“I heard that AdaCamp was being held in Portland and all my friends raved about it, so I applied,” Kronda Adair told us. AdaCamp is the Ada Initiative’s open-application, invitation-only unconference for women in open technology and culture. “It seemed like the best possible world – one in which participants are deliberately chosen and where the assholes are screened out before you even arrive.” The actual experience exceeded her hopes. “I loved AdaCamp so much. Once you’ve experienced radical inclusion at a conference, it’s hard to go back.”
Adair knows too well the feeling of exclusion, one reason she started her own web consulting business, Karvel Digital.
“I came fairly late to the tech industry,” Adair says. “I went back to school at 34 and studied web development. Right out of school, I started working at a development agency. I had some good mentors but it was very male-dominated. There was only one other woman developer who left pretty quickly. I began to notice that I was getting a lot of flack about things that the male developers were not getting flack about,” she says, “and eventually was fired. They said it wasn’t a ‘culture fit.'”This moment proved to be a major turning point for Adair, as she struck out on her own to create the kind of work environment she wanted. “Within hours of being fired from my job, my biggest feeling was one of relief and happiness that I didn’t have to go back to a place where I wasn’t supported and experienced microaggressions on a daily basis,” she remembers.
It also gave her the ability to speak honestly about the marginalization of women, people of color, and LGBTQ folks in tech and become both a voice for change in the industry and an inspiration for other women looking to strike out on their own.
“I hang out in a chat room full of lady developers, so when the Call For Presentations for Open Source Bridge opened, the title ‘Stop Crying in the Bathroom and Start Your Own Business’ came to me and I asked my chat buddies what they thought.” They were overwhelmingly supportive. Adair’s talk was quickly accepted.
“There’s not a lot of narrative in the tech industry about being able to directly use your skills to benefit people without the overhead of trying to get biased hiring managers to give you a job, or dealing with sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia on a daily basis. I wanted to model that and show people that it’s possible because it’s the way that I see myself being able to stay in the industry long term without sacrificing my emotional health.”Adair’s strong sense of community and solidarity is one of the reasons that AdaCamp resonated with her so powerfully. “This year has been one of a lot of stress and transitions and so it happened that when I actually attended AdaCamp, my energy was pretty much as low as it’s ever been. I didn’t really even feel fit for interacting with people, but the great thing about AdaCamp was that I felt completely safe showing up in that state and being open about it, and people just met me where I was.”
Many AdaCamp attendees have expressed their gratitude and relief at the support, camaraderie and inspiration they find at AdaCamp, as well as a deep frustration that this environment is currently so rare. “I heard from many attendees that it was the first time they’ve been able to enjoy a technical conference while also feeling safe,” Adair says. “That’s a terrible reflection on the ‘normal’ conference experience. So I think it’s vitally important to put pressure on the industry to do better and The Ada Initiative does that very effectively.”
We can’t thank Kronda enough for her support of our work and of women in technology! We hope many people follow her lead in encouraging women to found their own businesses as one important way to create a better working environment for women in tech.
Thanks to donations from people like you, in 2014 we were able to offer 3 AdaCamps – the most we have ever offered in a single year, and one in each of three continents: Asia, Europe, and North America. Holding multiple small AdaCamps all over the world lets us reach more women who need AdaCamp, instead of the lucky few who live in the top few technology centers. We also offer free registration, travel scholarships, and free child care to AdaCamp attendees who would be unable to attend otherwise. Making AdaCamp more accessible to the women who need it most also means that we lose money on each event. It’s only thanks to donations from people like you that we can continue to make AdaCamp serve the needs of women in open technology and culture first!