I recently participated in my first hackathon that was strictly focused on user experience (UX). The hackathon, #HexHacks, was conceived by Hexagon UX, an organization that advances diversity in tech by supporting and empowering a community of women and non-binary people at various stages of their careers.

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Intro to #HexHacks18

Having a number of hackathons under my belt, I was especially excited about this hackathon because it focused on employing design thinking to solve issues around underrepresented communities.

Our teams formed based on four key focus areas:

    • Unconscious Bias: Helping people learn how to identify and understand unconscious bias in the workplace in order to remove it
    • “Powered by Perspective”: Helping allies learn ways to support women in the workplace and in the tech community
    • Access to Opportunities: Helping women in tech find resources, events, and mentorship opportunities
    • Celebrating Role Models: Developing a solution to inspiring girls and younger women to pursue tech careers by highlighting senior women leaders in tech through storytelling

Inspired by events we’ve heard or witnessed, my team focused on designing a solution to mitigate bias in the workplace. With women’s empowerment songs blaring in the background, we were eager to begin our ideation phase by writing various ideas about unconscious bias and its effects.

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We then participated in workshops, hosted by Hexagon UX, which focused on topics such as usability testing, bias, and joining a new team at work. After the workshops finished, we came back to the drawing board to develop our problem statement:

How might we support employees in feeling comfortable reporting the biases they experience day to day, both big and small?

Afterward, we divided the responsibilities of research, strategy, and design amongst our team. I focused on conducting user research that could quickly be synthesized into insights to inform our design. Companies that have diverse workforces are thirty-five percent (35%) more likely to outperform those without diversity initiatives (McKinsey). To substantiate this claim, we investigate the effects of workplace bias:

  • Seventy-five percent (75%) of employees who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation. (US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 2003)
  • Training to mitigate bias “could backfire, triggering stereotypes about bias victims and inspiring the resentment of others.” (Bisom-Rapp 2018)
  • The consequences of workplace bias (job turnover, frequent sick leave, decreased individual and group workplace contributions) have severe ramifications for company productivity over time.

Using this research, we made the following assumptions:

  • People would feel comfortable reporting incidents of bias anonymously to avoid retaliation
  • Training about bias should make people feel welcome and not judged
  • Mitigating bias should focus on making company culture feel welcoming to all employees

We identified three key audiences for our platform: employees, managers/leadership, and potential employees (public-facing format).

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We designed a desktop-based platform that would allow anonymized reporting of incidents using natural language understanding to analyze the pattern of these reports, along with metrics to track how long a case remained open, the resolution, and the satisfaction for the resolution.

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In order to make this a sustainable product, consulting services and enterprise support for customizable analytics would be sold as a subscription model. 

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Once we created our presentation deck, we pitched it to the judges and the #HexHacks community and we won second place!

We were super happy to work on a project that was well received but we were even more excited to think about ways of bringing this project to life. Of all of the hackathons I’ve participated in, this was the most rewarding, as our team collaborated on a project that we were all passionate about and flexed our design muscles in the process. So, what’s next? We’re now self-organizing to develop the prototype, which I hope to share soon!