Category Archives: Ada Initiative news

Announcing the shutdown of the Ada Initiative

It is with mixed feelings that we announce that the Ada Initiative will be shutting down in approximately mid-October. We are proud of what we accomplished with the support of many thousands of volunteers, sponsors, and donors, and we expect all of our programs to continue on in some form without the Ada Initiative. Thank you for your incredible work and support!

What we accomplished

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

AdaCamp Portland attendees in 2014
CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

When the Ada Initiative was founded in 2011, the environment for women in open technology and culture was extremely hostile. Conference anti-harassment policies were rare outside of certain areas in fandom, and viewed as extremist attempts to muzzle free speech. Pornography in slides was a regular feature at many conferences in these areas, as were physical and sexual assault. Most open tech/culture communities didn’t have an understanding of basic feminist concepts like consent, tone policing, and intersectional oppression.

Anti-harassment policy and code of conduct work

With the support of hundreds of volunteers, the Ada Initiative led the drive to make strong, specific, and enforced anti-harassment policies a standard and expected part of any moderately well-run conference. Today, thousands of conferences have these policies, including many in the area of free and open source software, fandom, Wikimedia projects, computer technology, library technology, science writing, entomology, and many other areas we never expected to influence. This work is now completely community-driven; people everywhere are developing and improving codes of conducts for online communities.

AdaCamp unconferences

We ran our first AdaCamp unconference in 2012 in Melbourne, and ran six more AdaCamps in the following years, in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Portland, Berlin, Bangalore, and Montreal. Over 500 women had an experience many of them described as “life-changing.” AdaCamp awakened their feminist identity, helped them improve their careers, and connected them with a community of support. Many women realized for the first time that what they were going through was not unique to themselves, that their negative experiences were the result of systemic sexism, and that they could make changes in their lives with the help of women they met through AdaCamp. We created the AdaCamp Toolkit so that other people could run events more like AdaCamp. Among many other things, it includes step-by-step guides on how to provide food that matches attendees’ food restrictions, create access lanes to increase accessibility, and provide childcare, all available under the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.

Impostor Syndrome Training

Beginning at AdaCamp San Francisco in 2013, we taught a class for women in open tech/culture communities at every AdaCamp on overcoming Impostor Syndrome. Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that you are a fraud and will be found out as unqualified, often for the work you are already performing. Many women in open tech/culture experience Impostor Syndrome, and are excited to learn how to counteract it. We will be teaching the Impostor Syndrome workshop as a standalone class in August in Oakland and Sydney. Before we shut down, we will release the materials to run the class under the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.

The Ally Skills Workshop

The Ada Initiative created the Ally Skills Workshop in 2011, which teaches men how to use their societal advantages to do more of the emotional labor of pushing back against sexism and exclusionary behavior in their communities and workplaces. Research shows that when women speak up against sexism in the workplace, they often suffer retaliation, but when men speak up against sexism, they seldom suffer retaliation for it and sometimes even get rewarded. Cultural change happens more quickly when men, who are often in positions of greater power, are also actively working for change, especially in fields where women make up a small percentage of people involved. Women can then use the time and emotional energy they were spending on trying to make their community less sexist to work on their primary projects or main job duties.

In the past four years, the Ally Skills Workshop has been taught to over 2,000 people, and we formally trained over 40 people to teach the workshop. Already, at least five people are actively teaching the Ally Skills Workshops in several different open tech/culture communities and we hope more people will teach the workshop in the future. All the workshop materials, including the slides, presentation notes, workshop handouts, facilitator training guide, and video of a workshop, are available under the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.
Continue reading

Remembering Nóirín Plunkett

Photograph of Nóirín Plunkett

Nóirín Plunkett
by Tom Coates CC BY-NC

Valerie and Mary are devastated to learn today that our long-time friend and collaborator Nóirín Plunkett has died.

Nóirín will be remembered as a leading open source contributor; brilliant and compassionate and welcoming and funny. They were a long time leader in the Apache Software Foundation community, and a gifted speaker and documentation writer. Nóirín was key to the creation of the Ada Initiative in more ways than one. Since then they made invaluable contributions to the Ada Initiative as an advisor since February 2011, and a project manager in 2014. We are more grateful than we can say.

Nóirín was also one of the strongest and bravest people we will ever have the privilege of knowing.

Our thoughts are with everyone who loved Nóirín, everyone who worked with them, everyone who went to their talks or learned from their writing, everyone who met them at a conference, everyone for whom they made the open source and technical communities a better place.

The Ada Initiative has suspended donations for the time being. Some people close to Nóirín have suggested donating to:

Rape Abuse Incest National Network (see this note on variation of trans-inclusiveness of organizations they refer people to)

Center of Excellence for Transgender Health (please follow the additional instructions underneath the “Donate” button)

Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology

Announcing the end of the AdaCamp program

AdaCamp logo

We are deeply sorry to announce that the Ada Initiative will no longer run any more AdaCamp unconferences for women in open technology and culture. The recent departure of several staff members has left us without the capacity to run any more AdaCamps in 2015. In addition, AdaCamp has always cost more to run than we could raise in sponsorships, and that shows no signs of changing.

As a result, we have decided the most effective way to support women in open technology and culture is to stop running AdaCamps ourselves and instead open source the AdaCamp Toolkit – a collection of very detailed planning documents that lay out how to run an event like AdaCamp. We’ve already shared our AdaCamp policies for free re-use and will release the rest of the materials in the next month.

This is an incredibly difficult decision to make because we know that AdaCamp was literally life-changing for so many women. As a result of AdaCamp, women expanded their professional networks, founded new companies, overcame their Impostor Syndrome, moved into better jobs, got raises, built lasting friendships, and came out reinvigorated and inspired to make open technology and culture a better place. We don’t want this kind of revolutionary change to stop, which is why we are working on the final touches of the AdaCamp Toolkit and will release it free for use by all in the next month. We are excited by conferences such as &:conf and Open Source Bridge and recommend that would-be AdaCampers go to them.

As we have run only one of our four promised AdaCamps in 2015, we have offered a 100% refund to all of the AdaCamp 2015 sponsors, including Puppet LabsGoogle Montreal and Chrome, the Linux Foundation, Red Hat, Simple, Etsy, MongoDB, Plotly, Shopify and Engine Yard. Any funds left over will be used to help open source the AdaCamp Toolkit and further our work to support women in open technology and culture, such as the Ally Skills Workshop and Impostor Syndrome Training. We thank our sponsors again for their support of women in open technology and culture!

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

AdaCamp Portland attendees in 2014
CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Thank you so much to everyone who made AdaCamp possible, and especially the women who attended and took part in sessions. Together, we raised the bar for what to expect from a conference: explicit consent for photographs, designated access lanes, delicious food for everyone’s needs, quiet rooms, affordable accommodations, screening of attendees, speedy handling of harassment, and clearly stated expectations for respectful behavior. Dozens of conferences are more welcoming to people with disabilities, people with food restrictions, introverted people, and people who just want a more respectful environment. We hope AdaCampers will continue to be leaders in improving the conference experience for everyone!

Thank you outgoing volunteers Rachel Chalmers and Camille Acey

The Ada Initiative would like to thank two long time Ada Initiative volunteers who have recently stepped back from a volunteer position with us. Thank you for your work with us, to Rachel Chalmers, who served as a member of our board of directors for more than four years since our founding in 2011, and to Camille Acey, who served as an advisor in 2014 and 2015. Best wishes for your activism and other work in future!

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!

Ada Initiative welcomes Amelia Greenhall and Andrea Horbinski to our board of directors

The Ada Initiative’s governing board of directors, responsible for running our organization, welcomes our new directors Amelia Greenhall and Andrea Horbinski. Amelia and Andrea are existing members of our advisors group, and both bring us officer experience from other non-profits.

Photo of Amelia Greenhall

Amelia Greenhall is the Chief Creative Officer of Magic Vibes Corporation. She’s also the cofounder and Executive Director of Double Union, a non-profit feminist community workshop, and she publishes the Open Review Quarterly literary journal.

Woman smiling

Andrea Horbinski is a PhD candidate in history and new media at UC Berkeley. She is Secretary of the Board of the Organization for Transformative Works and the co-chair of Wiscon 40 in 2016.

The Ada Initiative also welcomes Sue Gardner back to the board of directors. Sue originally served as a director from 2011 until April 2014 and returns in 2015. Together, Amelia, Andrea and Sue comprise our officers in 2015; Amelia as President, Andrea as Secretary and Sue as Treasurer. They join continuing directors Rachel Chalmers, Mary Gardiner, Alicia Gibb, and Marina Zhurakhinskaya on the board for 2015.

This board transition is a significant milestone for the Ada Initiative, as one of our outgoing directors is Valerie Aurora, Ada Initiative co-founder, who served as both Executive Director and Board President from 2011 to 2015. We’re excited as an organization to be in a position to move beyond being governed by our founders! As announced in March, while she’s stepping down from her positions at the head of the organization, Valerie continues on our staff as the Director of Training under new Executive Director Crystal Huff. Our other co-founder, Mary Gardiner, remains as a board member and staff member. Mary intends to retire from the board in 2016.

We also thank our other outgoing directors, Sumana Harihareswara (2014–2015) and Caroline Simard (2012–2015) for their hard work on behalf of the Ada Initiative during their terms, and wish them good luck with their many other projects.

Welcoming Crystal Huff as the new Executive Director of the Ada Initiative

A smiling woman facing the camera with purple accents in her hair

Crystal Huff, our new Executive Director

Back in December, we announced that the Ada Initiative was looking for a new Executive Director. Three months and more than 130 amazing applications later, we are happy to announce that we have found her! On Monday, Crystal Huff will be the Ada Initiative’s new Executive Director, leading us in our mission to support women in open technology and culture.

Crystal has a long history of both professional and volunteer work in various parts of open technology and culture, with a particular commitment to anti-harassment work. She takes the place of our former Executive Director and co-founder, Valerie Aurora, who is staying with the Ada Initiative as Director of Training in charge of Ally Skills Workshops and similar classes. Under Crystal’s leadership, the Ada Initiative’s programs will continue to grow in reach and impact, while staying focused on women in open tech/culture and anti-harassment. Keep reading to learn more about our new director and the Ada Initiative’s plans!

Crystal combines executive experience from both the software industry and the science fiction and fantasy community. She served as the Chief Coherence Officer of Luminoso, a Boston-area startup building text analytics software that actively open sources some of its software. Her duties included establishing company policies, coordinating the hiring process during a period of high company growth, helping raise several million dollars in two rounds of funding, and serving as Scrum Master for the company’s Agile software development process. On the science fiction and fantasy side, Crystal has chaired or held key leadership positions with many volunteer-run SF&F conventions, including Readercon, a literary convention in its 26th year, and Arisia, New England’s largest and most diverse science fiction and fantasy convention. She is also an American representative on the executive board for the Helsinki bid for WorldCon in 2017, working with over 200 volunteers from 26 countries.

Crystal has a long history of anti-harassment work, including speaking about and advocating for anti-harassment policies at conventions worldwide. Her highest profile work was as the chair of the Readercon convention committee (concom) in 2012. A well-known member of the SF&F community harassed an attendee at the event and the Readercon board failed to enforce the con’s published anti-harassment policy. In partnership with Rose Fox, Crystal led the Readercon concom through a process of accountability and reform that resulted in a public apology, significant changes to the organization, and successful Readercon conventions in the years since. Their clear, honest, comprehensive public statement detailing their response is recommended reading for any organization serious about handling harassment well.

Crystal’s experience, qualifications, and demonstrated passion for our core mission are why we are incredibly excited to announce her joining the Ada Initiative as our new Executive Director! Crystal will continue to live and work in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, a well-known technology hub, and travel worldwide to spend time with women in open technology and culture and the people who support them.

What’s next for the Ada Initiative in 2015? Now that the Executive Director search is over, we can continue to grow the Ada Initiative’s staff with the goal of meeting the demand for our existing programs, including AdaCamps, Ally Skills Workshops, and Impostor Syndrome Training. Several new positions will probably open up over the next year, so if you have always wanted to work for the Ada Initiative, now is the time to start polishing your résumé! After we’ve ramped up our existing programs to match demand, we will investigate developing new programs and training, such as a much-requested workshop on how to handle harassment reports. We are excited to see what we can do!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to our Executive Director search! Thank you first and foremost to our two search committee chairs, Sumana Harihareswara and Mary Gardiner, and to our search consultant. Thank you to the rest of our search committee and our board of directors, who put in many hours of work into the process. Thank you to our advisors and everyone who spread the word about the position. Thank you to everyone who applied (all of the more than 130 of you – we’re so flattered!). And thank you to our donors and sponsors, each and every one of you, who make our work to support women in open technology and culture possible. We couldn’t do it without you!