Technovation, a mobile app start-up competition for young women, was held yesterday at Intel. High school students vied for a $10,000 kickstarting grant to help further develop their apps. A restaurant navigator for allergy stricken individuals, teen therapy provider, organic seed distributor, and more applications were present in the spacious and well lit hall. Colorful and informative boards stood at attention behind hordes of enthusiastic girls describing the use of their apps. The scene was reminiscent of a grade school science fair. However, these students were presenting for markedly higher stakes. Their applications have real world impact, and represent significant opportunity for change. The event is so far reaching, it attracted teams from all over the world. Women and girls from New York City, Brazil, France, and the Bay Area came to compete.
As I photographed Technovision, I observed the various styles of clothing each team wore. Most exuded a professional and streamlined look. One team, presenting their app titled “Foodini”, wore black pencil skirts and crisp white blouses. They practiced pitching their presentation to Mosaic reporter Cohen. Their self possessed maturity, that some adults would be quick to try and stifle, shone through. At age 15, they were pushing aside barriers of age with confidence and tech savvy.
I identify as a feminist. Seeing an event such as Technovation was particularly exciting for me. Gender disparity is especially critical within the tech industry. Women face many challenges along the way to success, including rigid gender roles that lump girls and boys into polar opposite hemispheres of interest, pay gaps, and discrimination in the work place. Equal representation in tech will only be achieved if programs like Technovation continue to occur, combined with a cultural shift that encourages women to pursue careers in tech.
The Silicon Valley is the perfect petri dish for these experiments in app development and female involvement. However, the most inspiring aspect of the Technovision competition was the DIY attitude that permeated the air, and the proof that even adolescents can reap the benefits of learning how to create applications.