Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

Launching the First Women’s Hackathon in Vietnam

Tien Mai (left) and SheCodes teammate

Last spring, Tien Mai ’20 (Babson College Global Scholar and part of the Babson’s 2017 CGI U cohort) not only participated in the Wearables Hackathon, but her team took top honors for their product design.

This spring, she approached The Lewis Institute about the Social Innovation Inventureship program—a paid or credit-bearing Fellowship that allows students to use ET&A to invent their own social innovation project. Her idea? To further the mission of SEEDS Vietnam, the NGO she founded to tackle education inequality for Vietnamese youth, by organizing the first-ever women’s hackathon in Vietnam.

SheCodes Hackathon

The purpose of the SheCodes hackathon is to bring more women to STEM and help close the IT gender gap in Vietnam. The SheCodes team organized workshops to educate participants in coding basics. They also invited several successful businesswomen in the tech startup and IT fields to share their experience and expertise.

SheCodes team

The 2018 SheCodes Hackathon team. Photo courtesy of SheCodes.

During this 24-hour long event, over 100 women gathered from both of the largest cities in Vietnam. Nearly 15 percent of participants were youth (<18 years old), and another 82.6% were young women (19–25 years old).

Participants formed teams to collaboratively design and code a solution addressing one of these UN Global Goals: Quality Education and Gender Equality. The winning project was a mobile app that helps women avoid sexual harassment by letting them to send an emergency signal to friends and families.

We asked Tien a few questions about her Inventureship experience:

What was your biggest challenge in organizing the hackathon?

When I first looked for partnerships in Vietnam or guest speakers, I always got asked, “Do you really think there is a market that is big enough for women interested in tech?” When I said I expected to have 100 women joining the event, they doubted my numbers. It was really hard at first because we were doing something that has never been done before, and the fact that IT is so male-dominated in my country made people suspicious of my expectations. It was funny and ironic to me that my greatest challenge was not about money, but about how to change people’s mindset and convince them that there is a niche market of IT women in Vietnam, but they just haven’t yet found a place to shine.

What upcoming plans do you have for SheCodes or SEEDS that you’re most excited about?

I keep thinking about the “what’s next” after this hackathon because I want to maintain this community. Right now, we are recruiting a regional organizing team in the two biggest cities in Vietnam. They will be in charge of organizing 3­–4 events per year until our yearly hackathon. These events aim to focus on different topics around the IT industry for women. For example, we will be educating women about Open Source technology, instructing how to interview for a tech company, and teaching basic programming.



The Lewis team is so proud of the impact that Tien and her organization are already making, and can’t wait to see what’s next. We’re looking forward to having her share her success and learnings with students at a Good Business Friday this spring.

Learn more about Social Innovation Inventureships.