tight screening process for all hackathon projects that make it onto the stage. We’ll have more details as our team finalizes the new system.

Culture changes slowly, but it happens if enough people instigate it. Help us make the tech industry a more inclusive place.