Blog exposes tech gender disparities
October 16, 2014
Hackers of NY, a Tumblr blog created by Gallatin senior Dani Grant, is dedicated to all things tech. With the help of alumnus Steven Chan and CAS junior Terri Burns, who are both hackers, Grant created Hackers of NY to promote local hacking.
“It’s very empowering to be part of the hacker community — hackers build tools for one another and work collaboratively to solve problems,” Grant said. “I wanted to give this access to other people. I wanted to get people excited about hacking.”
Grant said the first impression of the word “hacker” sometimes carries a negative connotation, so she is trying to redefine the word to carry a more positive meaning.
“Very often, the media can portray hackers to mean criminals — think Huck from ‘Scandal’ — but the term hacker gives us a way to celebrate our peers who strive to find creative ways around problems,” Grant said. “If the term hacker gives the community a way to recognize technical innovators, it’s important that we reclaim it.”
Through the website, Grant is able to remove geographic location as a barrier to communication with other hackers that share her interests.
“The most incredible part of this project has been the opportunity to connect with hackers from around the world and talk to them about their experiences,” Grant said.
One of the issues the website targets is sexism within the technology community. The sexism comes in several forms, including stereotypes and practices that do not associate women with work in the industry.
“Women haven’t traditionally held technical positions for a long time, due to a number of reasons,” Burns said. “That’s had a really negative impact on encouraging women to start joining these fields, in addition to creating and perpetuating false stereotypes that women aren’t fit to do technical work.”
In addition to the difficulties facing women trying to break into the field, sexism is often apparent in the form of Internet comments, even on Hackers of NY. Grant has received sexist comments like “I’d hack her” and “She’s a stripper” from hackers who are part of the community Grant has helped build.
“Some social changes just take time,” Grant said. “It’s actually precisely the hacker ethic that strives to create solutions to injustices that make me so hopeful about the community as a whole.”
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Oct. 16 print edition. Email Emily Harris at [email protected]