Open Innovation Solution to Help Women Find Careers in the Tech Industry
A new app to connect female students with tech industry mentors to help tackle the challenges they face such as unconscious bias which can hold them back.
Women in Tech World, Canada
Open innovation events are not only cost-effective ways to source new products they can also be a means of soliciting fresh and breakthrough thinking for a problem. In a 2018 hackathon in Vancouver, Canada, the nonprofit group Women in Tech World organized a hackathon to uncover new ways to break down barriers for women pursuing careers in tech.
To encourage ideas, the Women in Tech Activation Hackathon provided participants with reams of data on the experiences of Canadian women in tech from more than 30 communities across the country. The organization had spent nine weeks touring communities asking people in the industry what they saw as the largest barrier preventing women from choosing a career in the field.
According to Women in Tech World, the findings represent the 'most extensive qualitative data set on the experiences of Canadian women in tech to date'. It comprises more than 1,500 demographic surveys, over 900 written accounts and more than 145 hours of audio recordings.
The hackathon grew out of this event with the data serving as inspiration for participants, helping them to come up with ideas and products to answer problems highlighted by the findings. "We didn’t want to do research for the sake of research," Alicia Close, CEO of Women in Tech World told the ‘On the Coast’ program.
This open innovation contest was won by a student team from Vancouver led by 17-year-old Scarlet Nguyen. Their idea was for an app that helps high school students connect with professional mentors based on matching interests.
Nguyen got the idea in Grade 10 when she was lost and confused over which career path to take and saw that many of her contemporaries were also struggling. While some of her male classmates were excelling in programming at an early age, her female peers were intimated by the tech world and generally coming to it later. By matching girls and young women with mentors, she hopes the experience will make the tech world appear less daunting.
“I thought that it'd be cool if we can make an app that helps students break that closed environment and go out there, explore the world to see and understand themselves better," Nguyen explained to ‘On The Coast’ host Gloria Macarenko.
Nguyen and her team received $10,000 in in-kind resources to launch their app which were used to create a prototype for testing.
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