What role does a hackathon play in helping a nation unleash its entrepreneurial potential by moving past gender stereotypes?

As Garage48, we have organised 3 Empowering Women Hackathons in 2018, all dedicated to cultivate Ukraine startup ecosystem where women reach out to their true potential and ideal gender diversity in tech-business life is realised across the country.

Home to an estimated 40-plus million people, Ukraine has become a hub for outsourced IT labor in Europe, given the lower costs and fundamental tech-talent of young generation. IT is now the country's third-largest export sector, behind the traditional titans of agriculture and mining. The growth in the sector has eventually led the country to give birth to so many startups that have been proven themselves promising and highly profitable.

Despite the academic and technical opportunities available to women in urban areas, today the majority of the women across the country is still counted as full-time housewives due to the traditional mindset among the society. Most women in Ukraine are faced with an archaic question (“When will you have children?”) and expected to behave prioritising family and husband, rather than career and self-actualisation. Women of Ukraine, however, have started to seek for more and become a part of the spreading economic trend, including leadership positions in business life.

Estonia, on the other hand, has one of the highest rates of startups per capita in Europe along with the support of government and UN regarding technology and small business. The mindset is rather focused on cultivating the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem regardless of gender or nationality; therefore, today many leading startups are ran by strong female figures in Estonia. It is a familiar scene for us, though; seeing the solid potential but needing to overcome societal challenges in order to reach to the desired state of success as a nation. That’s why, today, we have dedicated organisations, beside successful startups themselves, known for giving back to the IT community by mentoring and supporting smaller startups, developing nations, different events and startup hubs. As Daniela Godoy, Head of Internationalisation at e-Residency, stated: “It is crucial to helping unleash the world’s entrepreneurial potential.”

From one IT-genius country to another, we took it as a mission to unleash Ukraine’s real entrepreneurial potential by embracing the every single talent across the nation and disregarding the gender-based stereotypes.

We have been in Ukraine more than a dozen times since 2012, organising many hackathons varying from machine learning to smart mobility solutions. Given the rising potential along with identified challenges, we decided to dedicate 2018 to empower women, chasing our mission.

First we went to Lviv in March 2018 to organise our first Empowering Women Hacktahon there, in cooperation with Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Estonian Development Cooperation. More than 100 participants gathered and most of them were females. This was a record event for Garage48 because it was the first time, where we had more female participants than men. There were 22 ideas pitched and found teams; only 19 teams survived the 48-hour marathon. Winners got awarded with exclusive prizes to help them evolve their big ideas and final prototypes after the hackathon. Some of them already got recognised on a larger scale and made us beyond proud.

After lettings the impact sank in for few month, we organised another Empowering Women Hackathon in Lviv in November, in cooperation with Archimedes and Estonia 100. Again we had more than 100 participants and more than half of them were women. There were many participants who showed up either because of the name of the hackathon, or simply as they had heard of the previous Empowering Women Hackathon from friends and wanted to give it a shot.

“I got intrigued right away because I really liked the idea of the hackathon – mostly it’s always about men. I’ve been to other hackathons before, but it was always too technical and male-dominated. I felt closer to this one as Empowering Women title captured me closely.” - Mariana Miakush, participant. 

“People are not aware of what can be changed in the world or can be achieved in terms of personal growth within just 48 hours. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and make a change, that’s why I am here today.” - Khrystyna Stasyk, participant.

“Our team leader Roksana Danek joined this same Empowering Women hackathon in March and developed the roots of our idea. She got so inspired and gathered us together to participate in this one.” - Lily Smirnova, participant.

It was working. More feedbacks on similar pages kept coming and coming. The effect of our events and the stories of the winners had spread faster than we thought; we managed to create a little snowball effect which was triggering the changes already. That is why, we took the impact and went to Kharkiv for the third Empowering Women Hacktahon of the year, supported by our partners Beetroot Academy and YEP.


Once again, we invited all genders, ideas and backgrounds to create a well-balanced atmosphere and set the right alliance for each team. More than 60% of the participants were women, which was an outstanding success for the third time.

“This isn’t just about women in tech; this isn’t just about getting more women to work in startups or leadership positions. This is about generating the right atmosphere to create ideas that can really empower women in their daily lives,” stated our co-host Joao Rei. “Through this event, we aim to inspire and empower women of all ages to push them out of their comfort zone and take the control of their lives.”

Joao’s input describes our attitude pretty clearly, in fact. Change can only come by doing the work on a grassroots level, and what we can do is to create an ideal atmosphere to boost the impact and alter the current dynamics. Rest is up to our participants. Getting out of comfort zone and making an impact through trend-shaping ideas means that they need to be ready and determined to work hard and challenge themselves, while feeling the inner and professional growth. As the president and CEO of IBM once stated: “Growth and comfort do not coexist.”

Garage48 has years of experience in organising global hackathons to deliver life-changing results within a short yet efficient period of time, enabling promising venture entrepreneurs as well as empowering individuals. It is our pride and joy if we managed to play the slightest role in empowering women in Ukraine and inspiring them to take the entrepreneurial path through our hackathons.

Time to take a breath and fuel up during the Holidays Season. We cannot wait to be back in 2019 and pick up from where we left off, hoping our New Year’s resolution come true:

Enable more,

Empower more,

& Inspire more!


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