Inclusive Tech: Gender Diversity at cmd-f Hackathon

Emilyn Sim, a co-op student at UBC IT pursuing a degree in Computer Science, recently participated in the cmd-f Hackathon that had significant personal importance: gender diversity in tech. Alongside her teammates Sholpan Sapargaliyeva, Antonia Tykei, and Jessie Lavery, she joined cmd-f, a hackathon organized by UBC students for underrepresented genders in tech. Spaces like cmd-f are important, as they provide mentors, volunteers, and participants a supportive environment that encourages the exploration of new and important perspectives. 

For those unfamiliar, hackathons are events where coders gather to develop an application within a very tight time frame, usually 24 hours. Emilyn’s team took inspiration from identifying and recognizing a challenge faced by people who menstruate in the healthcare system: the historic underrepresentation of women in pharmaceutical testing. 

Research reveals that despite women constituting a higher percentage of medication users than men, they are often underrepresented in clinical trials. This disparity leads to insufficient understanding of medication safety for people who menstruate, increasing their risk for adverse reactions or ineffective treatment. Without appropriate dosage adjustments, women are more vulnerable to overmedication. People who menstruate also face increased susceptibility to adverse effects from medications not adequately tested for their specific physiological responses. Additionally, they face the challenge of under researched fluctuations in medication responses throughout their menstrual cycles. These disparities in healthcare pose significant risks to women's health and further highlight the need for women and gender diverse people to be included in the development process of the tools we use in our everyday lives. 

Emilyn’s team project “InFlow” aimed to help address this issue. By providing a period tracking application that also allows users to keep track of their medications, pain levels, and potential side effects, the application then provides visual representations of symptoms and side effects over time. This functionality empowers users to collaborate with healthcare providers and make better-informed decisions about treatment plans tailored to their specific needs. The team implemented the core functionalities of InFlow using JavaScript and JSON. The app has additionally been structured in a way where future API integration, and JSON capabilities will allow for the development of a wider range of data visualization options going forward. This project represents the importance of inclusivity and innovation in technology, offering a solution that empowers individuals to take control of their health. 

Article written by Emilyn Sim