Category Archives: Women in open and tech and culture community news

Thanks to you, 2014 was another huge year for the Ada Initiative!

Happy December! We come with good news for women in open technology and culture, and we hope you’re as happy about it as we are!

a group of AdaCamp Bangalore attendees

AdaCamp Bangalore attendees

Since our last update in mid-2014, we announced that we are growing by hiring a new executive director, a Linux kernel contributor donated $100,000, we ran 2 more AdaCamps (for a total of 3 AdaCamps on 3 continents), and taught 9 more Ally Skills Workshops. Keep reading for more details, and thanking you for being part of another fantastic year for women in open technology and culture!

The Ada Initiative is growing! Help our search for our new Executive Director!

Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner founded the Ada Initiative in 2011 to increase the participation and status of women in open technology and culture. After decades of seeing volunteers burning out, they wanted to know: if we applied the feminist principle of paying people for their work to our activism, could we make more progress for women in open tech/culture? The answer: unequivocally yes!

When we reviewed our programs late this year, we realized that there was more demand for our work than we had the ability to supply. Each of our AdaCamp unconferences, held on three continents this year, sold out several weeks earlier than expected. Our Ally Skills Workshops are booked solid into 2015. And we can’t launch our standalone Impostor Syndrome Training soon enough for everyone emailing us about it!

That’s why we’ve just announced the search for our most important hire yet: a new Executive Director, who will lead the Ada Initiative as we grow to 5 – 15 staff members over the next few years. We’re so excited to meet the person who will take the Ada Initiative to the next level!

Anonymous Linux kernel contributor gives $100,000 to support women in Linux

A woman explains while a man listens

Ally Skills Workshop discussion

In mid-December, we were proud to announce that, on top of the $215,000 given by 1100 donors in our 2014 fundraising drive, a Linux kernel contributor who wishes to remain anonymous gave $100,000 to help us create a Linux community that is more diverse and more inclusive than proprietary software, not less. Linux is the world’s leading free and open source software project, and serves as a model to other open source software projects around the world.

Thanks to this donation, the Ada Initiative will be able to teach 4 Ally Skills Workshops at Linux-related conferences free of charge in 2015, and give 100 hours of free consulting to Linux-related organizations working on making the community more welcoming. If your Linux-related conference or organization is interested in either of these offers, email us at

Ally Skills Workshops for all!

Our Ally Skills Workshops are going from strength to strength. Since June 2014, we have run 9 more workshops teaching over 160 people how to respond to (or prevent) sexism in their communities, including one at the Skepticon conference for skeptics and atheists. We are now scheduling Ally Skills Workshops starting in January 2015. If your organization or event is interested in an Ally Skills Workshop, email us at

Three AdaCamps on three continents!

80 women cheering and wearing many different colors, CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Happy AdaCampers!
CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

We’ve been delighted this year to gather women in open technology and culture not only in the United States, but in Germany and India too! Learn more about our 2014 AdaCamps in the post-event reports for AdaCamp Portland, AdaCamp Berlin, and AdaCamp Bangalore!

And keep an eye out for the of our 2015 locations, coming soon!

Pssst, don’t tell anyone who hasn’t read this in a public blog post and widely distributed email but we think we can say this: we’re working to bring AdaCamp to Montréal just after a certain major programming language conference in April! Later in the year, we’re hoping to announce AdaCamps in Central America, the US West Coast and Australia/New Zealand. Stay tuned for announcements!

Supporting our work in 2015


2015 will be another huge leap forward for the Ada Initiative and women in open technology and culture. We’re shortly announcing 2015’s AdaCamps and the availability of our Impostor Syndrome training workshops, with more to come!

Your end of year gift will let us provide low-cost tickets and travel grants to AdaCampers, develop Ally Skills and Impostor Syndrome training materials and provide free consulting to open technology and culture programs and events on how to include women contributors.

And if you donate $256 (or $20 monthly) before January 1, we will give you one of our beautiful “Not Afraid to Say the F-word: Feminism” t-shirts!

Donate now

If you’ve donated already in 2014, you can still help out: your employer’s matching program just might double your donationOur donation FAQ has the info your employer may need to match your gift. You often need to make a matching requests soon after the year ends, so check your employer’s program today.

We hope you’re looking forward to finding out what 2015 holds as much as we are!

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. For general information, see our donation FAQ, but please ask your tax advisor for individual advice.

A record-setting year for the Ada Initiative: 3 AdaCamps, 9 Ally Skills Workshops, standalone Impostor Syndrome Training, and more

Women smiling

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

2014 is a record-setting year for the Ada Initiative! Since our last progress report, we’ve run one AdaCamp and opened applications for two more AdaCamps. We’ve taught 9 Ally Skills Workshops to over 200 people and kicked off a train-the-trainers program. Our Impostor Syndrome Training is ready to launch as a standalone class open to the public. Conference anti-harassment policies continue to spread to new fields, and specific, enforceable community codes of conduct are catching on for the first time. Read the rest of our (short, we promise!) mid-year report for 2014.

AdaCamps around the world

AdaCampMost exciting of all, in 2014 we are holding three AdaCamps on three continents: AdaCamp Portland, AdaCamp Berlin, and AdaCamp Bangalore. This is a year of firsts for AdaCamp: first time we have three AdaCamps in one year, first AdaCamp in Europe, first AdaCamp in Asia, first AdaCamp in a non-primarily English-speaking country, and first time we had to close applications early because we ran out of space. AdaCamp Portland is already finished, and applications for AdaCamp Berlin and AdaCamp Bangalore are open now (and filling up fast). We are tentatively planning four AdaCamps on three continents in 2015! Thank you to all of our sponsors who made these three AdaCamps possible: Google, Puppet Labs, Ada Initiative donors, Automattic, Mozilla, Red Hat, Simple, New Relic, Linux Foundation, Spotify, Stripe, Gitlab, OCLC, O’Reilly, Pinboard, and Python Software Foundation.

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

You’ll notice that Ada Initiative donors are an AdaCamp sponsor this year. This is because AdaCamp is a money-losing program for us – corporate sponsorships and registration fees don’t cover the full costs of the event. In our last progress report, we said we were planning to run a larger standard format conference called AdaCon. We were planning to do this mainly because it would be easier to raise enough corporate sponsorship to cover the full costs of the conference. However, it would also mean that we would hold the event somewhere that women in open tech/culture already have lots of resources – like the San Francisco Bay Area – and that would be expensive and difficult to get to for women outside that area. We decided to instead hold more, smaller AdaCamps around the globe so that we could reach the women who need AdaCamp the most. As a result, Ada Initiative donors are likely to be major sponsors of AdaCamp for the forseeable future, and we thought you should get the credit!

Taking Impostor Syndrome Training to the next level

Mary Gardiner speaking with upraised hand

CC-BY-SA Alejandro Linares Garcia

We ran our Impostor Syndrome Training at AdaCamp Portland with some new exercises and material and got rave reviews! Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that you aren’t actually qualified for the work you are doing and will be discovered as a fraud, and severely affects the career, health, and happiness of many women in open tech/culture. After more than a year of tinkering and refinements, our Impostor Syndrome Training is now ready to be run as a 2-hour standalone class. We plan to start teaching classes in late 2014, after our yearly fundraising drive wraps up.

Ally Skills Workshop goes viral

Woman explaining while a man listensThe Ally Skills Workshop (formerly Allies Workshop) has really taken off! So far this year we taught 9 Ally Skills Workshops to over 200 people, where we teach men how to support women in open tech/culture with simple, every day techniques. We teach Ally Skills Workshops at conferences, inside companies, and as a publicly available class. People love it: “This was an amazing class. Great scenarios, great conversations. I really enjoyed not only the guided discussion, but break out conversations with co-workers were hugely enlightening.” And it works: “I’ve already witnessed a couple of incidents where coworkers who attended the workshop corrected themselves after saying something that could be misconstrued.”

We also started a new program to spread the Ally Skills Workshop even faster: the Ally Skills Workshop Train-the-trainers class. We trained over a dozen instructors who teach their own version of the Ally Skills Workshop in their workplace or community, using our CC BY-SA licensed materials. From a train-the-trainers client: “We’ve run the [Ally Skills Workshop] 4 times and the impact has been fantastic. This workshop has been the catalyst for many “a-ha” moments.” We have several more Ally Skills Workshops scheduled and are taking reservations for more. Contact us at to learn more.

Conference anti-harassment work spreads a wider net

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Fighting to stop conference harassment was our very first project, and three years later, it is still bearing fruit. Our conference anti-harassment policies and codes of conduct continue to spread to more and more fields, this year including library-related conferences, co-working spaces, and hackathons. We also continue to publish more specific advice and refinements, such as how to handle harassment swiftly and safely, how to decide when a person who has harassed someone can return to an event, and a collection of resources for creating inclusive events. Our plans for the rest of 2014 include introducing better guidelines for alcohol at events to signal that people are still expected to behave with respect to each other, even when drinking.

Community codes of conduct get real

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Community codes of conduct are getting more popular this year – and this time around, some of them are specific and enforceable! Tim Chevalier created this useful comparison of community codes of conduct showing which ones include three important elements: specific details about what isn’t allowed, how to report violations, and information about how it will be enforced. We also continue to provide free consulting to companies and organizations on implementing codes of conduct in their communities as well as conference anti-harassment policies, working with over a dozen organizations and people this year alone. If you have questions about implementing a code of conduct or anti-harassment policy, email

The Ada Initiative is growing

If it seems like we accomplished a lot more in the last 6 months than usual, that’s because it’s true! We hired our third staff member, Suki McCoy, our Director of Operations, in November 2013, joining Executive Director Valerie Aurora and Deputy Executive Director Mary Gardiner. Mary was on maternity leave for six months after Suki joined, so we went from 1.5 full-time staff for the first three years of the Ada Initiative, to 2 full-time staff in the first half of 2014, and have been at 2.5 full-time staff since May 2014. The difference in what we can accomplish is astounding! We hope to continue growing during the next few years, until we can satisfy the full demand for AdaCamps, Ally Skills Workshops, and Impostor Syndrome Training. Thank you to all the Ada Initiative donors and sponsors who are a crucial part of this important work!

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Thank you from Suki, Mary, and Valerie!
CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

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 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.

Ada Lovelace Day heroine: Sarah Stierch

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Ada Lovelace Day, founded by Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009, is for sharing the accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and thereby to contribute to their increased visibility. We encourage you today to share the story of a woman in open technology and culture who inspires you!

This is a guest post by Netha Hussain, AdaCamp DC alumna.

Photograph of Sarah Stierch

by Matthew Roth, CC BY-SA

Sarah Stierch (User: SarahStierch on Wikimedia) is an active contributor to Wikimedia, she has been contributing projects since 2006. She is an administrator on Wikipedia and the Program Evaluation & Design community coordinator at the Wikimedia Foundation. On Wikipedia, she is interested in writing articles about people and places. She was instrumental in launching the Teahouse, a friendly place to help newcomers get accustomed to Wikipedia’s culture and WikiWomen’s Collaborative, a global initiative in increasing the participation of women in Wikimedia projects. Both these projects she developed as a part of her fellowship program with the Wikimedia Foundation. She has also participated in OpenGLAM initiatives by working with prominent libraries, archives and museums in the US.

On Wikipedia, she performs administrative tasks like cleaning up speedy deletions and emptying the backlogs. Being an OTRS volunteer, she handles issues with images and media by adding appropriate licenses to images tagged for deletion. She does not get involved in controversial admin actions, like closing of consensus driven article discussions. She thinks that it would be a good idea to have more admins in charge of discussions related to women.

Sarah enjoys the work she does as an employee of the Wikimedia Foundation. Her experience as an employee is different from that of being a community member. Her experience as a community member always comes to help when she is asked her opinions about implementing new projects and programs. Some people treat her with more respect and interest because of her newly assumed roles. In her opinion, to have a chance to get paid for doing the work you love, with the colleagues you respect, to help Wikimedians around the world is a fulfilling experience. As a full time employee, she now also gets health benefits, which she thinks is nice!

She likes the work culture of Wikimedia Foundation. She finds satisfaction in being able to support one of the most popular websites in the world. Being located in San Francisco, the Wikimedia Foundation’s office is next to numerous tech-companies like Google, Yelp and Salesforce. She thinks that the unifying mission of employees of all organizations in SF to make the web a better place is a meaningful goal.

In the past, she worked as a fellow at the Wikimedia Foundation as a part of which two projects: the Teahouse and WikiWomen’s Collaborative were launched. She is still unclear on the impacts made by these initiatives, but evaluation shows that the Teahouse has helped retain new editors as a whole, a significant number of them being women. It is exciting for her to see her efforts making an impact not only in English but also in other language Wikipedias. WikiWomen’s Collaborative on the other hand has played a significant role in retaining the existing women editors, but have not brought many new women editors into the movement. She recalls that building the support system to help women was one of WikiWomen’s Collaborative’s achievements.

In her capacity as a volunteer, she has arranged numerous meetups and workshops to spread the word about Wikipedia. She recalls that the attitude of the Wikimedia community has generally been supportive, as most Wikimedians want to see more people get involved in the movement. She has been careful in avoiding discouraging comments from a few people who do not support her vision. She finds it tough to see the Wikimedia Foundation stepping back from the supportive role in increasing gender diversity, but she is happy that Wikimedia communities in different parts of the world have stepped up to fulfil this goal by organizing a variety of events and activities to increase the participation of women in Wikimedia.

Sarah believes that the Ada Initiative was critical in helping her become a better employee by helping her learn to handle unsettling and uncomfortable situations. Knowing how to address such situations has helped her to influence the environment at her office, and made it a safer and more inviting space for women. AdaCamp honed her facilitation skills, like making sure that everyone got their say in the discussions especially in male dominated groups. Among AdaCampers, she also found a great network of feminists around the world whom she can call on for support and advice. For her, it is a great feeling to be a part of the amazing community of AdaCamp alumni. The friendly space policies created by Ada Initiative is being used by her for all the events she and the Wikimedia Foundation conducts.

She calls upon all people to click [edit] when they find a mistake or an error on Wikipedia. She invites everyone to stop by the TeaHouse to get help on any aspect of Wikipedia. She wants all people to make a difference by editing Wikipedia.

Sarah’s biography can be read on Wikipedia here. She can be reached at sarah (at) wikimedia (dot) org.

Ada Lovelace Day heroine: Dana Bauer

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Ada Lovelace Day, founded by Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009, is for sharing the accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and thereby to contribute to their increased visibility. We encourage you today to share the story of a woman in open technology and culture who inspires you!

This is a guest post by Leslie Birch, AdaCamp DC and San Francisco alumna.

I got to know Dana Bauer at AdaCamp DC. Even though we both live in Philly, it was really the first time I got to find out more about her. She is a map wizard and often spends her free time sharing her talents with hackerspaces and other meetup groups in Philly. She was instrumental in me taking my first Python workshop — something I was driven to do after attending AdaCamp. Dana is very active with the Python community and I can remember one talk she gave about Py love that had astounding graphics and ended with everyone in hysterics. She knows how to engage people and encourage community. Most of all, she keeps me on my tech path and represents the type of woman I strive to be.

Ada Lovelace Day heroine: Sarah Sharp

Happy Ada Lovelace Day! Ada Lovelace Day, founded by Suw Charman-Anderson in 2009, is for sharing the accomplishments of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and thereby to contribute to their increased visibility. We encourage you today to share the story of a woman in open technology and culture who inspires you!

This is a guest post by Carol Willing, AdaCamp San Francisco alumna.

Thoughtful. Encouraging. Integrity. Commitment. Strength. Resilient. Collaborative.

These words easily describe Sarah Sharp, Linux kernel developer and USB 3.0 driver maintainer. Sarah’s efforts with the Outreach Program for Women (OPW) in the Linux kernel demonstrate her commitment to build awareness, to encourage, and to celebrate the women that will become the next generation of contributors to the Linux kernel. I had the pleasure of spending time with Sarah and two of the OPW interns at LinuxCon this year and to see their energy and enthusiasm for improving the kernel and its community.

Sarah champions collaboration, inclusiveness, and respect to improve the Linux community. She’s a wonderful ambassador for Linux, open source, and the Ada Initiative. Thank you Sarah!