Author Archives: valerieadainitiative

About valerieadainitiative

Co-founder and former Executive Director of the Ada Initiative.

Free Ally Skills Workshop for attendees of LinuxCon Seattle August 17

Would you like to be part of changing the culture of Linux to be more welcoming to women, newcomers, and marginalized people? You can help by attending the Ally Skills Workshop at LinuxCon NA in Seattle on August 17 from 2:20pm to 5:20pm. The workshop is free to LinuxCon attendees thanks to an anonymous donation of $100,000 to the Ada Initiative from a Linux kernel developer.

A woman explains while a man listens

Ally Skills Workshop discussion

The Ally Skills Workshop teaches men how to support women in their workplaces and communities, by effectively speaking up when they see sexism, creating discussions that allow more voices to be heard, and learning how to prevent sexism and unwelcoming behavior in the first place. The changes that reduce sexism also make communities more welcoming, productive, and creative.

You can attend the workshop by applying on the form on the event page. Register for LinuxCon NA 2015 here.

The workshop is made possible by the generosity of an anonymous Linux kernel developer who donated $100,000 to the Ada Initiative last year in order to support women in Linux and greater diversity in open source software overall. This is the second of four workshops we will be teaching at Linux-related conferences in 2015 at no charge to the organizers.

Here are a few things people have said after attending other Ally Skills Workshops:

“We’ve run the [Ally Skills Workshop] 4 times and the impact has been fantastic. This workshop has been the catalyst for many ‘a­ha’ moments. People who understood bias exists in a very logical way, were able to see, through the conversation with peers about the very relevant scenarios, and connect emotionally with the impact bias has on the colleagues they respect and interact with daily.” – Anonymous participant

“I’ve already witnessed a couple of incidents where coworkers who attended the workshop corrected themselves after saying something that could be misconstrued.” – Anonymous participant

“Change is uncomfortable. This workshop helped me be comfortable about being uncomfortable. Once that is addressed it opens a path for improvement, personally and for our industry.” – Kris Amundson

You can be part of change in the Linux kernel development community! Sign up for the Ally Skills Workshop at today!

Crystal Huff leaving the Ada Initiative

We are sad to announce that Crystal Huff is moving on from executive director of the Ada Initiative, effective today. We are grateful for the energy and enthusiasm Crystal brought to the job, and wish her the best in all her future endeavors!

While the Ada Initiative board of directors decides the organization’s next steps, Valerie Aurora will serve as interim Executive Director. We are looking forward to running three more AdaCamps and teaching many more Ally Skills Workshops and Impostor Syndrome Trainings in 2015. Thank you to all our supporters who make this work possible!

Support diversity in Linux by attending an Ally Skills Workshop at SCALE 13x

SCALE 13 logoDo you think diversity in Linux is important? Would you like to be part of changing the culture of Linux to be more welcoming to women, newcomers, and marginalized people? You can help by attending the Ally Skills Workshop at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE 13x) on February 20th, 2015, in Los Angeles, California, thanks to an anonymous donation of $100,000 to the Ada Initiative from a Linux kernel developer.

The Ally Skills Workshop teaches men how to support women in their workplaces and communities, by effectively speaking up when they see sexism, creating discussions that allow more voices to be heard, and learning how to prevent sexism and unwelcoming behavior in the first place. The changes that reduce sexism also make communities more welcoming, productive, and creative.

A woman explains while a man listens

Ally Skills Workshop discussion

The workshop is free of charge to all attendees of SCALE 13x with a full access pass. You can attend by signing up through the form on the event page. If you haven’t already registered for SCALE 13x, you can get a 50% discount on your full access pass with discount code ADA15, for a total price of $35 (register here).

The workshop is made possible by the generosity of an anonymous Linux kernel developer who donated $100,000 to the Ada Initiative last year in order to support women in Linux and greater diversity in open source software overall. This is only the first of four workshops we will be teaching at Linux-related conferences in 2015 at no charge to the organizers. Contact us if you would like your conference to host an Ally Skills Workshop.

Here are a few things people have said after attending other Ally Skills Workshops:

“We’ve run the [Ally Skills Workshop] 4 times and the impact has been fantastic. This workshop has been the catalyst for many ‘a­ha’ moments. People who understood bias exists in a very logical way, were able to see, through the conversation with peers about the very relevant scenarios, and connect emotionally with the impact bias has on the colleagues they respect and interact with daily.” – Anonymous participant

“I’ve already witnessed a couple of incidents where coworkers who attended the workshop corrected themselves after saying something that could be misconstrued.” – Anonymous participant

“Change is uncomfortable. This workshop helped me be comfortable about being uncomfortable. Once that is addressed it opens a path for improvement, personally and for our industry.” – Kris Amundson

You can be part of change in the Linux kernel development community! Sign up for the Ally Skills Workshop at SCALE 13x today!

Sue Gardner: "In Silicon Valley we have on-site hair-cut buses and dry-cleaning and celebrity chefs, but we don't offer daycare"

Photograph of Sue Gardner speaking at Wikimania 2011

Sue Gardner, © Martina Nolte, CC BY-SA

Sue Gardner is a fearless feminist! She is also a seasoned leader who works actively to promote the contributions of women in the Silicon Valley tech sector. Sue was CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation for seven years, and served as a Senior Director in public broadcasting for many years before that. She was a founding member of the Ada Initiative’s Board of Directors. We are grateful for her leadership, courage and support! Please join her in supporting the Ada Initiative, and donate now!

Donate now

“I worked in public broadcasting for the majority of my career at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and we had a lot of women in positions of authority there,” recalls Sue Gardner. “I had feminist role models, who invested in women. When I moved to the Bay Area to take over Wikimedia, I was astonished and honestly angry at the lack of women, everywhere!

Gardner recalls her initial three-month tour of the Bay Area, getting to know key contacts in the tech and open source community. “I had dozens of meetings and in that time I did not meet a single woman who was not bringing us drinks in the board room or scheduling our meetings. At one point I started trying to place the year culturally in Silicon Valley tech – was it 1967? 1972?”

A woman speaking in front of a laptop

Valerie Aurora, CC BY-SA Adam Novak.

Puzzled and disturbed, Sue began searching for relevant articles and literature to give her a wider perspective and came across “How to Encourage Women in Linux“, an article that Ada Initiative co-founder Valerie Aurora had written in 2002.

“It was so helpful to read because I could reverse-engineer out of it some of the main obstacles that were keeping women out of tech,” she says. “And it was fascinating to me because it both addressed why there were so few women in Linux and also how to encourage the women who were braving the difficult environment. It gave specific examples of things not to do (i.e. don’t tell sexist jokes) and also examples of pro-active actions to take (i.e. protest when others tell sexist jokes).”

Gardner was thrilled when Val and Mary committed themselves to working for women in tech full-time and founded the Ada Initiative. She was a member of the Board of Directors for three years and continues to serve on the Advisory Board.

The founding of the Ada Initiative was so special and important because, first of all, somebody was putting up their hand to actually do something. And because Val worked on the Linux kernel, she came from inside and brought true subject matter expertise to bring to the issue. She really knew the terrain and the culture. To have both of those things – the gender expertise and the subject expertise was incredibly unusual. I was excited and got involved.”

Mary Gardiner speaking with upraised hand

Mary Gardiner speaking at Wikimania, CC-BY-SA Alejandro Linares Garcia

Gardner brought the Ada Initiative in to help Wikimedia in a number of ways. “We asked them to help us design the Wikimania anti-harassment code of conduct and enforce it at the conference,” she says. “They also ran an AdaCamp at Wikimania in late 2012. And Val vetted many of our technical job descriptions, as well as our hiring process so that Wikimedia tech positions were friendly to the women we wanted to attract.”

When asked about her response to the tech industry’s dearth of women, Gardner responded with the broad perspective that comes with long-term experience. “I’m a boss. I run things. So I think a lot about effectiveness and efficiency and use of resources. From that perspective I find the situation offensive because there are only two things you can believe. You can believe that women are less capable than men or you can believe that women are undervalued. And that is wasteful. It offends me as a manager and a boss, that we would not make use of this resource, that we would stand by as women fall out of the pipeline.”

80 women cheering and wearing many different colors, CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

All AdaCamps offer free childcare, CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

She goes on to talk about the irrationality that is encoded in much of tech culture – the decisions made by men in positions in authority based on what they need and desire. “It would serve us well, as funders and bosses to try to catch ourselves when we are being irrational,” she says. “In Silicon Valley we have on-site hair-cut buses and dry-cleaning and celebrity chefs, but we don’t offer daycare.

She is grateful for the Ada Initiative’s work and the tangible impact and results that she has seen. “My experience with Ada is that they are doing really great work and it is long overdue and it needs to happen,” she says. “This is not the kind of problem that gets solved by one intervention, but they are a key piece. Part of the value of Ada is that they make it safe for women to have these conversations – the kind of conversations that second wave feminists had in the business world decades ago. They put the conversation on the agenda and make space for them to happen.”

We are so grateful for Sue’s expertise, good words and support! Please join her in supporting the Ada Initiative and help us reach our 2014 fundraising goal, so we can continue to scale up our work!

Donate now

Free Ally Skills Workshop for attendees of LinuxCon Chicago August 21

Two women smiling wearing green badge lanyards

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Want to do your part in making the Linux community more welcoming to women and people of all sorts? Planning to attend this year’s LinuxCon NA in Chicago? Then you should sign up for the free Ada Initiative’s Ally Skills Workshop at LinuxCon, from 2:30pm to 5:30pm on Thursday, August 21st. Attendance is free to LinuxCon attendees (you must be registered for LinuxCon to attend).

The Ally Skills Workshop (formerly called the Allies Workshop) teaches men simple, everyday ways to support women in their workplace and communities, in an engaging, discussion-oriented format. After a brief introduction on basic principles of responding to sexism (choose your battles, practice simple responses, you don’t have to be funny, etc.), we discuss real-world scenarios and figure out ways to respond to them. Here’s one review:

Woman explaining while a man listens

Workshop discussion

This was an amazing class. Great scenarios, great conversations. I really enjoyed not only the guided discussion, but break out conversations with co-workers were hugely enlightening. I’d love to have more honest and frank conversation along that line with [my colleagues].” – Joseph Bironas

People love the practical focus and walk away with skills they can use right away:

“I’ve already witnessed a couple of incidents where coworkers who attended the workshop corrected themselves after saying something that could be misconstrued.” – Anonymous participant

I liked how it focused on concrete actions and behaviors we could use immediately, not theory.” – Ashley Penney

And other attendees learned new ways to think about and respond to sexism in general:

Smiling woman

Workshop leader Valerie Aurora

“The most useful thing I got out of the class was the underlying notion of asserting and defending community values when responding to sexism, rather than addressing the responsible individual directly.” – Anonymous participant

While the workshop is aimed at teaching ally skills to men, it works best with at least 20% women in attendance, so we welcome people of all genders at the workshop!

Sounds like something you’d like to learn? Sign up for the Ally Skills Workshop at LinuxCon now. If you can’t attend LinuxCon, contact us at contact@adainitiative.org to find out how you can run the workshop at your workplace.

LinuxCon features several other events to support women and newcomers in Linux, including the First Time Attendees’ Reception and the Women in OSS luncheon. The Ada Initiaive’s Executive Director will be attending as many of these events as possible as well as teaching the Ally Skills Workshop.

Looking forward to seeing you at LinuxCon and the Ally Skills Workshop!

Several people in discussion around a table

Allies workshop discussion

Applications open: AdaCamp Portland, June 21 – 22

Women in open tech/culture

CC-BY-SA Adam Novak

Applications for AdaCamp Portland are now open!

AdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture: open source software, Wikipedia-related projects, open data, open geo, library technology, fan fiction, remix culture, and more. AdaCamp brings women together to build community, share skills, discuss problems with open tech/culture communities that affect women, and find ways to address them.

AdaCamp Portland will be in downtown Portland, Oregon at the New Relic offices. The main track will be on Saturday June 21 and Sunday June 22, 2014, just before Open Source Bridge 2014. A shorter Ally Skills track for people who want to learn how to support women in open tech/culture will be on Monday June 23.

Apply to AdaCamp here

About AdaCamp

AdaCamp

AdaCamp sticker

AdaCamp is the world’s only event focusing on women in open technology and culture, and is a project of the Ada Initiative, a non-profit supporting women in open technology and culture. Both are named after Countess Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer. Attendance at AdaCamp is by invitation, with applications open to the public. Attendees will be selected based on experience in open tech/culture, experience or knowledge of feminism and advocacy, ability to collaborate with others, and any rare or notable experience or background that would add to AdaCamp.

Sponsorships

A limited number of conference sponsorships are available. Benefits include making a public statement of your company’s values, recruiting opportunities, and reserved attendance slots for qualified employees, depending on level. Contact sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information.

Contact

If you have any questions, please email us at adacamp@adainitiative.org.

Breaking the Unicorn Law: Stop asking women in open tech/culture about women in open tech/culture

Have you heard of the Unicorn Law? Formulated by Emma Jane Westby, it states:

“If you are a woman in Open Source, you will eventually give a talk about being a woman in Open Source.”

Tapestry of unicorn bucking in the midst of dogs and hunters

This unicorn has had enough

We recently read a post by a woman in open source software[1] that reminded us of the Unicorn Law. The author was nostalgic for the days before everyone was talking about sexism in open source, when she felt like she could fit in more easily in the open source community.

We sympathize – and so did many other folks. Over the last few years, people and organizations like Geek Feminism and the Ada Initiative have raised awareness of sexism in open technology and culture to the point that it can’t be ignored. Now, women who used to be able to “fly under the radar” and concentrate on writing code or editing Wikipedia are getting pulled into the fight against sexism, whether they want to participate or not. (Of course, some women were never able to fly under the radar in the first place, especially if they were women of color, trans women, and/or women who dress in more feminine styles, to name a few.)

Medieval woodcut of a unicorn pawing at a woman's lap

Augh! I am so sick of unicorns!

Part of making open tech/culture more welcoming to women is not putting the responsibility for fighting sexism on every woman in these fields, whether or not she has the energy or interest to do so. Giving women an extra job in addition to their work in open tech/culture won’t make it a better environment for them. (See the chapter on “How to Speak for All Black People” in Baratunde Thurston’s “How to be Black” for a satirical take on a similar problem facing black people in the U.S.)

We think the solution to the Unicorn Law isn’t asking people to stop working to end sexism in open tech/culture. Instead we should stop asking all women to be feminist activists. Here are some ways to do that.

Breaking the Unicorn Law

If you’re curious about women in open tech/culture, that’s great! But the time to learn about that is not when you meet a(nother) woman in open tech/culture. Don’t say things to her like:

  • What is it like being a woman in $FIELD?
  • Why do you think there are so few women in $FIELD?
  • What do you think about $SEXIST_THING?
  • I know another woman in $FIELD, I will introduce you!
  • What do you think about $WOMEN’S_GROUP_IN_FIELD?

She’d probably rather be talking about Wikipedia or open hardware or whatever her field is. Even if her job is feminist activism, she’s probably had these conversations many times before (which is one reason the Geek Feminism Wiki was started). Here’s what you can do instead:

  • Search for blog posts, videos, and podcasts talking about what it’s like to be a woman in $FIELD.
  • Search for “women $FIELD”, “feminism $FIELD,” or explore the Geek Feminism Wiki.
  • Find feminist thinkers and organizations that regularly write about $SEXIST_THINGS in your field and read what they write.
  • Introduce women in your field to people who can help their projects or careers, regardless of gender.
  • Search for “why $WOMEN’S_GROUP_IN_FIELD”.

Of course, if she brings up the subject, go ahead and talk about it, while paying attention to her level of interest, what areas she wants to talk about, and when she’s ready to change the subject.

Beyond the Unicorn Law: Slay some dragons

Woman in armor with dragon

Let’s stretch this metaphor way too far!

Once you’ve learned more about sexism in your field, you may find yourself interested in actively working to stop sexism yourself. That is very cool! In fact, the only way we can end discrimination against women is if people of all genders voluntarily step up and take on some of the work. Here are some ideas for what to do next:

Fighting social injustice isn’t easy, but we’re making progress and together we can make a difference.


[1] We don’t agree with all of this post!