Category Archives: Ada Initiative resources in use

Leading open source conference PyCon US shares response/report guidelines for harassment

PyCon US 2013PyCon US continues to be a leader in the “Most Welcoming Open Tech/Culture Conference Ever” category. PyCon US just published their guidelines for both people reporting harassment and for how staff should respond, all the way from first contact to final action. They are partly based on almost 2 years of the Ada Initiative’s real-world experience helping conference organizers. PyCon US is the first conference to publish their guidelines for handling incidents, only 17 days after the Ada Initiative’s example guidelines came out.

Jesse Noller, chair of PyCon US 2012 and 2013, writes:

We hope that providing these documents and procedures publicly, we reenforce our dedication to providing a safe and welcoming environment to everyone. We also hope to inspire other conferences – big and small – to adopt similar procedures and public documentation.

Between these guidelines, the PyLadies travel sponsorships for women, early and enthusiastic adoption of an anti-harassment policy, and the overall culture of the Python community, PyCon US sounds like the the top open source conference for women in the U.S.. Registration is open now.

For other conference organizers, we can’t emphasize this enough: Conference sponsors love this kind of preparation and public commitment. Sponsorship is all about publicly demonstrating an organization’s values, and sponsors know with organizers taking steps like this, they can be proud of their sponsorship.

Congratulations to the entire PyCon US organizing committee for taking conference organization to the next level!

Report-out from BruCON, first hacker conference with anti-harassment policy

BruCONWim Remes, an organizer of the BruCON security/hacker conference, sent us a report on how having an anti-harassment policy affected last week’s BruCON conference. BruCON is the winner of our hacker conference policy challenge back in August: We pledged to promote the first hacker conference to adopt a specific, public, enforceable anti-harassment policy.

Wim reports “Having a policy didn’t change the overall atmosphere of the conference AT ALL! If anything, I would say that it helped to create awareness of the issue and allowed everybody to discuss it.” For context, here’s this review of BruCON 2011 by Security Ninja: “I had a great time and I have to thank the people who made BruCON happen, it was one of the best conferences I’ve attended!” Many hacker conference attendees argue that harassment is a required part of hacker culture; BruCON continues to prove this wrong.

Wim also reports that having a policy made him think harder about conference entertainment. “It made me more aware of the issue. While planning our party, I contracted a professional entertainment company to provide dancers and hosts/hostesses. I specifically requested a 50/50 balance between male and female dancers/hosts/hostesses and the organizer mentioned she was not used to this type of requests (mostly female hostesses/dancers are requested) but was happy to oblige. The team mentioned afterwards that the BruCON audience was one of the most respectful audiences they have ever worked for.”

BruCON has an impressive percentage of women speakers and workshop organizers: 33% (1 out of 3 keynote) speakers was a woman, as were 18% (3 out of 17) of speakers and 21% (4 out of 19) workshop organizers . Wim reports, “While I did prod some [women] to submit to our CFP, all of them were vetted by the CFP team and made it to the schedule on their own strength.” This is standard practice for conferences wanting to increase women speakers: personally encourage women to submit talks, then judge all submissions entirely on merit.

The organizers heard of only one minor incident, swiftly handled by the person herself referring to the anti-harassment policy. An attendee made a remark that made a woman attendee uncomfortable. She reminded him of the policy and got an instant apology. She was quite happy with the result and the ability to refer to the policy.

This is how policies change the conversation: it turned at least one woman’s experience from a negative, unwelcoming one to a positive reminder that she was welcome at the conference.

Wim summarizes: “In general, the feedback about BruCON is that it is a conference where you feel amongst friends if not family. To keep that atmosphere, I’m happy that we have created a tool that can allow us to manage the issue as we grew.”

Finally, an invitation from BruCON organizers to next year’s conference: “We welcome all of you at BruCON!

The BruCON anti-harassment policy would not exist without the Ada Initiative’s work. We are a non-profit funded primarily by donations from people like you. If you believe more women should attend hacker conferences, please become a supporting donor today.

Donate now

We support DEFCON Kids – do we support DEFCON women?

Girls at computers

By Lorena Ceron CC BY-SA-3.0

We’re thrilled about the DEFCON Kids program, a track at the world’s largest hacker conference to encourage young people to become hackers (in the positive sense). But we’re also angry that once the girls in this program become women, they face aggressive sexual harassment and even assault at DEFCON and other hacker conferences.

If we support and encourage girls under 18 to become hackers, shouldn’t we also support women over 18, who currently have to put up with groping and requests to “show their tits” if they want to be hackers?

Unfortunately, hundreds of hackers argue that that sexual assault and harassment are a required part of hacker culture, that women deserve to be harassed if they wear the wrong clothes, that groping doesn’t “hurt anyone”, and that women shouldn’t go to hacker conferences if they don’t want to be groped and insulted. And that’s leaving out the comments from Reddit and Slashdot.

With help of our supporters, the Ada Initiative made a real difference for women in the hacker community. We wrote an editorial describing why sexual harassment and assault at hacker conferences hurts women and how to end it. Within days, two hacker conferences, BruCON and DeepSec, immediately adopted conference anti-harassment policies, with several more discussing it for next year! The article had nearly 50,000 page views and reached hundreds of thousands more people on Schneier on Security, Hacker News, CNET, Linux Weekly News, and Slashdot.

Ada's Angel 2012 t-shirt - detail

Click here to donate

We need your help to keep running successful programs like the AdaCamp unconference for women in open technology and culture, and our far-reaching work making conferences women-friendly (which already changed over 100 conferences). Your donation truly makes a difference: individual donations make up over 50% of our funding.

If you donate now, you can get an Ada Initiative t-shirt. Wear it to your next hacker conference and support women without saying a word!

Donate now

"Conferences are not intended to create bad memories, only good ones" DeepSec organizer René Pfeiffer

DeepSec logoDeepSec is the second hacker conference to adopt a public, enforceable anti-harassment policy in response to the Ada Initiative’s article about pervasive harassment of women at several hacker conferences (which called out DeepSec’s existing reputation as one of the most welcoming conferences for women).

We interviewed René Pfeiffer, one of the organizers of DeepSec about the conference, why they adopted a policy, and what they are looking forward to at future DeepSec conferences. It sounds like a great conference from all reports!

Tell us a little about DeepSec.

DeepSec’s full name is “In-Depth Security Conference”. The focus is on information security, and we like to present content which is not purely driven by marketing purposes. We are not a simple tradeshow with a “IT security” sticker slapped on the schedule. We try to be a platform where members of the academic community, governments, industry and (underground) hacking community meet in order to talk about security and exchange ideas. We believe in keeping an open mind and tearing down artificial barriers between groups that have a lot to talk about, but can’t in their normal environment. Most security related problems get worse if communication breaks down, so talking to each other is an important aspect of dealing with security breaches. This is what CERTs are preaching and what DeepSec tries to implement on conference-level.

The advantage to meet in person and talk and discuss certain issues from each perspective will give everyone involved a brighter understanding about needs and topics in the vast field of IT security, combined by interesting talks and new business opportunities.

The DeepSec event itself consists of two days of trainings followed by a two-day conference. We organise a dinner for all speakers and staff, and we have a party at the Metalab, a local hacker space, after the conference.

How did DeepSec get started?

In 2007 Paul Böhm created the DeepSec conference from scratch because he felt that a security-related conference where everyone can attend and talk openly was missing. He selected Vienna, Austria, as location which has been traditionally a bridge between different regions. Paul put a lot of effort into the first DeepSec and did a terrific job to kick-start it into existence.

What made you decide to adopt an anti-harassment policy?

There were two motivations. The first one were the experiences from other events participants wrote about. While we don’t feel that conferences and events turn into places of harassment in general, we like to do our part to work against this. It really doesn’t matter if there was a case already or not. The second motivation stems from the place DeepSec wants to be. We have a very international audience with roots in four different continents. If we want to create an atmosphere where everyone feels relaxed and is treated with respect, then we have to actively maintain this environment. Trust, respect and safe places do not automatically exist, they have to be created; you need people who care and who make sure an event stays hospitable.

Fortunately our staff cares, so our anti-harassment policy is really a statement of what we have been doing and trying to create since the first conference anyway.

What would you like to see at the next DeepSec?

We would like to see more people holding presentations and workshops who are not sure if their skills are “in-depth” enough, or who are not sure if they can handle speaking on stage. We actively support students with bright ideas with our under 21 category, and we will maintain a mixture of seasoned security experts and those who like a chance to become one. Everyone needs a start. Fresh perspectives never hurt, and we will actively support you if you let us know about the work you have done or are doing.

And for all the companies that are listening, please do not always think in leads when dealing with IT security. Be part of the community instead and show this proudly. Companies can have open minds, too.

Anything else you’d like to say?

We are well aware that small conferences have a lot of advantages compared to big events when it comes to publishing and enforcing an anti-harassment policy or protecting all attendees. If you are part of a team organising one of these big events, please consider to signal everyone thinking about attending that you want everyone to enjoy the talks, to have fun and not to be harassed for any reason. While you cannot control every single situation and second of your event, you can clearly state what you expect from everyone being there, and you can instruct your staff to do the same. It’s a simple step. Conferences are not intended to create bad memories, only good ones.

The DeepSec and BruCON anti-harassment policies would not exist without the Ada Initiative’s work. We are a non-profit funded primarily by donations from people like you. If you believe more women should attend hacker conferences, please become a supporting donor today.

Donate now

Interview with BruCON organizers, winner of hacker conference anti-harassment policy challenge

BruCONWe have a winner to our hacker conference anti-harassment policy challenge! BruCON, a computer security conference in Belgium, designed, adopted, and publicly announced an anti-harassment policy within 5 days of our post. A close second was DeepSec, another European computer security conference.

BruCON sounds like a great conference run by thoughtful people who are focused on attendees getting a lot out of the conference, technically and otherwise. We wanted to know more about BruCON and why they adopted a policy, so we asked the BruCON organizers for an interview. Wim Remes kindly answered our questions.

Conference organizers will be especially interested in reading Wim’s answers, as he describes his thought process around adopting a policy. “[…] My first reaction was “we don’t need this”. Being a […] white male that is obviously a very easy conclusion to make so I challenged myself. […] As we are growing we will gradually lose control about who attends our conference and how they behave themselves.

Q: Tell us a little about BruCON.

BruCON is an annual security and hacker conference providing two days of an interesting atmosphere for open discussions of critical infosec issues, privacy, information technology and its cultural/technical implications on society. Organized in Belgium, BruCON offers a high quality line up of speakers, security challenges and interesting workshops. BruCON is a conference by and for the security and hacker community.

The conference tries to create bridges between the various actors active in computer security world, included but not limited to “hackers,” security professionals, security communities, non-profit organizations, CERTs, students, law enforcement agencies, etc.

We are a registered non-profit organisation and our main goal is to create a bridge between security professionals and “hackers.” “Hackers” being “persons who delight in having an intimate understanding of the internal understanding of a system, computers and computer networks in particular”, not the criminal kind you might think of!

Q: How did BruCON get started?

The idea about BruCON developed in 2009, mainly driven by Security 4 All together with about 5 other core people. The security conference landscape in Europe looked pretty grim as almost all events were very commercial and focused on products rather than knowledge. The only real exception being the Chaos Computer Club conference, the group felt there was room for another forum where geeks could converge and share knowledge through presentations, workshops and trainings. With help from some very generous sponsors and an awesome group of volunteers, the first BruCON materialized and, as they say, the rest is history.

Today we attract about 400 attendees from all over the world for 2 days of trainings and a 2 day conference all focusing on information security and hacking.

What made you decide to adopt an anti-harassment policy?

When I first read about the idea, I honestly had to give it some thought. We have, to my knowledge, not received any complaints about harassment at BruCON and my first reaction was “we don’t need this.” Being a (slightly overweight ;-)) white male that is obviously a very easy conclusion to make so I challenged myself and there were two main factors that influenced my decision to do this:

  • As we are growing we will gradually lose control about who attends our conference and how they behave themselves. The “social fabric” that is woven reasonably tightly right now will loosen and if that ever happens to a degree where people see opportunity to harass others, we want to have a formal policy that is enforceable. We have that now.
  • Being inclusive is at the core value of BruCON and while there doesn’t seem to be an immediate need to adopt such a policy, I think it emphasizes the spirit of BruCON extremely well. It doesn’t matter who or what you are, if you come to share knowledge, you have a spot at BruCON.

Q: What would you like to see at the next BruCON?

That’s a difficult one as we are in the awesome position of not making are conference about the conference itself but about its attendees and speakers. We draw a lot of students and persons testing the waters of information security, we also draw seasoned researchers that find a forum to collaborate. If we receive one e-mail that tells us one of those new persons has started a career in information security or a few researchers come up with some kick-ass research after they met at our con, that’s all we really need to keep doing this.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say?

We are really looking forward to working with this policy and hope that we will not need to enforce it. As we seem to be the first to do this, we will also carefully gather as much data as possible on reactions, reports and other things we experience along the way. I will personally follow up with an analysis post-con and I’m looking forward to share that with you as well. Finally, we would like to thank Brian Honan for bringing the policy to our attention and David Mortman for helping with adapting it for our conference.

Adafruit selling Ada Lovelace stickers

You’ve probably heard of Adafruit, the woman-founded open source electronics company that makes and sells kits for open hardware projects. Now Adafruit is selling Ada Lovelace stickers in both color and black and white:

Adafruit Ada Lovelace sticker in color

Adafruit Ada Lovelace sticker in color

Adafruit Ada Lovelace sticker in black and white

Adafruit Ada Lovelace sticker in black and white

While you’re there, take a look at the electronics kits and other projects and think about taking some time to work through them with the young engineer in your life.

Ada Initiative news, October 2011

AdaCamp launch

We announced the first of a series of events bringing together women in open tech/culture: AdaCamp Australia (fill out the call for expressions of interest on that page if you are interested in attending). If you want to participate but can’t travel to Melbourne in January, we are tentatively planning to hold similar events in other locations during the next year, most likely the West and East coasts of the U.S. and Europe.

Geek Feminism

Mary has added a number of new pages to the Geek Feminism wiki in response to requests and suggestions, including:

As always, we invite you to expand and improve on the Geek Feminism wiki! See the Geek Feminism blog post for some suggested improvements.

Ada portrait watch

Wikipedia’s WikiProject Women’s History are now using Colin Adams’s new Ada Lovelace portrait in their Ada Lovelace Award for editors who have made significant contributions to Wikipedia about women and technology.

Ada Lovelace Day

Congratulations to Suw Charman-Anderson and her team on another successful Ada Lovelace Day on the 7th October. Also congratulations to Sydney Padua, whose iPad app for 2D Goggles: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage launched that day. 2D Goggles was originally developed in support of Ada Lovelace Day, and later of course Sydney donated signed prints to our Seed 100 funding drive. Our advisor Bruce Byfield covered Sydney’s iPad app launch for LWN.

We hope our inspiration post was useful in planning your own Ada Lovelace Day writing and we’ve loved hearing all about these and other women in open technology and culture.


This month Valerie Aurora was listed on the FemmenomicsTop 50 Women to Watch in Tech” list. Congratulations to the other members of the list!

Filed for tax-exempt status

Last month we reported that we were nearly done with our application for tax-exempt status to the U.S., this month we can report that we completed and submitted our application, less than 9 months after founding the Ada Initiative! More details here.

Upcoming appearances

Valerie will be attending the 2011 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Portland, Oregon on November 9 – 12. Come see her at the open source booth or Open Source Day and get your Ada Initiative schwag: lanyards, stickers, buttons, etc.

Valerie and Mary will both be attending LCA 2012 in Ballarat, Australia from January 16 – 20. They will be giving a joint talk on “Women in open technology and culture worldwide.”

Upcoming events for women in open technology and culture

See our calendar for a full listing, and submit any additional events to

Sponsorship opportunities

The Ada Initiative’s Venture Philanthropist sponsorship program allows organisations to sponsor the Ada Initiative for sponsorship amounts between $2000 and $9999 (USD) with a minimum of hassle. Contact for larger sponsorship packages.