Category Archives: Ada Initiative news

Welcoming Ellen Spertus to our advisory board!

The Ada Initiative loves working with our advisory board, which gives us feedback on planned projects and our overall mission and strategy, and we're always delighted to welcome new members.

Photograph of Ellen Spertus

We've recently been joined by a new member: Ellen Spertus is a professor of computer science at Mills College and a senior research scientist at Google.

At Google, Ellen has been a primary contributor to the App Inventor and Blockly open source projects and is currently working with Code.org. Highlights in her career-long focus on gender equity in computer science include her widely distributed 1991 report Why Are There So Few Female Computer Scientists?; her joining the faculty of a women's college in 1998, where she helps lead reentry and interdisciplinary programs in computer science for students of all genders; and her years of work on gender-neutral software to teach computer programming. Ellen also has substantial non-profit experience, having served on the boards of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, Stop Prisoner Rape (now Just Detention International), and the Human Rights Defense Center. You can find her on Twitter at @ellenspertus.

Ada Initiative founders Valerie and Mary both took early inspiration from "Why Are There So Few Female Computer Scientists?" and are looking forward to working with Ellen, who has been an activist for women in technology for so long.

Thank you to two of our former advisors: Denise Paolucci and Sarah Stierch, for your immense help and support during your time as Ada Initiative advisors!

Ada Initiative welcomes Sumana Harihareswara to our board of directors

The Ada Initiative's governing board of directors, responsible for running our organization, welcomes our new director Sumana Harihareswara, as of April 29. Sumana is a long-time member of our advisors group, having joined in June 2011. She joins Valerie Aurora, Mary Gardiner, Rachel Chalmers, Alicia Gibb, Caroline Simard, and Marina Zhurakhinskaya on the board.

Sumana Harihareswara

by Sebastiaan ter Burg, CC BY

Sumana Harihareswara works as the Senior Technical Writer at the Wikimedia Foundation. She has worked at Collabora GNOME, QuestionCopyright.orgFog Creek SoftwareBehavior, and Salon.com, and contributed to the MediaWiki, AltLaw, Empathy, Miro, and Zeitgeist open source projects. She has been editor and release organizer for GNOME Journal and is a blogger at Geek Feminism. Sumana has keynoted Open Source Bridge in 2012 and code4lib 2014 in addition to presentations at Open Source Bridge in 2010 and 2011, and at Foo Camp in 2010, and has been the Google Summer of Code and Outreach Program for Women administrator for MediaWiki. She holds an MS in technology management from Columbia University and a BA in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. She is on identi.ca and Twitter as @brainwane.

Thank you so much Sumana for volunteering to share your wide knowledge of free and open culture, your community organising skills, and your passion with us.

We also thank outgoing director Sue Gardner for her work from 2011–2014. Sue has stepped aside due to many other commitments, and remains a member of the advisory board.

Ada Initiative no longer partnering with GitHub

This week, GitHub published the results of an investigation into credible allegations of harassment and intimidation against one of its co-founders, the co-founder's wife, and another unnamed employee. It reported that its investigation had found no evidence of illegal actions but did find mistakes and poor judgement by unnamed persons, and announced the resignation of the co-founder in question. It was shortly followed by a blog post from the resigning co-founder which included a clear threat of legal action against anyone who said he or his wife had engaged in gender-based harassment or discrimination.

The sum of these events make it impossible for Ada Initiative to partner with GitHub at this time. One year ago, we partnered with GitHub to offer free private repositories to over 500 women learning to write open source software. This offer ended in December 2013, but these repositories are still in use by many of the recipients. We will work to wind down the free private repository partnership in a way that causes minimum harm to the women using them. GitHub also sponsored AdaCamp DC and AdaCamp San Francisco, our conferences to support women in open technology and culture. We will not accept future sponsorships from or partnerships with GitHub unless the situation changes significantly.

Many resources are available for people wanting to prevent these kinds of problems in their own companies or communities. The Geek Feminism Wiki has a wide range of resources such as an explanation of why sexualized environments are harmful to women. Ashe Dryden offers consulting on increasing diversity at your corporation. Model View Culture regularly publishes insightful pieces on tech culture and the systemic factors affecting it. “The No Asshole Rule” is a management book on creating a culture that repels abusive people. The Ada Initiative Allies Workshop teaches men simple, everyday actions to support women in their workplace.

We are working hard to create a world in which women can participate in open source software, Wikipedia, and other areas of open technology and culture without harassment, intimidation, or discrimination. Sometimes this means refusing to partner with or accept sponsorship from specific people or organizations. It is also contrary to our principles to be silent when our existing sponsors and collaborators' actions consistently do not support our mission.

The Ada Initiative founders on funding activism for women in open source

This week, Ada Initiative founders Mary Gardiner and Valerie Aurora wrote about Funding Activism for Women in Open Source in the Funding issue of Model View Culture, drawing on lessons from their first years raising money for the Ada Initiative:

We founded the Ada Initiative with the principle of paying fair market wages to anyone doing work for us more than a few hours a week. In 2010, this was a moonshot. In 2014, it's increasingly how things are done. More and more diversity in technology initiatives are becoming paid activities, and a growing proportion of the technology industry recognizes this labour as something worth paying for[…]

[F]ull-time diversity activists who want to do effective, controversial, culture-changing work must often work out how to pay themselves, rather than taking existing jobs at tech companies or diversity in tech non-profits.

What follows is a survey of some of the most popular funding sources: corporate sponsorship, individual donations, and consulting and training.

Read the full article, The Ada Initiative Founders on Funding Activism for Women in Open Source, at Model View Culture to learn more about the rationale for each of these funding sources… and their pitfalls!

Welcoming Camille Acey, Annalee Flower Horne, and Andromeda Yelton to our advisory board

The Ada Initiative advisory board is a group of volunteers from across open technology and culture who have the passion, knowledge, and time to actively support women in open technology and culture. The advisors play a crucial part in the Ada Initiative's work: sharing their knowledge of communities like open hardware or Wikipedia, helping organize AdaCamp and other events, reviewing and writing policies and articles, taking a key role in fundraising, sharing their expertise in areas like law and non-profit governance, and, of course, giving advice.

In order to keep in touch with open tech/culture communities and avoid burning out our volunteers, we actively recruit new advisors and encourage existing advisors to step down when the time is right for them. We're very pleased to introduce the latest additions to our advisory board:

Photograph of Camille AceyCamille Acey
Camille Acey works in sales and operations at Boundless (formerly OpenGeo), an industry leader in enterprise open source geospatial software solutions. She has also worked with FLOSS Manuals Foundation, an international organization devoted to providing documentation for free software projects, and the free culture non-profit QuestionCopyright.org. She holds a BA in Political Science and Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley. and she has spoken about race and social justice at conferences in the US and Canada. She writes about race, motherhood, and tech on her blog and tweets about much the same on Twitter as @kavbojka.

Photograph of Annalee Flower HorneAnnalee Flower Horne
Annalee Flower Horne is a science fiction writer, Django developer, and open government advocate. She's passionate about diversity in tech, the science fiction and fantasy community, and geek culture as a whole. A former congressional staffer, she takes a particular interest in transparent, accountable, and effective access to elected officials. She works for an open government startup in Washington, DC, blogs irregularly at Geek Feminism, and tweets as @leeflower.

Smiling woman with glasses, by Molly Tomlinson http://photoclave.com
Andromeda Yelton
Andromeda Yelton is a self-employed librarian and software developer who's passionate about promoting coding, collaboration, and diversity in library technology. She has a BS in Mathematics from Harvey Mudd College, an MA in Classics from Tufts, and an MLS from Simmons. Before her MLS, she taught Latin to middle school boys; after, she did library outreach, software, and communications at the ebook startup Unglue.it. Her notable honors include winning the 2010 LITA/Ex Libris Student Writing Award; being selected as an ALA Emerging Leader, class of 2011; being a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker; and having been a listener contestant on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. She is a member of the LITA Board of Directors. You can follow her on Twitter at @ThatAndromeda.

Thank to all our Ada Initiative advisors, past and present, for your incredible support of women in open technology and culture! And thank you to the open tech/culture community at large for your hard work and commitment to supporting women in open tech/culture.

Open source company Inktank sponsors Ada Initiative again in 2014

InktankWe're thrilled to announce that Inktank is sponsoring Ada Initiative again in 2014 at the Bronze level!

Inktank took a leading role in supporting women in open tech/culture when they became the Ada Initiative’s first-ever sponsor at the Bronze level in 2012. Inktank’s mission includes encouraging the equitable representation of women in open source projects like the one Inktank supports, the Ceph open source file system.

CephCeph is a massively scalable, open source, software-defined storage system that runs on commodity hardware. Delivering object, block, and file system storage in one self-managing, self-healing platform with no single point of failure, Ceph ideally replaces legacy storage and provides a single solution for the cloud. Inktank’s mission is to ensure the enterprise-wide adoption of Ceph so that businesses can decrease their storage costs, increase their operational flexibility, and effectively manage their rapidly growing data.

"We're happy to again support the Ada Initiative’s mission to support women in open technology and culture," said Bryan Bogensberger, Inktank CEO. "Ada's objective—to make open source communities and companies more accessible to, and inclusive of, women—benefits all of us who are forging ahead based on an open source philosophy. We encourage women engineers, tech writers, QA specialists, and so on to contact Inktank or participate in the Ceph community to be part of an open source community that strives to be inclusive, caring, and respectful. This sponsorship is part of our work to improve gender diversity in Ceph and open source in general."

Seven women with arms on each others' shoulders

AdaCampers CC-BY-SA Adam Novak

Inktank is our first 2014 Bronze sponsor, joining our recent sponsors
HerokuRackspaceBloombergDreamwidthPalominoDB, GaloisLincoln Loop, and Oddbird. These companies generously sponsor all of Ada Initiative's work, including our work fighting harassment at conferences and online, running the AdaCamp conferences for women in open tech/culture, and teaching the Allies Workshop to people who want to support women in open tech/culture directly.

Inktank is hiring people to work on open source around the world—so please check them out! From wherever you live, you can help contribute to open source software and the open source community at large with Inktank job openings that currently include storage developercommunity manager, and storage consultants.

Guest post: Conference codes of conduct as seen from your world and mine

This is a guest post by Andromeda Yelton about how conference codes of conduct actually improve the protection of free speech for women and other disadvantaged groups in tech, originally posted on her blog here. Andromeda Yelton is a librarian and freelance software engineer. She teaches librarians to code; speaks and writes about libraries, technology, and gender; and is on the Board of the Library & Information Technology Association.

In discussing ALA’s Statement of Appropriate Conduct with ever-wider audiences, I get the growing feeling that we stand at different starting lines, and it affects our understandings of the words in the statement.

So if you looked at the Statement and your first reaction was “but…free speech?” or “nanny state” or “political correctness”, this is for you. Let me attempt to explain some starting points. (Trigger warning: graphic violence, rape, rampant misogyny.)

Proponents of these codes are not concerned that people might disagree with them (even disagree passionately). We aren’t concerned that people might not be nice. We aren’t wanting to run to some hammer of authority every time someone says a group we’re in might be other than pure unicorns and roses.

Here is the world I live in:

I live in a world where famed game developer and technical writer Kathy Sierra disappeared entirely from the internet for years after she received a series of death threats, including publishing of her home address, social security number, and false allegations that she had abused her children.

I live in a world where Anita Sarkeesian ran a Kickstarter to support a project on sexism in video games, and as a result someone created and distributed a video game consisting solely of clicking on her face until you had beaten it to a bloody pulp.

I live in a world where merely having a female-gendered nickname on IRC (a chat network important in the technology world) makes you 25 times more likely to receive unsolicited malicious private messages, even if you never say a word.

I live in a world where I have zero interest in going to CES because I don’t want to have to deal with the naked booth babes (and am therefore cutting myself off from the biggest trade show relevant to my interests). Where a friend of mine takes for granted there will probably be naked women on conference slides in her field. Where people complaining that a joke about being “raped by dickwolves” in a comic about gaming isn’t funny leads to its creators selling dickwolves t-shirts and large numbers of people to this day defending this as a reasonable position to hold. Where a hackathon sponsored by a major tech news web site gives time on stage to an app intended solely for sharing photos of women’s cleavage, with a nine-year-old-girl in the audience. Where a major tech news discussion site is so prone to misogyny many women never bother to spend time there, at the same time as it is suspected of repeatedly quashing discussion critical of misogyny.

I live in a world where I treat it as great and inexplicable good luck that no one has yet threatened to rape or kill me just because I blog and speak publicly about technology and sexism under an obviously female name, and I have the backup plan in my head of how to moderate comments and log IPs if it’s ever needed, and the list of which friends have my back enough that I’d ask them to wade through that kind of cesspit for me. I live in a world where using my own name on github and IRC was aspecific conscious choice that required actual bravery from me, because I know that I am statistically exposing myself to retribution for doing so.

Let’s say that again: I live in a world where being myself in public, talking about things I care about under my own name in public, is a specific choice which requires both courage and a backup plan.

In this world some people choose not to be themselves in public. They choose not to speak, or to speak only under disguises – ones they can’t wear at conferences, face-to-face.

That is my concern about free speech. That right there.

That is the aim of conference codes of conduct. To clarify the threats — not to eliminate them, because you can’t ever do that, but to state that this is a place where silencing people through graphic threats of sexual violence or open and regular degradation is treated as unacceptable, that if it happens to you there’s a place to go, and to (crucially) say that the bystanders care too. That you’re not in a place where a lot of people are decent but indifferent and someone somewhere might attack you and it’s all on you to cope, but you’re in a place where a lot of people are decent and affirmatively have your back.

And by clarifying the threats, by publicly affirming the decency of the bystanders, we create a world where you don’t have to be quite so brave to speak up. A world where the uncertain, the new, the outsiders have a voice too. A world where maybe the barrier for being a woman in tech — or an outsider coming in — is not the ability to say “fuck you”, but merely the interest in saying something, anything.

If you have been reading the statement of acceptable conduct from the frame of mind that you haven’t encountered problems and things seem fine and the only speech you can imagine it chilling is the edgier end of the perfectly fine, please go back and reread it from my world. It reads differently.

Progress for women in open tech/culture in 2013: End of year wrap-up

CC BY-SA Adam NovakOur 2013 wrap-up of progress for women in open tech/culture is a little earlier than usual since the Ada Initiative will be experiencing some "downtime" from December 11 through January 1. (Computer metaphors are super useful, especially just after a nation-wide news story about a certain important web site in the United States…)

Overall, 2013 was a year of continuing progress for women in open tech/culture. Three recent high-profile incidents show how far we've come as a community: the controversy over removing unnecessarily gendered language in the open source project libuv, the debate over Chelsea Manning's name and gender in her Wikipedia entry, and two sexist presentations at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.

While these incidents highlighted sexism and transphobia in these communities, their resolutions were incredibly positive. The libuv project not only removed the gendered language, it also adopted a formal policy against exclusionary language. Chelsea Manning's Wikipedia entry was eventually correctly named in English as well as most other languages, and the editors who fought against the renaming were banned from editing pages related to trans issues. And TechCrunch not only repudiated the sexist presentations, it adopted an anti-harassment policy for all of its events. Still not impressed? Just read the timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities for 2010 and see how many incidents turned out this well back then!

CC BY-SA Adam Novak. Woman with pink hair speaking and gesturing

CC BY-SA Adam Novak.

Thanks to your support, the Ada Initiative is working hard to accelerate this change in direction. Since our last progress report in mid-2013, we have published more resources for conference organizers, organized conference scholarships for 21 women in open tech/culture, taught two more Allies Workshops, shared best practices for fighting harassment with the skeptic/atheist and science fiction & fantasy communities, spoken at women in open tech/culture conferences, and much more. The anti-harassment policy movement continues to grow beyond our wildest dreams: recent adopters include all TechCrunch conferences (an organization formerly notorious for sexism under previous leadership), the Entomology Association of America's conference (bugs!), and live action role playing (LARP) groups. And we did it all in between raising over $100,000 for women in open tech/culture, hiring a new Director of Operations, and filing our taxes (groan).

AdaCamp logoOur plans for 2014 include running several AdaCamps around the world, teaching dozens of Allies Workshops, more Wikipedia-related work, and online community codes of conduct. In early 2015, we hope to have our first AdaCon – a 400+ person conference for women in open tech/culture and the people who support them. If you'd like to sponsor AdaCamp/AdaCon or hold an Allies Workshop, please contact us at contact@adainitiative.org for more information.

The progress we've made together over the last three years has only been possible because of people like you – the donors and sponsors of the Ada Initiative. By making it possible for us to work on supporting women in open tech/culture full-time, you are making a difference!

Here's to the progress we made together in 2013, and to more in 2014!

Donate now

For those of you making end-of-year donations to charity, the Ada Initiative is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit. Your donation may be tax-deductible in the U.S. (consult your tax advisor, we are not tax advisors, yadda yadda required lawyerese). For more information, see our donation FAQ.

Heroku sponsors Ada Initiative

Heroku logoWe're thrilled to announce that Heroku is the newest Ada Initiative corporate sponsor! Contributing at the Bronze level, Heroku joins our other 2013 corporate sponsors: Heroku, Rackspace, Bloomberg, Dreamwidth, PalominoDB, Galois, and Lincoln Loop. These companies generously sponsor all of Ada Initiative's work, including our work fighting harassment at conferences and online, running the AdaCamp conferences for women in open tech/culture, and teaching the Allies Workshop to people who want to support women in open tech/culture directly.

Heroku provides a cloud application platform for applications written in a variety of languages, including Python, Ruby, Java, and many more. Heroku supports many popular open source software services and tools, and uses open source software extensively. Improving the health and diversity of the open source community is important to Heroku for both practical and ethical reasons. As a practical step in that direction, in addition to supporting our efforts, Heroku has committed to not funding conferences that don't have, and refuse to adopt, a code of conduct. Read more about Heroku's work in this direction on their own blog.

Photograph of Matt Zimmerman

Matt Zimmerman, VP Platform Engineering

Matt Zimmerman, Heroku VP Platform Engineering and former Ada Initiative board member, was part of the team working on the new community code of conduct, aimed at reducing hostile and unwelcoming behavior in the open source software community. "The Ada Initiative has made great progress in providing templates and guidance to help address this problem, and I'm proud that my colleagues at Heroku want to make a difference too."

Heroku is hiring for a variety of jobs, including working with open source software. Heroku and its parent company Salesforce is a Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer. Heroku is working hard to create a supportive and positive working environment for everyone.

Ada Initiative "downtime" December 11 through January 1

Mary and Valerie laughing

Mary and Valerie

Both Ada Initiative Executive Director Valerie Aurora and Director of Programs Mary Gardiner will be taking extended leave soon. Mary Gardiner will be taking indefinite maternity leave beginning no later than December 5, 2013, returning some time in 2014. Valerie Aurora will be taking mandatory medical leave from December 11, 2013 through January 1, 2014, inclusive. During this time, our new Director of Operations, Suki McCoy, will be working and keeping the lights on: responding to routine queries, planning the next AdaCamp, and similar tasks.

From December 11, 2013 through January 1, 2014, the Ada Initiative will not be able to respond to press inquiries, requests for comments, or any other requests for non-routine responses or assistance regardless of their importance. During this unavoidable hiatus, we are completely unavailable through all channels of communication for these kinds of requests.

We will have some scheduled social media announcements and blog posts during this time, but if you would like to keep up on the latest on women in open tech/culture news, we recommend:

We are looking forward to returning to our work on supporting women in open technology and culture in January! Thank you to all of our supporters for making this work possible.