CUNY to host ‘hack day’ for ‘cis and trans women’

The City University of New York (CUNY) will play host to an all-day feminist “hack” event geared towards “cis and trans women” this April.

The inaugural FemSTEM Hack Day aims to feature roughly two dozen hands-on workshops related to STEM and hacking, according to a call for workshop facilitators that was emailed to all professors in the CUNY system.

“While this event is intended to be women-centric, male allies are welcome as participants and facilitators,” the email indicates. “However, we ask that you particularly encourage women and genderqueer students and colleagues to participate.”

[RELATED: Profs: ‘White male privilege’ to blame for STEM gender gap]

Victoria DiTomasso, a senior at Hunter College, is spearheading the event with the help of CUNY Professors Kelle Cruz and Anna Pinkas. “Our vision for this event is to provide a welcoming and supportive environment to cis and trans women undergraduates from Hunter and BMCC [Borough of Manhattan Community College] who have never participated in a hack event before,” they wrote.

Unlike similar “hack” events hosted at other colleges, the organizers of FemSTEM Hack Day do not appear to have any intention of teach actual hacking skills. Instead, they aim to host workshops on issues such as 3D printing, virtual reality software, and video editing.

These workshops will all be in service of inspiring “participants to further their tech training and recruit them to Computer Science classes and tech-related program,” the organizers note in their recruitment email, a copy which was provided to Campus Reform.

[RELATED: Feds pay $8M+ to promote ‘diversity’ in STEM]

The event will be funded by the CUNY Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York (WiTNY) initiative, which was founded with the help of Verizon Communications to target more women for recruitment into the STEM field.

Founded in 2016, WiTNY provides internships, summer programs, and a scholarship program to support women in STEM.

“While the number of women attending college increases, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the percentage of women who graduate with degrees in technology-related disciplines is less than 1%,” says the WiTNY website.

As Campus Reform has reported, the dearth of women in STEM may not necessarily only be due to discrimination or exclusion. Rutgers University Professor Lee Jussim, for instance, has claimed that there is “no evidence” that sexism is the motivating cause of the STEM gender gap.

Instead, the author of a new book on political bias in research contends that women are simply interested in different fields than men are. “There’s a knee-jerk assumption that gaps—demographic gaps—reflect discrimination,” Jussim told Campus Reform last year.

[RELATED: PhD: Pushing women into STEM could ‘diminish their happiness’]

"There are many papers claiming to find evidence for discrimination [in STEM fields], but when you look at the data, there's no evidence for it,” he explained, adding that “advocacy [of a] political agenda can distort the science.”

Meanwhile, Georgetown University professor Adriana Kugler has argued that efforts to recruit women into STEM may have actually “backfired” over the past few decades.

“Society keeps telling us that STEM fields are masculine fields, that we need to increase the participation of women in STEM fields, but that kind of sends a signal that it’s not a field for women, and works against keeping women in these fields,” Kugler told Campus Reform.

Campus Reform reached out to the CUNY FemSTEM organizers for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication. The CUNY WiTNY program also did not respond.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen