White House Codeathon

This week I was asked to be a part of the Equal Futures Codeathon at the White House. The codeathon teamed up web professionals with high school girls to brainstorm ideas for apps. The apps were meant to raise awareness about the lack of female representation in the government and inspire more women to run for office.

The codeathon took place down the hall from the Vice President’s office. I got there early and noticed our meeting room was filled with older men in business suits. This was a huge juxtaposition to how the room appeared once our brainstorm began. The room was suddenly filled with girls and women in deep discussion while drawing wireframes on giant pieces of paper with magic markers.

White House Codeathon

High school students and web professionals present their ideas.

But don’t let the use of magic markers fool you. Here we were at the White House, attempting to solve one of the largest problems of the 21st century with one of the largest influences in our society today, technology. And since the event gathered women in the tech industry, it was hard to ignore the fact that the tech industry suffers the same diversity problem as the government does. The web professionals and high school students shared similar stories of gender barriers and we used our shared experiences to suggest potential solutions.

White House Codeathon

Left: Katelyn Sabochik [Deputy Director of Digital Strategy]. Right: Sarah Hurwitz [Senior Advisor to the Council on Women and Girls and Senior Presidential Speechwriter]

Brian Forde, Senior Advisor to the U.S. CTO and Sarah Hurwitz, Senior Advisor to the Council on Women and Girls and Senior Presidential Speechwriter organized the event. The meeting began with representatives from She Should Run and Running Start. They started off by providing the low statistics of female representatives and explained how their organizations are helping to provide leadership training to girls and women.

Katelyn Sabochik, who helps run the official Twitter accounts for President Obama and the White House, also stopped by to share the White House’s latest digital news. The White House is now on GitHub and Pinterest and they recently launched an official petition site, We the People.

Todd Park, U.S. CTO, stopped by and told us that we were actually attending the White House’s first codeathon in history. We were also informed that he was so excited about the event that he was running late to his next meeting with President Obama.

White House Codeathon

Todd Park [Chief Technology Officer of the United States]

The codeathon placed a lot of emphasis on increasing the amount of women in office but I also wished that it promoted an increase in the number of women in technology. The event gathered high school girls interested in leadership but it did not encourage them to code and build the apps themselves which I thought was an oversight. I am hoping that the White House’s next codeathon will place confidence in these young women to not only concept ideas but to also design and build these apps.

I also hope that the White House will team up with organizations that promote girls & women in technology for their next event. Here are a few organization and web sites that encourage young women in technology.

Do you know of any other organizations that promote girls & women in technology? List them in the comments.

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3 Responses to “White House Codeathon”

  1. Feminine 23

    This sounds really inspiring. I’ve known of Rail Girls but for others I haven’t heard of. I hope these could get more viral to every else where in the world


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