Anti-harassment work

Conference anti-harassment policy

Inspired by multiple reports of groping, sexual assault, and pornography at open tech/culture conferences, the Ada Initiative co-founders helped write and promote an example conference anti-harassment policy for modification and reuse by conference organizers. Since the publication of the example anti-harassment policy in late 2010, hundreds of conferences have adopted an anti-harassment policy, many of them based on the example policy. Several organizations have adopted a policy for all their events, including the Linux Foundation, the Wikimedia Foundation, and the Python Software Foundation.

Why write an example policy?

We noticed some patterns in harassment at conferences (aided by the timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities):

  • Often, the person doing the groping, harassing, or showing of pornography honestly believed that their behavior was acceptable for the venue. Just as often, many other people went on record agreeing with them.
  • People who saw these incidents didn't know how to respond to these incidents or weren't sure who to report them to.
  • Conference organizers sometimes didn't learn about an incident until long after it happened. When they did find out in time to take action, they often didn't know how to respond to the incident.

We looked at these facts and figured it might help if conference organizers had an easy way to:

  • Educate attendees in advance that specific behaviors commonly believed to be okay (like groping, pornography in slides, etc.) are not acceptable at this conference.
  • Tell attendees how to report these behaviors if they see them, and assure them they will be treated respectfully if they do so.
  • Have established, documented procedures for how the conference staff will respond to these reports.

But conference organizers are very busy people, and might not have the time to write a policy from scratch. But if they could simply copy and use a policy (and directions for how to implement it), probably many more conferences would have a policy. Our idea worked; now hundreds conferences use a policy derived from this example. This example policy was the collaborative effort of many different conference organizers and community members, spear-headed by the Ada Initiative co-founders Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner.

Resources for implementing anti-harassment policies

The Geek Feminism Wiki includes extremely detailed instructions for advocating for and implementing an anti-harassment policy. If after reading these instructions, you still have doubts or questions about adopting and implementing an anti-harassment policy, you can arrange for free consulting via email or phone call with the Ada Initiative (subject to availability). Email contact@adainitiative.org to arrange free consulting.

List of conferences with anti-harassment policies

A community-maintained list of all conferences with policies of any sort can be found on the Geek Feminism Wiki.

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