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Female-led data hackathon runs for second year

After a successful first year, TrueCue has partnered with several firms to run another female-only hackathon to encourage data analysts to solve real-world problems

For the second year in a row, TrueCue has announced the winners of its women-only hackathon, which encouraged teams to use data find solutions for the topic of sustainability.

Partnering with Alteryx and the Institute of Directors, the Women + Data hackathon saw 250 women use global real-world datasets focusing on sustainable development goals to analyse a sustainability problem of their choice.

Zsanett Bahor, who was on one of the winning teams of the previous year’s hackathon and is now a consulting analyst at TrueCue, said: “This year, we decided to look at sustainability because climate change and sustainability is one of the biggest challenges we face today.

“We wanted to continue on this idea of having a data set on a real-life global issue that affects everybody because then it’s not specific to certain areas. It’s genuinely of everyone’s interest and data can be really powerful in solving these big, real-world issues.”

Despite ongoing efforts to increase the number of women in the technology sector, recent research from BCS found that women only make up around 17% of IT specialists in the UK, a number that has barely moved over the past five years.

The aim of running the hackathon is to address the lack of women in the technology sector by allowing women to use data-related skills as part of an inclusive network of peers, and Bahor explained her own background was not in tech, but in postdoctoral research and health analytics.

While she had experience with analytics, she said: “I never felt like I was qualified enough, because I didn’t have a classic tech background. [The hackathon] was a great opportunity and a hands-on experience for me to apply some of the knowledge I’ve been trying to learn outside of my nine-to-five job.”

Those taking part in this year’s hackathon were also from mixed backgrounds – around 77% of those who took part in the hackathon said that they were either at beginner or intermediate level when it comes to manipulating, interpreting or visualising data as well as advanced analytics.

Some of those who took part don’t work with data as part of their job either – 16% said their roles don’t involve data, and 27% said they work with data but it’s not the main part of their role.

According to Bahor, participants included students, returners to work, people already working with data who wanted to develop their skills or work with sustainability as a topic, and people who wanted to learn how to use different data tools.

“Technology is becoming one of those things where everyone’s interested because it’s progressing and there’s lots more jobs popping up in that sector,” Bahor said.

“Because of the pandemic and people being furloughed or losing jobs, everyone is reinventing themselves, re-evaluating what they want to do in life. So there’s lots of people who are becoming more and more interested in data, they just maybe don’t know how to get into it or don’t have the experience to be able to get their foot in the door.”

After the two-week challenge, a panel of judges chose the following winners from the 26 submissions:

Team Violet won Best Advanced Analytics and Predictive Modelling by focusing on reducing inequalities within and between different countries as outlined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 10. The team created an index of measures of inequality and created a factor analysis of different inequality measures to assess the level of inequality in different countries. 

Team Last2Standing won Most Impactful Story-telling, using data to investigate and explain maternity issues including why the UN’s target of increasing solely breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life to 50% by 2025 is hard to achieve, in some cases because of the average of only 100 days paid maternity leave given to women.

Team NewsUK won Best Presentation of Analytics by using data from The World Bank, Our World in Data, The UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the World happiness report, to look into how to return worldwide wellbeing back to pre-pandemic levels.

All of the teams that took part in the hackathon received feedback about their work, with TrueCue choosing to “champion” different types of skills during the process to highlight that data analytics is not all techy – it’s also about problem solving.

As well as building data skills, the hackathon aims to give participants more information about what it’s like to work in data, and those took part in the hackathon had access to mentors and training, as well as role models working in data and sustainability to talk about their experiences working in their roles.

The hackathon was designed to be inclusive, taking part online across two weeks to make sure anyone in the world can take part, and Bahor pointed out that while gaining experience with data through the competition aspect of the hackathon is important, the event was also about building a community.

“The support you get from having mentors, that visibility that you get from people who are a little bit more senior than you who have done it and can give you feedback in terms of what challenges they faced and overcame, that was a big thing in this year’s hackathon.

“We tried to not only encourage this community spirit, but to inspire women to see that you can be successful and can have that role model in front of you so that you know what you can aim for.”

Read more about women in tech

  • Women in tech both globally and in the UK lack training opportunities, says Skillsoft, with many claiming this has been a barrier for them in their careers.
  • Research by WISE finds women are more likely to have retrained for a tech role than men, and half of people in tech think soft skills are more important than tech skills.

Read more on Diversity in IT

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