Annenberg hosts Hack the Gender Gap for women

first_imgThe Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in collaboration with MediaShift  — a virtual media company and online magazine that covers how traditional media is changing due to technologies like podcasting, blogs and social media — organized a women’s hackathon over the weekend in Wallis Annenberg Hall to provide opportunities and spaces for women to turn their ideas into viable businesses.The winner of the hackathon was the team with the idea for Habitat, an environmental news startup that uses virtual reality storytelling. Honorable mention was given to LikelyMedia, which would use virtual reality and real data to make projections about the future and VRacity Media, which would provide virtual reality journalism content via a subscription service and supported by sponsored content.“It’s really important for journalists to explore this area because it’s growing so rapidly; it’s a very powerful form of storytelling,” said Amara Aguilar, assistant professor of professional practice in digital journalism at USC Annenberg and one of the judges of the hackathon. “It’s especially important for women to be involved in this industry because women are greatly underrepresented in these industries, and we really need that diversity to lead and to tell powerful stories.”Publisher and founder of MediaShift Mark Glaser said Hack the Gender Gap came from West Virginia Reed College of Media, one of the sponsors of the event. Glaser worked with school to host a similar hackathon in October 2014. Glaser said he visited USC last January and discussed the possibility of hosting a hackathon at USC with Willow Bay, director of the school of journalism.“The idea is how can we give women and students a chance and space that they might not get and feel empowered to be in teams, creating things on their own, and having great support network,” he said. “The goal has always been [to] get women to do what they might not be able to do under circumstances and [to] give them a unique experience they wouldn’t get otherwise especially in schools where they don’t have things like this.”The hackathon, attended by 75 students and participants and 15 mentors from the fields of technology, marketing and media who served as facilitators, started Friday night with a panel discussion.The talk hosted female technology and business leaders that focused on how women in technology and media are achieving success, breaking down barriers and making a difference.The panel included Sara Christenson from the investment company Raptor Group; Alex Schaffert, managing director of digital strategy and innovation at KPCC: Carrie Southworth, cofounder of Twigtale, a platform for personalized children’s books; Potsie Rivera, former UI UX designer for dating app Grindr; and Jennifer de la Fuente, web designer and Annenberg adjunct professor.Bay, the moderator of the panel asked the panelists, “Is tech a boys’ club?” Schaffert answered.“The world is a boys’ club. But change is around the corner. There are free coding classes in libraries in Los Angeles. Girls are already going to the libraries,” she said. “We just have to make sure that these skills are available [and accessible] in public spaces.”Bay added that women are heavy users of social media and the key audience in that marketplace, yet companies are not hiring the majority of their user base.“That’s what our research has shown as well — the majority of users of social media are women,” said Jean Truelson, Annenberg alumna, CEO and founder of the San Francisco-based company Dogpatch and a mentor for the hackathon. “For me as founder, I want to be able to build enough of that space and support in social media. I know the majority of my potential users are women. I’m here to support them because I want to be able to hire them later, or support their company and future startups that are going to get out of this group.”Truelson said the best advice for women interested in entrepreneurship is to get started.“Don’t get too stuck in just doing research, or ‘I need more education,’” she said. “You can go and get an MBA if you want to work for a major company but if you want to learn how to start a company. Start a company. That’s when you really learn everything you need to do and make all the mistakes — it’s truly a good job training. If you have an idea, and you’re truly passionate about it, go and do it.”Students who attended this hackathon echoed this enthusiasm and interest. After the opening panel, the students formed teams to come up with startup ideas utilizing immersive journalism and virtual reality.“I like the opportunity to collaborate, and it’s an interesting environment where folks from across the country, with different skill sets, different years as well as experience, just to be able to work together and collaborate on a project is a really interesting proposition,” Monica Castillo, a graduate student in journalism said. “I don’t know much about [virtual reality], and I learned a lot already so far, whatever its limitations, whatever we can make [out of] it. This is kinda like a classroom.”Jordyn Holman, a senior majoring in print and digital journalism and a columnist for the Daily Trojan, said the hackathon challenged her team to think outside of the box because virtual reality is so different from traditional print and digital journalism.“Technology is the future,” she said. “You need to get these technical skills, but conferences like this shows you exactly what skills you need and exactly how they can be used for reporting specifically [with] virtual reality — which takes people right there — that’s kinda the whole point of journalism, to make people understand. Virtual reality is the biggest gift in making people understand what’s happening.”last_img read more