Open source software and data, like Firefox and Wikipedia, are the foundation of the Internet and modern technology. Companies like Google and Facebook depend on open source software, and popular web sites like Wikipedia rely on open data. Yet women make up only 2% of the open source software community and 10% of Wikipedia editors.
How we’re changing open technology and culture
The Ada Initiative helps women get and stay involved in open source, open data, open education, and other areas of free and open technology and culture. These communities are changing the future of global society. If we want that society to be socially just and to serve the interests of all people, women must be involved in its creation and organization.
The Ada Initiative is a feminist organization. We strive to serve the interests and needs of women in open technology and culture who are at the intersection of multiple forms of oppression, including disabled women, women of color, LBTQ women, and women from around the world.
We are making a difference in open technology and culture by:
- Supporting and connecting women in these communities
- Changing the culture to better fit women, instead of changing women to fit the culture
- Helping women overcome internalized sexism that is the result of living within the existing culture
- Asking men and influential community members to take responsibility for culture change
- Giving people the tools they need to change their communities (e.g., policies and ally skills)
- Creating sustainable systems to support feminist activists in these communities
- Being the change we want to see by making our own events and communities safer and more inclusive
We believe that making significant progress towards our mission is only possible by compensating people fairly for their work. For that reason, the Ada Initiative does not rely on volunteers for any task that exceeds more than a few hours a week. Paying women market wages for their work is a feminist act.
What we’ve accomplished
The Ada Initiative has reached over two million people since our founding in January 2011. The AdaCamp conference has been described as “life-changing” and “the best conference I ever attended.” AdaCamp measurably increases women’s commitment to open tech/culture and helps women get open tech/culture jobs, strengthen support networks, inspire new initiatives, and learn technical skills. Our conference anti-harassment policy is now in force at hundreds of events, including most open source conferences and the world’s largest Wikipedia conference. We advised dozens of organizations on how attract more women speakers and attendees to events, including PyCon US 2013, which had a record-breaking 20% women attendees. The Ally Skills Workshop teaches people of all genders practical skills to support women in everyday work and life. For more details on our programs and strategy, see what we do.
When we began our work, most open tech/culture community members were unaware of the obstacles facing women in their communities, much less how to solve them. With the help of over 700 sponsors and donors and thousands of volunteers, we led a sweeping revolution in awareness of what women have to overcome to participate of open tech/culture. Now the majority opinion is that the lack of women in open tech/culture is a problem and people of all genders have a responsibility to solve that problem.
People of the Ada Initiative
Mary Gardiner and Valerie Aurora co-founded the Ada Initiative in January 2011. Our goal was to advance the cause of supporting women in open technology and culture by paying activists to work full-time on solutions. Previously, we volunteered for over ten years in open source software, open culture communities, and women in computing activism.
The Ada Initiative’s Board of Directors includes Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Rachel Chalmers, principal of Ignition Venture Partners and Alicia Gibb, Executive Director of Open Source Hardware Association. We draw upon the experiences and wisdom of a diverse advisory board including people involved in open source software, Wikipedia, open hardware, computer security, feminist activism, and fandom.
The Ada Initiative is named for Countess Ada Lovelace, widely acknowledged as the world’s first computer programmer. Since she published the source code of her program, the world’s first programmer was also a woman open source programmer. We think this sets an excellent precedent.