Anti-harassment, hacker cons and fostering diversity: Ada Initiative news, August 2012

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The Ada Initiative in August: anti-harassment and hacker cons and fostering diversity

The Ada Initiative made a major splash in the hacker community in August, calling for widespread adoption of anti-harassment policies. We’re excited at the response, with hacker con BruCON adopting an anti-harassment policy within days of our call.

We’re also pleased to be able to finally share the video of Mary Gardiner’s Wikimania 2012 keynote, “Fostering diversity”, with you. To all our donors and supporters: thank you for your support in August, making all this possible!

In August’s news

Anti-harassment and hacker cons

On August 1, Ada Initiative Executive Director Valerie Aurora published DEFCON: Why conference harassment matters:

This weekend was DEFCON 20, the largest and most famous hacker conference in the world. I didnt go to DEFCON because Im a woman, and I dont like it when strangers grab my crotch.

In discussing approaches to harassment at conferences, Valerie issued a challenge:

Were waiting to hear about the first hacker conference to adopt a specific, enforceable, well-planned policy protecting women from harassment – and then were going to promote the hell out of it.

Valerie’s post had an enormous response: it has been viewed on our page nearly 50 000 times by nearly 40 000 unique visitors. The article was featured in BlogHer, LWN, Hacker News, Slashdot, Schneier on Security, io9, and more.

Belgium’s BruCON designed, adopted, and publicly announced an anti-harassment policy within 5 days of Valerie’s post. A close second was DeepSec, another European computer security conference. We interviewed BruCON organizers:

What made you decide to adopt an anti-harassment policy?

When I first read about the idea, I honestly had to give it some thought. We have, to my knowledge, not received any complaints about harassment at BruCON and my first reaction was we dont need this.” Being a (slightly overweight ;-)) white male that is obviously a very easy conclusion to make so I challenged myself and there were two main factors that influenced my decision to do this:

  • As we are growing we will gradually lose control about who attends our conference and how they behave themselves. The social fabric” that is woven reasonably tightly right now will loosen and if that ever happens to a degree where people see opportunity to harass others, we want to have a formal policy that is enforceable. We have that now.
  • Being inclusive is at the core value of BruCON and while there doesnt seem to be an immediate need to adopt such a policy, I think it emphasizes the spirit of BruCON extremely well. It doesnt matter who or what you are, if you come to share knowledge, you have a spot at BruCON.

Help make your event a safer space! The Ada Initiative anti-harassment program has developed loads of resources for you to adopt anti-harassment policies at your event! If you would like to encourage events to adopt anti-harassment policies, please see the many ways you can support anti-harassment policies.

Mary’s “Fostering diversity” keynote available on video

The Wikimania 2012 conference has uploaded video of Ada Initiative co-founder Mary Gardiner’s Fostering diversity – not a boring chore, a critical opportunity keynote. In this talk Mary outlined several ways to improve diversity. People often fear that creating communities for underrepresented groups within a project leads to isolation and drop-outs, when the opposite is true. The more you encourage people retain parts of their identity that are important to them, in my case as a woman, the more you enhance their other identity as a Wikipedian.”

We’d love your help making Mary’s talk more accessible by subtitling it in Amara!

Geek Feminism wiki: helping girls at the expense of women, and ableist fallacies

Mary wrote several pages for the Geek Feminism Wiki in August. In addition to developing a page of actions in support of anti-harassment policies, she developed two pages about the problematic focus of some geek outreach initiatives on young girls, rather than women: Pipeline and Let’s help the girls. She also extensively documented the ableist fallacy present in geek communities that harassment is disproportionately perpetrated by neurodiverse people.

Meetup at Mountain View

Valerie hosted the second successful Ada Initiative meetup, in Mountain View California on August 1. Thanks to everyone who came along. Please join our announcement mailing list for news of future Ada Initiative events.

New advisor: Liz Henry

Liz Henry

We welcomed Liz Henry to our advisory board in August: Liz is a writer, editor, and public speaker, concentrating on the intersection between hacker culture, popular culture, feminism and social justice. She contributes as a writer and developer to, the FeministSF blog and wiki, the Organization for Transformative Works, and Noisebridge, a hackerspace in San Francisco. She recently edited The WisCon Chronicles: Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction, and her latest book is Unruly Islands, a collection of technoutopian anarchafeminist poems. You can find her online writing at, and on Twitter as @lizhenry.

We’re so excited to have Liz generously share her long experiences with feminist community organizing with us!

Ada Initiative advisors in the news

Photograph of Sue Gardner speaking at Wikimania 2011

Sue Gardner speaking at Wikimania 2011, © Martina Nolte, CC BY-SA

Congratulations to Ada Initiative board member and advisor Sue Gardner: in Sue’s role as Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, she was named 70th most powerful woman in the world in the Forbes magazine listing. She also gave an extended interview to Forbes, including discussion of Wikipedia editor diversity.

Ada Initiative advisor and Consulting Director of Development Selena Deckelmann gave a keynote address at FrOSCon (Free and Open Source Software Conference) in Germany: Mistakes were Made: Education Edition. Selena spoke about the disconnect between secondary computing education and open source software.

Ada Initiative advisor Karen Sandler, Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation, was featured in an interview with Google’s Open Source Programs Office. Read excerpts about the GNOME Women’s Outreach Program and about AdaCamp Melbourne and the Ada Initiative.

Upcoming events for women in open technology and culture

See our calendar for a full listing, and submit any additional events to

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