Until recently, I’d never heard the word brogrammer. The term—used to refer to male coders like those in the testosterone-fueled, high-tech development hives in HBO’s Silicon Valley—also embodies a stark truth: There are very few women in digital engineering. In fact, women make up 57 percent of college grads but only 12 percent of engineers at the top 84 tech firms.
There are very few women in digital engineering. In fact, women make up 57 percent of college grads but only 12 percent of engineers at the top 84 tech firms.
That statistic really stunned me. As the editor-in-chief of SELF magazine, I see our mission as twofold: to help women accomplish their goals in life (physical, personal, and professional) and to put women’s health at the forefront of our country’s political, social and economic agenda. We strive to support SELF Made women to live their healthiest lives and tap into their personal best.
And so when the Clinton Foundation, Jawbone, and Ace Hotel approached us to partner with them on a series of Women’s Health Codeathons this fall, I didn’t hesitate. We already knew that women are disproportionately affected by lifestyle diseases like heart disease and certain cancers, which can largely be prevented through behavior modifications like exercise and eating well. And now research is finding that health-tracking tools can be an effective way to reinforce these behaviors. We also knew that the health apps are the fastest growing segment in the space, with venture capitalists pouring more than $2 billion into investments competing to create the next big thing.
But why are all our health-tech solutions being created by brogrammers? Where are the women? Without a voice in the development of these platforms, not only do women miss out on a huge boom in the tech industry, they can’t advocate for their own health needs in the process. We aren’t part of our own solution.
So SELF helped stage the first female-centric codeathon—which took place over a weekend in August at New York City’s ACE Hotel. Read the full story in our November issue. As a judge, I loved watching the teams of women (and a few good men!) take on most pressing nutritional issues in public health, from drawing board to final design. Our cosponsors, Equinox and Sweetgreen, fueled competitors’ efforts with on-site workouts, water and salads, setting a far healthier tone than the industry standard of endless sitting, soda and late-night pizza. I loved the spirit of teamwork and the drive to make something impactful that has never been done. I loved how bonds were formed through a common cause. I loved the hum of creative energy in the room. I loved all of the apps pitched, especially the winning app, Feasted, which set up a low-cost Blue Apron–style cooking kit of healthy ingredients aimed at getting families to prepare and eat dinner together.
This is what happens when you introduce women to the conversation: They bring their ingenuity and compassion to the table. We break bread, eat (healthfully!) and talk about what else we can do to make the world a better place.