Category Archives: Speaking engagements

Free Ally Skills Workshop for attendees of Ohio LinuxFest on Oct. 2

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 Ohio LinuxFest on October 2nd from 1:30pm to 4:00pm. The workshop is free to Ohio LinuxFest attendees thanks to an anonymous donation of $100,000 to the Ada Initiative from a Linux kernel developer. In addition to leading the workshop, Valerie Aurora will also be one of the keynote speakers at Ohio LinuxFest, on October 3rd.

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 Ohio LinuxFest here. The least expensive registration level is free if you register in advance, and $10 if you register on-site.

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 third 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 Ohio LinuxFest today!

Ada Initiative keynotes at Code4lib

Code4LibWe’re excited to announce that both Ada Initiative Executive Director Valerie Aurora and advisor Sumana Harihareswara will be giving keynote addresses at this year’s Code4Lib 9th Annual Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina on March 24-27, 2014. The Code4Lib community is “a volunteer-driven collective of hackers, designers, architects, curators, catalogers, artists and instigators from around the world, who largely work for and with libraries, archives and museums on technology ‘stuff.'” Valerie and Sumana were honored to be elected keynote speakers by an open vote of the Code4Lib community.

Valerie’s keynote address will be in the form of an on-stage conversation with Roy Tennant. The discussion will be about improving diversity in the Code4lib community, and will include questions from the Code4lib community. Roy is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research and author of a monthly newsletter and numerous books about technology in libraries, as well as one of many people calling for improved gender diversity in the library technology community.

The Code4lib community was formed in 2003 to allow library, archive and museum developers and technologists from around the world to informally share their approaches, techniques and code. Registration is currently closed, but if you are interested you can register for the waitlist . The conference will also be live streamed for those unable to attend in person.

If you have a question for Valerie about diversity in the Code4Lib community or library tech in general, please email We look forward to working with and meeting more people in the libtech community!

Rebooting the Ada Lovelace Mythos: Video, transcript, slides, and summary now available

A full length oil portrait of a woman in 19th c. dress

Ada Lovelace

How has the perception of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, changed through history? What does that changing view say about us as a society? That’s the subject of “Rebooting the Ada Lovelace Mythos,” the keynote at the world’s first conference celebrating the achievements of Countess Ada Lovelace, hosted at the Stevens Institute of Technology. Ada Initiative Executive Director Valerie Aurora was honored to give the keynote speech at this historic conference.

Now you can watch the video (with transcript), read the transcript alone, or read the slides of the whole talk here. A summary of the talk is at the end of this post.

As part of our mission to support women in open tech/culture, we work hard to make the video and transcript of Ada Initiative talks available to as many people as possible. Transcripts are surprisingly cheap and fast to create. We use and recommend StenoKnight CART Services, whose proprietor, Mirabai Knight, is also leader of the open source software stenography project, Plover. Make your videos accessible to those who can’t or don’t want to watch them and support women in open tech/culture, all at the same time!

Talk summary

Today, Countess Ada Lovelace is known primarily as the world’s first computer programmer, having published in 1843 a program written for an early computer designed (but never built) by Charles Babbage. But our view of Lovelace has changed significantly over time, starting with her early fame as the poet Lord Byron’s daughter and extending into deeply personal book-length attacks on her personality and accomplishments.

This talk discusses the changing perception of Ada Lovelace from her birth to 2013, with emphasis on how this reflects the importance of computing and the perceptions of women’s proper roles in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In Lovelace’s lifetime, science and mathematics were considered an appropriate leisure time pursuit of upper class Victorian society, including the occasional woman as long as she did not intrude too far. Today, women are still excluded from STEM at greater rates than men, but we also have a greater understanding of how this is happening and much wider agreement that we need to end discrimination against women in STEM. Over the same period of time, computers went from interesting curiousities to crucial components in multi-billion dollar industries and the military-industrial complex. What was once an unimportant piece of trivia – who wrote the first computer program – became a hotly contested symbol of the struggle to define who should be included in the computer revolution and who should be “naturally” left out.

In the end, all the popular versions of the Ada Lovelace mythos – world’s first computer programmer, Lord Byron’s daughter, delusional mentally ill gambler – are incomplete and often perpetuate harmful stereotypes about women in STEM. The talk ends with some proposals for new, more complex stories we could tell about Ada Lovelace, as a brilliant and flawed human being with variety of interests, who happened to see farther into the future of computing than anyone else for the next hundred years.

Wikimedia Diversity Conference

People sitting in chairs looking interested

CC BY-SA Christopher Schwarzkopf (WMDE)

The international Wikimedia Diversity Conference was held Nov. 9 – 10, 2013, in Berlin. This event focused on increasing gender and geographic diversity among contributors to Wikimedia projects like Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, and WikiVoyage. A full report was just posted on the Wikimedia blog today!

Ada Initiative Executive Director Valerie Aurora led a session on how to adapt diversity initiatives that worked in other open tech/culture communities to Wikimedia projects. The slides and notes are available online. You can also watch a short video (uncaptioned, in English) on the talk.

The main points of the talk were: a summary of what worked, a summary of what didn’t work, and suggestions and discussion for concrete steps going forward.

What worked and what didn’t

What we’ve seen work to increase diversity in open tech/culture are the following:

  • Building affinity groups
  • Leveraging conferences
  • Existing community leaders taking action
  • Paying people to do diversity work

What didn’t work were the following:

  • Only volunteers working on diversity
  • Organizing one-off workshops or events
  • Keeping problems secret/being nice to power
  • Preventing safe private spaces
  • Adopting vague and/or unenforceable codes of conduct
  • Flame-style discussion

The slides and notes go into greater detail on each of these points.

Suggestions for concrete steps forward

Here are all of the suggestions we made for taking concrete steps forward, based on what worked in open source software and matching it up with Wikimedia community style:

  • Create invite-only, private, safe spaces for affinity groups
  • Financially support some WikiProjects
  • Document discrimination in permanent, less “neutral” area
  • Develop funding stream to pay people to work on diversity
  • Support existing culture of social justice
  • Fund research into paid work already being done

The suggestions related to this list that the attendees particularly liked (and had often made themselves earlier in the conference) were summarized in the report-out from the gender diversity discussion group:

  • Create invitation-only online social group for women in Wikimedia projects
  • Adopt and enforce Friendly Space policy in online groups
  • Create Wiki Women’s User Group
  • Fund organize repeating, frequent, in-person events for WikiProjects
  • Support event organization: logistics support, policy cookbooks, training for organizers
  • Pay people to support WikiProjects (admin-type work, not editing)
  • Hold international women-only Wikimedia conference
  • More documentation: effectiveness of events, best practices

The Ada Initiative is continuing to work with Wikimedia community members to support their implementation of these ideas in their communities. If you’d like to contribute, please contact us at We hope to have more to report soon!

Ada Lovelace conference report-out

Last week was the world’s first conference celebrating the achievements of Countess Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer. Ada Initiative Executive Director Valerie Aurora attended and has this report-out:

Three women squinting into the sun

Dr. Robin Hammerman, Sydney Padua, and Valerie Aurora (CC-BY SA Dr. Robin Hammerman)

I never thought I’d have breakfast with two Ada Lovelace experts, much less go to an entire conference full of them! The first conference celebrating Ada Lovelace’s life and accomplishments was everything I had hoped for: a wide variety of papers and discussions on Lovelace’s work, the science fiction inspired by her life and times, issues affecting women in computer science, and the broader societal implications of her story.

One of our goals at the Ada Initiative is to give women varied and interesting role models in open technology and culture. This conference showed Ada Lovelace as a complex, multi-dimensional person who lived an exciting (if short) life. Besides writing an incredibly prescient paper on the potential of computing, she rode horses, played the harp, bet way too much money on horse races, had secret affairs, went to all the best scientific salons, suffered through various health problems, and was both close friends and colleagues with one of the most interesting people in Victorian-era society, the scientist, mathematician, and engineer Charles Babbage.

When I was a university student studying computer science and mathematics, I always resented the pressure to focus only on programming and give up my interests in music, literature, and art. I felt like I finally fit in at this conference, which was intentionally interdisciplinary, much like the host university, the Stevens Institute of Technology. The Ada Lovelace conference was a perfect fit for Stevens, which is engineering-oriented but strongly values an education in the arts and humanities as well.

Black and white poster with cartoon Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage holding silly sci-fi guns with the text "Lovelace and Babbage: They Fight Crime"

Sydney Padua’s Lovelace and Babbage comic

For me, the highlight of the conference was getting to meet Sydney Padua in person, the artist behind The Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. I couldn’t believe our luck when she agreed to help the Ada Initiative’s very first fundraiser by creating a custom print for our Seed 100 donors and I was looking forward to thanking her in person. Sydney had many interesting and insightful things to say about the Lovelace-Babbage friendship, historical trends in their reputations, and changes in the gender ratio of computer animators. She also gave us a sneak preview of her upcoming graphic novel!

My keynote address, “Rebooting the Ada Lovelace Mythos,” was well-attended, thanks in part to it being part of the Provost’s Lecture Series on Women in Leadership and open to the public. The talk was recorded and we will post it on the Ada Initiative web site when it is available (with captioning, of course).

Two women, a river, and downtown Manhattan

Sydney, Valerie, and the Manhattan skyline (CC-BY SA Dr. Robin Hammerman)

The faculty of the host university, the Stevens Institute of Technology, were all incredibly warm and welcoming, especially the conference organizer, Dr. Robin Hammerman. She told me that Stevens recently succeeded in increasing the percentage of women students to 30%, quite an accomplishment in a technology-oriented institution. Their dedication and creativity in making their school more attractive to and supportive of women gives me hope for the Ada Initiative’s goals and women in STEM in general. (Plus they have a fantastic view of downtown Manhattan from half of campus!)

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible: all the speakers, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Dr. Robin Hammerman especially!

Progress in 2013: Press appearances and speaking engagements

We’re reposting sections from our mid-year progress report for 2013. Read the entire report here.

Mary and Valerie laughing

CC-BY-SA Adam Novak

In 2013, the Ada Initiative became a go-to resource for journalists wanting to know more about the problems facing women in open technology and culture, both in the tech press and the mainstream media. In March, Valerie Aurora discussed the firing of Adria Richards in Slate, writing that:

one thing we can agree on is that the massive onslaught of rape and death threats [directed at Richards]… was wrong… It’s up to us to change the culture of consequence-free online harassment.

In June, we reached one million readers of the U.S. print edition of Marie Claire in “When Geeks Attack” by veteran feminist journalist Alissa Quart, writing:

… Thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, fueled by a dogmatic belief that all speech is free speech, [Internet attackers] have made the very act of being a woman in the industry something of an occupational hazard.

Valerie was interviewed on Minnesota Public Radio in July about the problem of harassment of women in technology and what to do about.

Valerie also spoke at several events in 2013. She appeared as an invited speaker at Fórum Internacional Software Livre in Brazil, moderated the good news on diversity in open source panel at Open Source Bridge, appeared as a panelist in the Gender & Technology open forum in San Francisco. She was also invited to be the keynote speaker at the first Ada Lovelace conference in October 2013.

AdaCamp, Github giveaways, feminist hacker lounges, and more: Progress in 2013

Women smiling

CC-BY-SA Adam Novak

2012 was a tipping point for women in open technology and culture. In 2013 the Ada Initiative has worked hard to build on that momentum, through the AdaCamp conference, Impostor Syndrome training, workshops, speeches, interviews in the mainstream media, and more. With your help, we’re continuing to make a difference for women in open technology and culture. Thank you so much for your support of our work!

Keep reading for a full report on our progress in 2013 so far. It’s a little TL;DR so we will repost each section separately throughout the coming week.

AdaCamp and other Ada Initiative events
Impostor Syndrome Training (new)
Workshops and community-building for allies
Supporting women open source developers (new)
Community campaigns (new)
Press appearances and speaking engagements
New Ada Initiative supporters

AdaCamp and other Ada Initiative events

Photograph of Jen Mei Wu, seated

AdaCamper Jen Mei Wu, photo by Sarah Sharp

In June, the Ada Initiative ran AdaCamp San Francisco, the third AdaCamp bringing women and their allies in open technology and culture together to talk about issues and problems women face and about how to solve them. AdaCamp continues to be our most popular and effective program for recruiting and retaining women in open tech/culture, which is why we invest about 3 months of staff time on each AdaCamp. For example, 85% of attendees surveyed said that AdaCamp San Francisco increased their commitment to open tech/culture!

AdaCamp San Francisco was our largest AdaCamp to date, double the size of AdaCamp DC in July 2012, with about 200 attendees. It was the first AdaCamp to feature a dedicated one-day allies track for people of any gender. To increase the diversity of the event we offered travel scholarships to attendees from countries including the United States, Canada, Mexico, India and Cambodia. AdaCamp is an unconference, and attendee-led sessions included: a Likeability Paradox discussion; diversity beyond gender, depression in activists, womyn of color, job seeking and career advice, and expressing femininity in technical spaces. We also incorporated Impostor Syndrome training and a make-a-thon and hackfest for the first time. Find out more about AdaCamp in our AdaCamp SF final report!

Netha Hussain explains the long-term impact of AdaCamp on attendees, 8 months after AdaCamp DC:

Netha Hussain

Netha Hussain

While traveling back to India, I was deeply satisfied. I had too many projects in mind, and the potential to work towards accomplishing them – Ada Camp put me in touch with the right people and right resources to get me started. Listening to the success stories of other participants helped me overcome my initial inertia, and stimulated me to work hard towards increasing the participation of women in Wikimedia projects.

pycon_hacker_loungeIn March we ran a smaller event, the first Ada Initiative feminist hacker lounge, at PyCon US in Santa Clara. The feminist lounge was a casual space in the exhibition hall, sharing a beanbag hangout space with PyLadies, and hosting sessions including “Impostor Syndrome Check-in” and “Hackerspaces: What’s Working, What’s Not?” We enjoyed hosting this home base for women at the conference and have suggestions for how you can do it too!

What’s next? AdaCamp brings together so many women interested in working in and changing the open tech and culture space. AdaCamp is going to remain a core part of the Ada Initiative’s work. We are hoping to work with dedicated event staff on future AdaCamps and are considering host cities for AdaCamps in 2014 and 2015. We will also publish a collection of event advice, for running events that are open, accessible and welcoming to women in open tech and culture.

Impostor Syndrome Training

Women in open tech/culture

CC-BY-SA Adam Novak

Ada Initiative staff and volunteers have also launched Impostor Syndrome training, presenting on techniques that allow women and others to feel appropriately confident in their work in the face of the often publicly critical culture in open technology and culture. Denise Paolucci took lessons from AdaCamp DC’s several Impostor Syndrome sessions and presented them at, Open Source Bridge, and OSCON, with the Ada Initiative providing a captioned and transcribed version of the talk. Leigh Honeywell additionally created a values exercise to combat stereotype threat and Impostor Syndrome, which we used at AdaCamp San Francisco.

What’s next? We will continue to teach about and hold sessions on Impostor Syndrome at AdaCamps and add to our resources as we go.

Workshops and community-building for allies

Valerie Aurora speaking at AdaCamp DC

CC-BY-SA Adam Novak

In 2013, we expanded our work educating and supporting allies – people who support women in open tech/culture but aren’t women themselves. The Ada Initiative Allies Workshop focuses on what individual people can do to make their workplace or community a better, more positive place for women. We started the Allies Workshop program in 2011 and have continued to improve and grow it every year. The Allies Workshop has been run three times in 2013 so far: at Everyone Hacks San Francisco, the Wikimedia Foundation, and the Allies Track of AdaCamp San Francisco. We recently posted a professionally recorded and captioned video of the Allies Workshop.

This year we ran the first Allies Track, a one-day meeting for allies of women in open tech/culture to get to know each other, share best practices, and make plans for the future, held in conjunction with AdaCamp San Francisco. About 20 allies of all genders attended, along with several dozen visitors from the AdaCamp main track. Attendee Jeff Pollet wrote, “It was […] nice to be surrounded by a bunch of smart men advocating for feminism in tech.”

What’s next? The Ada Initiative is growing the Allies Workshops into a core program and expanding the number of workshops we teach. To find out more about holding the allies workshop for your project or organization, see our Allies workshop page. We are also in the early stages of developing a training program for workshop facilitators, to train others to deliver the workshop. We also plan to expand the Allies Track at the next AdaCamp.

Supporting women open source developers

GitHub OctocatIn April 2013, the Ada Initiative in partnership with GitHub offered private repositories to women learning open source software, giving people from underrepresented groups a chance to practice and grow their programming skills in private before participating in the mainstream open source community, where women often face higher levels of harassment than men both online and in person. This program has been enormously popular, with over 500 women requesting a free repository, showing the effectiveness of outreach programs targeted specifically at women.

What’s next? We are open to partnerships with organizations who want to support women by donating resources, but don’t have the expertise or infrastructure to run them on their own. Email to learn more.

Community campaigns

Piles of lanyards in each of red, yellow and green. By Flore Allemandou CC BY-SA.

AdaCamp SF lanyards, by Flore Allemandou CC BY-SA

The Ada Initiative has written multiple online campaigns and editorials this year, encouraging communities to support women in open technology and culture by carefully considering the role that sexual topics have at technical events and advertising any such material thoughtfully and respectfully to those who don’t wish to encounter it; and encouraging event organizers to have photography policies at conferences that restrict non-consensual photography.

The Ada Initiative also participated in the #banboothbabes campaign, arguing that using sexualized booth staff at trade shows sends the message that women aren’t the intended customers of technical businesses; and encouraged panelists at conferences to pledge not to appear on panels without women on them.

What’s next? We will continue to keep an eye out for emerging issues and help boost campaigns led by others, as well as start our own campaigns. Your support through speaking up in your community is crucial to the kind of culture change we’re working for.

Press appearances and speaking engagements

Mary and Valerie laughing

CC-BY-SA Adam Novak

In 2013, the Ada Initiative became a go-to resource for journalists wanting to know more about the problems facing women in open technology and culture, both in the tech press and the mainstream media. In March, Valerie Aurora discussed the firing of Adria Richards in Slate, writing that:

one thing we can agree on is that the massive onslaught of rape and death threats [directed at Richards]… was wrong… It’s up to us to change the culture of consequence-free online harassment.

In June, we reached one million readers of the U.S. print edition of Marie Claire in “When Geeks Attack” by veteran feminist journalist Alissa Quart, writing:

… Thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, fueled by a dogmatic belief that all speech is free speech, [Internet attackers] have made the very act of being a woman in the industry something of an occupational hazard.

Valerie was interviewed on Minnesota Public Radio in July about the problem of harassment of women in technology and what to do about.

Valerie also spoke at several events in 2013. She appeared as an invited speaker at Fórum Internacional Software Livre in Brazil, moderated the good news on diversity in open source panel at Open Source Bridge, appeared as a panelist in the Gender & Technology open forum in San Francisco. She was also invited to be the keynote speaker at the first Ada Lovelace conference in October 2013.

New Ada Initiative supporters

JS community logoThe majority of the Ada Initiative’s funding continues to come from people like you, individual donors giving yearly or monthly to support programs you care about. We love being accountable to you!

In 2013 we’ve been pleased to welcome major new supporters JSConf US 2013, with 85% of their attendees donating to the Ada Initiative at registration. Based on this donation, JSConf US sponsor Bloomberg donated an additional $5000. We also welcomed back Dreamwidth Studios as sponsors. In addition, AdaCamp San Francisco was supported by thirteen sponsoring organizations, including gold sponsors Mozilla, Automattic and Google Site Reliability Engineering.

We can’t do it without you!

2013 has been a good year for women in open tech/culture so far, thanks to people like you! Without our hundreds of generous donors and the many community members who stood up for their beliefs, 2013 would have been a bleak year for women in open tech/culture. You are a critical part of a massive, world-wide movement to give women an equal voice and role in online culture. Thank you!

Portrait of Ada Lovelace in color

Ada Initiative keynote at first Ada Lovelace conference, October 17 – 18

New Ada Lovelace sticker

New Ada Lovelace sticker

The Ada Initiative will be giving the opening keynote for the first Ada Lovelace conference! Check out our recent posts about the upcoming interdisciplinary conference about Ada Lovelace’s achievements and legacy, to take place on October 17 – 18, 2013 at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

Executive Director Valerie Aurora will open the conference with a discussion about the mythos of Ada Lovelace: the stories we tell about her, what those stories say about us, and what stories we might tell instead. Based on a discussion at the most recent AdaCamp unconference, we’ll explore how even the most positive stories about her are incomplete and one-dimensional. Was she simply the world’s first computer programmer? A delusional self-aggrandizing pseudo-intellectual? Or something much more complex: a scientist and philosopher who viewed computation, mathematics, poetry, and philosophy as an interelated whole?

Lovelace and Babbage: They Fight Crime

2D Goggles: Sydney Padua’s creative alternate history

When it comes to fictional stories about Ada Lovelace’s life and times, steampunk portrays an alternate history in which Charles Babbages’ engines been built after all and the computing age began in the 1850’s. But they often show a modern, one-dimensional view of computing as primarily industrial and technical tools. Based on her writings, computation influenced by Ada Lovelace would have included from the beginning more artistic and humanist applications than the mere collation of statistics envisioned by technicians like Babbage. What would an alternate history of computing really look like if you take into account Lovelace’s influence, philosophy, and ideas?

If this sounds interesting, you can register for the conference now. We are incredibly excited about this historic conference, and hope to see you there!

Why conferences matter: Ada Initiative invited speech at Fórum Internacional Software Livre (FISL)

FISL 14 logoWe’re pleased to announce that Ada Initiative executive director Valerie Aurora is an invited speaker (PT) at the 14th Fórum Internacional Software Livre (EN) next week in Porto Alegre, Brazil. FISL is the world’s largest free software and culture conference, with over 7000 attendees in 2012. FISL brings together social justice activists, Wikipedians, free software developers, students, IT professionals, business owners, hobbyists, government representatives, net neutrality advocates, and more.

Valerie Aurora speaking at AdaCamp DCValerie is giving a talk named “Why conferences matter: Lessons learned from Linux file systems development.” The talk will show the importance of conferences to the progress of open source software, at both the technical and community levels, using examples from Linux file systems development. It will link conferences and the right to peaceful public assembly, and the importance of making conferences inclusive and welcoming of all. Her talk will be simultaneously translated into Portuguese and Spanish. Appropriately, this is the first year that FISL has a formal anti-harassment policy, a move supported by the FISL community.

We are thrilled to be involved in the vibrant and large free software and social justice community in Brazil and across Latin America. We thank FISL for the opportunity to reach thousands of new people in open technology in culture. If you are at FISL, please introduce yourself to Valerie! We look forward to meeting you.