Tyler Crowley has since 2012 helped put the Stockholm startup scene on the map with his monthly Sthlm tech meetups and annual tech conference.

This weekend the American is attempting to put the city in the record books, organising the world’s biggest hackathon for women.

The wider goal is the help gender diversity in the Stockholm tech scene, says Crowley.

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“People have been so focused on diversity at panels, but panels are not nearly as important as hackathons, that is where the shit happens. And still, 95% of attendees at hackathons are male, that needs to change,” Crowley says.

Tyler Crowley came to Sweden in 2012 and within a year he had created a monthly meeting space for the tech community. Credit: Youtube

The all-female hackathon at City Hall in Stockholm will kick off this year’s Sthlm Tech Fest and hopes to gather 900 people in the same ornate rooms as where the Nobel prize banquette is held.

To enter the record books, Crowley will need to gather more than the 872 attendees that Maryland University gathered for its hackathon last November. So far 600 people from 21 nations have signed up to the Stockholm hackathon.

Crowley says that it can be a daunting prospect for women to show up to a hackathon.

“The issue is that even for me, a white guy who has been in tech for a long time, I am apprehensive about hackathons, and given the gender ratio, no wonder women don’t attend,” Crowley says.

“The greatest challenge has been to get women to change their understanding of a hackathon and to understand that no previous knowledge is necessary. The attendees will get all the skills they need and they don’t need to know how to code.”

The hackathon is divided into 12 tracks led by 11 organisations, with some having a more technical focus than others. Microsoft is leading a challenge about using AI for picture analysis that will require more engineering skills than, for example, the McKinsey Digital challenge for a menopause application.

Given the gender ratio, no wonder women don’t attend

Even the Stockholm city council has a challenge, which is perhaps the least techy of them all.

“The challenge for the City of Stockholm is about mobilizing a large number of women to try to find a solution to the problem for women raising capital,” says Ariane Bucquet Pousette, the project manager of this hackathon.

The challenge is a bit unusual for a hackathon but the problem is not new. In Sweden, with a reputation of being a country with good gender equality, less than 1% of the venture capital was invested in teams of only female founders 2018, according to the latest annual survey by tech website Di Digital.

“The meetups that are organised to discuss this are usually behind closed doors and although the problem is discussed, there is never a solution to it. With getting 100 women together maybe we can find a solution that we can share with everyone else,” Pousette says.

The all-female hackathon will take place at Stockholm City Hall, September 7-8.

This challenge is perhaps impossible to solve with tech, but the variety of challenges available to hackathon participants will make sure that everyone attending can find something that suits them.

“The main goal is to give these women the skills, the confidence and the inspiration to attend more hackathons in the future. We will even list a few at the event that they can sign up for,” Crowley says.

Although the hackathon is open to everyone, with or without previous tech skills, Crowley says that it will be a fertile ground for companies to find promising recruits.

“Companies such as Spotify and Klarna have done a great job advertising this hackathon to their female engineers. With so many people in one spot, I believe this may be the one best gatherings for tech talent in Sweden.”

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