Behind the Scenes: An Unknown Marketplace

For the last couple of years, we have been programming tech events for women in Minneapolis. It’s lot of work. But the reward is truly the joy of watching it all come together. The inspiration we feel from the community and the connections attendees make at the event makes it worth all the labor. It's kind of unreal how inspired we feel being in a part of this community and what an honor to be a catalyst of it all.

A few weeks ago we opened registration for Hack the Gap, Minnesota’s all-women hackathon. Since then we’ve had the privilege to witness the generosity of the community in a new behind-the-scenes way: sponsorship tickets.

Last year we had 100 women register for the inaugural Hack the Gap event. Then 50 showed up. If you run free events, you know that this is totally normal. A 50% drop-off is pretty standard. There is a theory that if you get someone to pay for an event, they are more likely to show up because they have “skin in the game” so to speak. This year our goal was to reduce the severity of that drop-off in attendance, so we decided to charge $25.

We only had one dilemma with this approach: shutting out women that might be in a hard place financially. In fact, this event can be pivotal for women looking for work because you get an opportunity to meet so many people and expand your network in a new way. Your network is what will likely lead you to your next gig.

So, since we are nerdy about experimenting, we decided to try something new: create 15 tickets of the total pool of tickets as “pay it forward” tickets. These are tickets that someone buys and we put into a pool of scholarship tickets. Then we advertised that we had scholarship tickets available (even before we had them, knowing we’d figure it out even if we have to pay for them ourselves).

When we think of disparity gaps, we of course think of gender. It’s our main jam. But it is not lost on us that income and financial situation are a very real part of the gender gap. There are a multitude of circumstances where you might need a financial breathing room. Sometimes, yes, $25 is not feasible. And we get that. And we don’t need an applicant to jump through hoops to prove it.

If you need assistance paying for the ticket, all you have to do is reach out. And we trust that if you say you need it, you do. No questions asked.

Since doing this, we’ve seen some really neat things unfold. So far, magically it seems, the “pay it forward” tickets and the scholarship requests have run one-for-one. Almost exactly one-for-one. It’s almost like a marketplace that you don’t know exists, but we get to watch it happen.

Someone sends us an email almost within the hour of us seeing “pay it forward” tickets purchased.

To the people buying these tickets, thank you. Your gift is being received.

To the women asking for scholarship tickets, we commend you. Asking for help can be hard. You are brave.

And to the entire community of women in technology in Minneapolis, if you didn’t already know it, here it is: you are amazing. Keep being you. Thank you for continuously keeping us in awe. And let’s create some amazing hacks at Hack the Gap in May.

 

Kristen Womack

Kristen Womack is a mother, feminist, runner, yogi, product leader and volunteer in Minneapolis.