The Ada Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the participation and status of women in open technology and culture. They do a lot of great work, including advocating for conference Anti-Harassment policies, which make tech conferences safer and more welcoming spaces for women and other minorities. They also organize AdaCamp. AdaCamp DC was a really positive experience for me, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to attend.
Many wonderful people advocate for women in open tech and culture (OT&C), but our community still has a long way to go. Mary Gardener and Valerie Aurora founded the Ada Initiative so they could treat advocacy for women in OT&C as the full-time job that it is. Those of us who value this work need to understand that while volunteer efforts are important and necessary, expecting women and our allies to do this work on a strictly volunteer basis is another way of devaluing our contributions to Open Tech and Culture. We can’t be equal participants if we’re expected to spend a good chunk of our free time–time others get to spend actually contributing to OT&C projects–fighting for our right to safe spaces and basic respect.
The Ada Initiative’s impact on my own life and career extends beyond a couple awesome days at AdaCamp. Their work to promote Anti-Harassment Policies has lead to a sea-change in how conferences think about and address harassment and assault. I’ve been attending geek conventions since I was thirteen, and I’d gotten so used to sexual harassment that I just thought of it as the price of attending cons. The two conferences I’ve attended in the past year have been the first I’ve ever been to where I was neither harassed nor assaulted [Correction: I forgot AdaCamp! That makes three conferences where I wasn’t harassed]. One of them had an anti-harassment policy based on the Ada Initiative template. The other addressed their efforts to increase women’s participation in their project in several talks and sessions, including the keynote. I have no doubt that the Ada Initiative contributed to their thinking on that. The Ada Initiative’s work has made me feel safer and more welcome at conferences.
They’ve also helped to foster a community of women and allies within OT&C who support each other in speaking out about bad behavior. When a company does something sexist, or a speaker includes pornography or references to ‘explaining technology to girls’ in their talk, they’re increasingly more likely to get called out for it. Public censure is an important tool in developing an atmosphere where misogyny and harassment are not acceptable. The Ada Initiative’s advocacy inspires me, supports me, and gives me hope for the future of women in Open Technology and Culture.
The Ada Initiative is still seeking donors to sustain its work in 2013. I’m an Ada’s Anchor. Will you join me?