In the past year, Major League Hacking (MLH) supported 215 hackathons throughout North America and Europe, attended by over 90,000 developers, designers, and makers. After each hackathon, MLH surveys the attendees to gain deeper insight into their experiences. Some of the most basic, but informative data we collect is hackathon demographics. Let’s look at who’s coming to MLH hackathons.
Hackathon Demographics – Gender Representation
MLH hackathons currently dial in at 73% male, 24% female and 3% other/non-binary. According to the 2018 Taulbee survey from the Computing Research Association, the average CS department in the United States is 79.1% male, 20.9% female. The improvement in gender representation at hackathons can in part be attributed to organizers who intentionally create safe, supportive spaces for all participants and to League-wide programs like MLH’s Code of Conduct and incident response policy. That being said, the tech community has a long way to go before achieving gender parity.
Hackathon Demographics – Ethnicity
Ethnic diversity among hackathon attendees is perhaps even more polarized than gender. Our data shows us that 51% of MLH hackathon attendees identify as Asian, 33% White/Caucasian, 5% Hispanic/Latino, 3% Black/African American and 10% other. For the most part this breakdown is consistent with undergraduate CS department statistics in the US, except when it comes to Asian and White/Caucasian hackers. According to the Taulbee survey, 45.4% of CS undergraduate students in the US identify as White, and 26.5% identify as Asian. Based on these figures, the ratio between Asian and White students is reversed at hackathons, with Asian students accounting for more than half the overall attendees.
Overall, the absence of ethnic diversity is a complex issue plaguing the tech industry. I’m curious to see how the hackathon community and the companies that support it can play their role in solving the crisis.
Hackathon Demographics – School Level
MLH’s League of hackathons is almost entirely run by student groups coming from high schools and universities. So, it was not surprising to find 75% of all attendees are undergraduates with an even distribution among freshmen, sophomores and juniors. There’s a bit of a drop off with seniors, which might be due to seniors already having full-time jobs lined up, time-consuming capstone projects, or good old senioritis.
Hackathon Demographics – Major/Field of Study
Contrary to common belief, almost half of hackathon attendees are not actually Computer Science majors! Many hackers come from other engineering disciplines, business schools, design programs, and specialized tech fields. The most logical conclusion from this data point is CS skills are becoming increasingly relevant even for non-CS majors, and hackathons are one of the best places to learn them. They’re fun, social events, where even the newest coders can learn practical skills while creating something really cool.
Hackathon Demographics – Locals vs. Out of Towners
Finally, one of the data points I found most fascinating was that on average over 40% of hackathon attendees are not enrolled at the hosting university. That means that student developers are not only spending their leisure time honing their skill set, but many of them are going out of their way and comfort zone to do it. It also means they’re building networks and capitalizing on resources from beyond their alma mater. From a recruiter’s perspective, attending a hackathon means one can reach talented, dedicated technologists coming from multiple schools — schools that otherwise could be off their radar.
The hacker community never ceases to surprise and inspire me, and I personally have never found another group that is as devoted to community and education. I’m super proud to be apart of a team that is dedicated to supporting this community with what they need to continue doing great work.
P.S. You can read more about MLH’s Hacker Survey in this post from our partners at GitHub.