Category Archives: Sponsorship and donations

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!

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“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!

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Help bring the Ada Initiative's Ally Skills Workshop to Skepticon 7!

Smiling woman

Valerie Aurora, Ada Initiative co-founder

Skeptics are raising $5,000 for the Ada Initiative by October 8th – and if we succeed, our executive director, Valerie Aurora, will teach an Ally Skills Workshop at Skepticon 7! The Ally Skills Workshop teaches men simple ways to fight sexism in their everyday lives, and people love it. Sound exciting? Read on to find out how you can help bring the Ally Skills Workshop to Skepticon!

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Here’s what Lauren Lane of Skepticon has to say on why they support the Ada Initiative:

“The Ada Initiative does so much amazing stuff, like offer anti-harassment policies used by hundreds of conferences, give out out information about ally skills for men so women don’t have to fight sexism alone, host feminist conferences for women to share lessons learned and support each other, and are doing amazing work training women to fight Impostor Syndrome and stay involved in open tech/culture. In short, these people are totally kickass and we need them.[Emphasis theirs]

Are you excited yet?? We are, we have heard so much about how fun skeptic conferences are, and Valerie can’t wait to meet Stephanie Zvan, PZ Myers, and everyone else we’ve worked with over the years!

If you’d like to help bring the Ally Skills Workshop to Skepticon, here’s what you can do:

Donate now (I know, obvious).

Tweet or share this post on on social media with the #skeptics4ada hashtag.

Blog about the skeptic donation challenge, and include the donation counter and donation button with this HTML:

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<a href=""><img alt="Donate now" style="box-shadow: none;" src=""></a>

Thank you for your help, and hope to see you at Skepticon!

Skeptic and scientist PZ Myers came for the Ada Lovelace jewelry, stayed for the Ada Initiative's anti-harassment work

Bearded man wearing glasses

Biologist and skeptic PZ Myers

We can’t say enough about PZ Myers, a proud feminist and Ada Initiative supporter! By trade, Myers is a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris. He is also founder and co-author of the popular Pharyngula science blog, and a well-known speaker and blogger in the skeptic and atheist community. Read more to find out why he raised $1878 to help us expand our work – and how you can help bring the Ada Initiative to teach an Ally Skills Workshop at Skepticon 7!

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One man and two women, two of them wearing mortarboards

PZ Myers and the scientists in his life

“I come from a very left-wing family that was into the labor movement and the like. So I’ve always been into being egalitarian, and giving everyone a chance,” PZ Myers remarks. “My wife is a Ph.D in psychology and my daughter is off at grad school and I just hate to see them being discriminated against.” Channeling his anger into activism, Myers speaks out regularly about feminist issues on his blog, Pharyngula, with both searing honesty and an unfailing sense of humor.

“I think in some ways it’s a personality trait,” he says. “I’m somebody who tends to be outspoken and if I see an injustice I will speak out about it. Racism and sexism are the great injustices of the American system right now. And I just can’t sit back and pretend it’s not happening. I have to speak out, and I believe that is everybody’s responsibility to fight this stuff.” That’s one reason he has many times over the years used his blog and standing in the community to amplify reports of sexual harassment and publish anonymous reports from people too scared to do so themselves.

Sticker reading "Not afraid to say the F-WORD: FEMINISM" on a colorful laptop skin

The pendants are gone but you can get a sticker instead!

Myers ran across the Ada Initiative when his daughter was in graduate school in computer science. “I remember there was a drive where you received a necklace with a little Ada Lovelace on it,” he says, “and I thought, ‘I should get that for my daughter!'”

As he discovered more about the Ada Initiative’s work his support became about his own beliefs. One of the things he appreciates most is the impact of our work in just a few years’ time: helping conference organizers adopt and enforce anti-harassment policies has a direct impact on women’s safety and attendance at skeptic conferences, as well as changed the conversation about sexual harassment throughout the entire community. “That’s why I like the Ada Initiative and your work,” he says. “You’re actually getting out there and making a tangible difference and that’s what we need more of!”

Myers notices this need daily in his own professional life. “I’m a college professor and biology is pretty good – we’ve almost got a 50/50 gender split,” he acknowledges. “But my daughter was a tiny minority in computer science. I think I can also speak for my colleagues who would also like to see more women in the field. It just strikes me as an area where we need to improve equality.”

Though Myers supports the Ada Initiative yearly, this year he has also become a successful fundraiser for our work! He has been collecting donations on his blog over the past month and as of October 1st, he and the skeptic community raised $1878 for the Ada Initiative. We are so grateful for his support and his activism! Please join him and make a donation today!

This brings skeptics more than a third of the way to their goal of $5,000 by midnight on Wednesday, October 8th. If they make it, the Ada Initiative will teach an Ally Skills Workshop at Skepticon in November! The Ally Skills Workshop teaches men simple everyday ways to respond to sexism in their daily lives, and is tailored especially for peer-to-peer communities like the skeptic and atheist movement. We’re excited too – after working with the skeptic community for so long, the Ada Initiative is excited to meet a few of you in person!

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Great design as activism: Real talk from "Not afraid to say the F-word: Feminism" sticker designer Amelia Greenhall

The evolution of the f-word sticker design

The evolution of the f-word sticker design (get yours here)

Once you see it, you won’t forget it: the dynamic and attention-getting Not afraid to say the F-word: FEMINISM sticker by Amelia Greenhall. This sticker is the Ada Initiative’s thank-you gift for its 2014 fundraising drive (only available till October 8, 2014, so donate now!).

Smiling woman

Amelia Greenhall

Amelia works at the intersection of design, user experience, and data visualization. She’s the Executive Director and co-founder of Double Union, a non-profit feminist community workshop, and co-founded the publication Model View Culture. She spends her time reading, writing, biking, climbing, and working on interesting things. We asked Amelia to tell us more about her amazing sticker design.

How did you come up with the idea for the sticker?

Feminism as a “dirty word” is a concept that’s funny because it strikes at the truth of the matter: a lot of people and organizations ARE afraid to say it. The Ada Initiative was one of the first woman-focused tech organizations to actually say the word “feminism.” Their work has profoundly changed tech culture, and part of it comes from opening up the ability to identify publicly as a feminist in tech. They’ve brought many of us who aren’t afraid to say “the F-word” together – and given us a way to do something about the problem, by funding the Ada Initiative’s work.

The sticker sure is eye-catching! It feels like it has many levels to it, despite being all black and white. How did you achieve that?

From the beginning, I knew I would work with hand lettering for this design because I wanted to create an organic form that stands out against the mass of vectorized, illustrator’d shapes on a laptop. I wanted the fundraiser sticker to be a refreshing visual break from tech culture’s dominant (current) forms, to echo how TAI represents changing tech culture to me.

Ink bottles and brushes

Amelia’s workspace, with ink and brush

I started by drawing potential layouts in my sketchbook until I found a rough shape that took advantage of the die cut. Then I used brushes and india ink to letter the phrases “Not afraid to” “F-word” in many different ways, and scanned those in at a super high DPI to capture all the little details in the brushstrokes.

Many different handwritten versions of the words "F-word: Feminism" and similar words

Intermediate sketches of the f-word sticker design

Using Photoshop and my Wacom tablet, I moved parts of the scans around until I found a combination of lettering that was playful and eye catching, and easy to read at the size I wanted to print the sticker.

Photoshop screenshot showing level adjustment

The sticker does have many levels! Working from scans of hand lettering let me use Photoshop tools like “Invert” and “Levels” to bring out the natural variations in the ink painted on paper. I wanted to hit a charcoal tint in the background and bring out the rich variations of ink in the letters.

How important are design and memorable images to feminist activism?

So incredibly crucial! One of the things we’re doing with our feminist activism is building our own community and design and memorable images are a huge part in building a movement. We need a visual language to talk about it with, to identify with and gather round. Imagery of high heels and business suits alone won’t cut it. To represent all of us working to improve tech culture – we need things that speak our own language, have tech snark, incorporate our memes. We need propaganda! Especially physical objects like stickers, buttons, totes, and posters – to act as signposts. Things that say “this is us, this is what we stand for!”

Will you be putting this sticker on something you own?

Yes! I’m primarily a printmaker, which means I design so many things that get printed in multiples that I couldn’t possibly keep everything around or my apartment would fill up! But this is a sticker that easily makes the cut.

Here’s how it looks on my laptop!

Silver laptop with f-word sticker on it

What I appreciate about stickers like this one is that they’re so great for signaling affinity. I know that if I see another “F-word” sticker across the room at a coffeeshop or conference, that person is someone who’s also trying to make tech better – someone I may want to go talk to! I also like that this sticker starts conversations – it’s definitely something that catches the eye.

I am a huge fan of the Ada Initiative’s work changing tech culture, so I love when people ask about the sticker – I get a chance to introduce someone to conference anti-harassment policies or ally skills workshops!

Do you say the f-word? F-F-FEMINISM! Donate $128 or more (or $10 a month) to the Ada Initiative before October 8 and receive the F-word sticker as a thank you gift for supporting our work for women in open technology and culture!

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Conference anti-harassment work in skeptic communities, 2014 edition: more victims speak out as the world takes notice

[Trigger warning for sexual harassment and assault]

It’s been another difficult year for opponents of sexual harassment and assault in the skeptic community and related communities such as atheism and science, as prominent figures accused of harassment and assault continued to be celebrated and defended by some of the community. However, signs of change continue, with others speaking up publicly about their own and their colleagues’ experiences of harassment and assault.

Keep reading for our updated history of conference anti-harassment work in the skeptic community (with some related events from the science blogging community), adding the events from October 2013 to September 2014. Part of anti-harassment work is giving credit where credit is due, so we hope you take a minute to read through and honor the many different voices that have worked hard to make skepticism more welcoming, sometimes without recognition or fanfare for years. This entire post is licensed CC BY-SA the Ada Initiative – please feel free to reuse and remix according to the terms of the license!

Remember: Conference anti-harassment campaigns do work – they “just” take several years of dedicated effort to succeed.

Table of contents

  1. About the authors
  2. Summary of the skeptic anti-harassment campaign
  3. Detailed timeline (skip to the updates)
  4. What’s changed in 2014
  5. How you can help
  6. Sources and resources

About the authors

Mary and Valerie laughing

Mary and Valerie
(CC BY-SA Adam Novak)

As a non-profit supporting women in open technology and culture, the Ada Initiative cares deeply about ending harassment in geek communities. Our co-founders, Mary Gardiner and Valerie Aurora, co-authored the most widely used example anti-harassment policy, hosted on the Geek Feminism Wiki. The Ada Initiative’s first project was advocating full-time for the adoption of policies in the open source community, often working directly with conference organizers and community leaders as advisors and coaches.

If you find our work inspiring, we hope you will join skeptics in supporting the Ada Initiative’s anti-harassment work. We can only do this work with the support of people like you!

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Summary of the skepticism and atheism campaign

The big picture: In 2010, few or no conferences have policies. Serial sexual assaulters and outright rapists are common enough that women speakers have an informal network to warn each other about them. Victims are too afraid to name or report their attackers. In 2014, most conventions have anti-harassment policies, many leaders vocally oppose harassment, and at least three high-profile serial harassers and assaulters have been publicly identified. Some harassers and assaulters have lost their jobs and positions of power. However many victims and advocates are still stalked, harassed, and threatened, and need continuing support from the community. Several accused harassers and assaulters have threatened or begun legal action against those reporting them.

Detailed timeline:

A woman red hair on a black background

Rebecca Watson

June 2011: Rebecca Watson video blogs about being sexually harassed at the World Atheist Convention and suggests: “Guys, don’t do that.” In response, she is viciously harassed by members of the skeptic/atheist community for at least 2 years (the harassment is still on-going as of September 2014).

A smiling woman holding a paper printed with the word atheist

Jen McCreight

May 2012: Jen McCreight says on stage at the Women in Secularism conference that women speakers share the names of speakers who are likely to harass or assault them with other women speakers. Stephanie Zvan blogs about Jen’s comment and about harassment at skeptic/atheist conferences and suggests adopting anti-harassment policies at atheist/skeptic cons, linking to the policy on Geek Feminism Wiki as a good example.

Sarah Moglia and David Silverman commit to (and follow through on) adopting an anti-harassment policy for the Secular Students Association and AACON respectively. Many more conferences follow, led by Jen McCreight, Chris Calvey, Stephanie Zvan, and many more.

Ashley Miller publicly reports her experiences with harassment at TAM 9, countering earlier claims that no harassment was reported at TAM 9. In a positive turn of events, Elyse reports favorably on SkeptiCamp Ohio’s handling of harassment complaints according to their anti-harassment policy. Sasha Pixlee of More than Men begins maintaining a list of skeptic/atheist conferences with anti-harassment policies and advocates for more policies.

June 2012: Rebecca Watson and Jen McCreight announce they will not attend TAM due to DJ Grothe’s recent statements. Among many other things, DJ blamed Watson and many others for discouraging women from attending TAM by telling the truth about their experiences of harassment in the community. (Ironically, Watson raised money for travel scholarships for women to attend TAM for several years.)

Dr. Pamela Gay gives a talk, Make the World Better, at TAM calling for skeptics to fight harassment in their community, and describing harassment she had personally experienced, although without naming the perpetrator.

PZ Myers explains why he’s in favor of conference anti-harassment policies in response to a claim that they are unnecessary because hotel security exists.

WylloNyx explains why anti-harassment policies are not sex-negative and would not prevent consensual sexual activity at conferences. “A lack of statement about non-harmful sexual expression is neutral on the sex positivity scale. That harassment policies make it clear that they offer protection against non-consensual sexual expression makes the harassment policies sex positive. It means that not only the ‘yay, sex is awesome’ part isn’t shamed but also the ‘sex isn’t always awesome’ aspect is addressed to the protection of attendees and speakers. To address both aspects of sex positivity clearly without shame makes sexual harassment policies sex positive.”

Greta Christina points out that the OpenSF 2012 conference for people in open, polyamorous, or ethically nonmonogamous relationships has a detailed code of conduct, including things like: “We know this is California and everyone hugs, but please do that awkward ‘wanna hug?’ gesture before actually hugging.”

Ashley Paramore reports being repeatedly groped in front of several people at TAM in 2012, without naming her attacker. The conference anti-harassment team banned the assaulter from future TAMs. Several other people back up her story. Paramore was harassed and threatened for months for publicly reporting her attack.

August 2013: Ian Murphy, Dr. Karen Stollznow, Carry Poppy, PZ MyersJason Thibeault, and many more begin naming names of specific serial sexual assaulters and harassers in the atheist/skeptic community. Jason Thibeault (@lousycanuck) creates a timeline of the sexual harassment accusations. Several of the named abusers threaten legal action, causing accusers to switch to using obvious pseudonyms instead.

An Indiegogo campaign is launched to raise a legal defense fund for one of the accused rapists, Michael Shermer. Ashley F. Miller points out that a quote from the campaign page makes it clear that the goal is to silence victims: “A show of support will send the message that we as a community will no longer tolerate illogical attacks on people who do not condone nor support sexual harassment, sexual predation, or rape any more than we support defamation of our community members from anonymous allegations.”

A skeptic comedian mocks the rape allegations by claiming that it is the victims’ responsibility to turn down alcoholic drinks if they don’t want to get raped and comparing the reports to religious texts. Jason Thibeault provides a transcript of the video with these remarks and explains what is wrong with the idea that getting drunk should be punished with rape or comparing the reports made directly to PZ Myers and others with religious gospels.

Smiling woman with glasses

Dr. Danielle Lee

October 2013: In the related science-blogging community, biologist Dr. Danielle Lee (@dnlee5) describes being called an “urban whore” in a blog post hosted on Scientific American. Scientific American removes the blog post and eventually reinstated it.

Following discussion about the Scientific American blog takedown, Monica Byrne then names a science editor she had described in 2012 as approaching her for sex inappropriately: Bora Zivkovic, then-Blogs Editor for Scientific American. Zivkovic apologises for his behavior to Byrne, but other women describe similar experiences. Zivkovic then resigns from Scientific American and Science Online, and Science Online states he will not attend their events in 2014. The #RipplesOfDoubt discussion arises from this incident.

November 2013: In response to #RipplesOfDoubt, Dr. Pamela Gay publicly describes the fallout from her TAM 2012 talk, including threats to her career.

January 2014: Bora Zivkovic publishes a (since deleted) New Year blog post asking how he can prove himself trustworthy. Science Online co-founder and board member Anton Zuiker publishes a long article calling for the online community to forgive Zivkovic, including a discussion of an unrelated false rape accusation. Two days later, the board of Science Online states that Zuiker has been asked to not comment further on Zivkovic.

February 2014: Ben Radford files suit against Karen Stollznow, and posts about false accusations on the Centre For Inquiry’s blog.

March 2014: Radford posts a statement to his Facebook wall, an apparent retraction of Stollznow’s allegations of harassment. allegedly co-signed by her. Stollznow categorically denies agreeing to it or signing it; Stollznow’s husband Michael Baxter states that he had worked on a joint statement draft with Radford or his representatives but that it had not been finalized nor had she agreed to it. Stollznow raises $60,000 on Indiegogo for her defense fund. Jason Thibeault creates a timeline of the statements released by different parties.

Woman's portrait

Janet Stemwedel

Back in the science-blogging community, Dr. Janet Stemwedel (@docfreeride) publishes a report-out from an impromptu gathering of people at the ScienceOnline Together conference concerned about the ScienceOnline board’s handling of violations of its anti-harassment policies.

May 2014: Dr. Pamela Gay describes the assault she experienced in 2008 and alluded to in her TAM 2012 talk and her November 2013 blog post and subsequent communication from her assailant.

September 2014: Mark Oppenheimer’s Buzzfeed piece Will Misogyny Bring Down The Atheist Movement? is published, documenting harassment and assault of several women in the skeptic and athiest communities, including several not-previously described accusations, particularly about Michael Shermer. Jason Thibeault releases an updated timeline of harassment and sexual assault allegations in the skeptic community, including several women who allege Shermer harassed or assaulted them.

Adam Lee (@DaylightAtheism) publishes a post in which Dr. Pamela Gay goes on record as saying that D. J. Grothe is the person who originally intervened when she was sexually harassed but later pressured her into silence.

What’s changed in 2014

The rumbles and cracks that grew around sexual harassment and assault in 2013 continued to grow in 2014, with a growing part of the community no longer willing to be silent about their own experiences and those that their colleagues and friends reveal. The unhealthy parts of the culture of the skeptic community have begun to attract mainstream attention. But powerful people within the community are accustomed to its norms and keen to defend them through silencing their victims with professional and legal consequences. Much more support is needed for those speaking up, from individual support through to institutional reform that protects them from reprisals.

How you can help

Two women smiling

Sarah Sharp and Sumana Harihareswara, CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Whether you are the leading novelist in your field, or a lurker on a mailing list, you can take action to stop conference harassment. You can use your words, your influence, your money, and your participation to change the culture in your community.

  • Only attend conferences with (enforced) anti-harassment policies
  • If a conference doesn’t have a policy, ask them if they plan to have one
  • Start a pledge to not attend cons without policies
  • Start new conferences if existing ones won’t adopt policies
  • If you sponsor events, only sponsor events with policies
  • Publicly support victims of harassment, especially if you are exceptionally influential
  • Publicly support anti-harassment campaigns, especially if you are exceptionally influential
  • Exclude well-known harassers from your events and let them know why
  • Educate yourself on responding to harassment, especially if you are a con organizer
  • Learn more about bystander intervention
  • Don’t promote the work of people who harass or support harassment

You can also donate to support the Ada Initiative, which has been working full-time on ending harassment in open technology and culture communities since January 2011. Our 2014 fundraising campaign ends October 8th. Learn more about our progress so far and our plans for future work in 2014 and 2015.

Donate now

Sources and resources

List of geek conferences that have adopted anti-harassment policies
The Geek Feminism Wiki Timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities
Ada Initiative anti-harassment policy page

Stephanie Zvan: skeptic, feminist activist, and SF&F fan

Woman wearing glasses

Stephanie Zvan

Stephanie Zvan is a proud feminist! She is also the associate president of Minnesota Atheists and one of the hosts for their radio show and podcast, Atheists Talk, as well as the author of Almost Diamonds on Freethought Blogs. She speaks and writes about science and skepticism in a number of venues, including science fiction and fantasy conventions. And she is a big supporter of the Ada Initiative!

“I was raised classically feminist and grew up on Free to Be You and Me and Ms. Magazine. So I grew up with some background and interest in these issues,” Zvan says. “In high school in the physics department, I actually wrote a fake anthropological study of the ‘Physics Male” when I got sick of them treating women as if we didn’t have brains.”

It is unsurprising then, that she is a big supporter of the Ada Initiative. “The thing that has really impressed me is how many people that I know either personally or through their work, for whom the Ada Initiative has made a huge difference,” Zvan says. “I’m also impressed by the diversity of the work that it has enabled and supported.”

Donate now

Zvan takes an active role in the atheist/skeptic movement, hosting the radio show Atheists Talk run by the Minnesota Atheists. Zvan has been aware of the opposition women in face in skeptic communities for years, but found herself becoming far more vocal in 2012, after the Rebecca Watson elevator incident ignited huge debates in the atheist community. (Short version: a man propositioned Watson in an elevator, she suggested that men not do things like that in a video blog, and part of the skeptic community is still harassing and threatening Watson years later.)

“I was with Rebecca when that happened,” Zvan remembers adding that the backlash against Watson had a big impact on her. But it was another conference that incited her to action. “One year later, when the first Women in Secularism conference happened, one of the panelists up on stage said that she had been warned as a young attractive women that there were certain speakers she should avoid. I was live-tweeting the panel and tweeted it and it blew up and caused a huge thing.”

Logo for Zvan's blog, "Almost Diamonds"

Logo for Zvan’s blog, “Almost Diamonds”

Stephanie quickly realized that there was a way to funnel all of the emotion coming up for the good of the community. “I thought, ‘Wait a minute — I have seen the template for the Geek Feminism anti-harasssment code of conduct and none of the conferences I’m attending have one in place.’ I suggested that people take their outrage and direct it toward getting codes of conduct implemented at the conferences.”

She soon realized that, as these discussions were so new to the community, with her suggestion she had unexpectedly become the go-to person for understanding conference codes of conduct. “Of course, because these were very new, that made me an expert and I had to learn a lot very quickly… Geek Feminism and the Ada Initiative were huge in helping me do that. They centralized the information that helped me get up to speed so that when I was asked questions I wasn’t stammering and making stuff up.”

Stephanie also brought her voice and activism to the science fiction and fantasy community which she has been part of for 20 years. She jumped into the discussions after conference organizers responded badly to an incident of harassment at Readercon in late 2012. “I saw people having the same kinds of arguments that we had been through in the atheist community and wrote a piece speaking to the ways they could avoid the mistakes we had made, fully expecting that it would be ignored. To my surprise it actually got some attention, and got to some people who needed it.” She spoke up again when WisCon had a similar problem in 2014, and the Ada Initiative republished her advice to conference organizers trying to decide when to allow a harasser to return to a conference.

A woman explains while a man listens

Ally Skills Workshop discussion

Zvan is a big supporter of the Ada Initiative’s Ally Skills Workshops and hopes to see the community direct energy and resources towards channels of tangible change. “The Ally Skills Workshops that the Ada Initiative runs could be helpful for our community in the future. I think that is deeply worthwhile. I would love to see more of that kind of thing happen in our movement. I think we need it.”

We agree – which is why if the skeptic community can raise $5,000 by midnight on Wednesday, October 8th, we pledge to teach an Ally Skills Workshop at Skepticon in November!

Donate now

Zvan is also heartened by the tangible impact of the Ada Initiative’s work and its capacity to grow. “People shouldn’t underestimate how much the people involved in doing this work in various communities are networking,” Zvan says. “And how much harder it will be to oppose the simple changes that we are looking for as our networks grow.”

Please join Stephanie Zvan in supporting the Ada Initiative so we can continue to work across multiple communities to create safer, more welcoming environments for women!

Donate now

You already raised $100,000 for the Ada Initiative's work for women in open tech/culture, help us raise another $50,000!

Two women standing back to back smiling

CC BY-SA Adam Novak

We can hardly believe it – you’ve already donated over $100,000 to support women in open technology and culture! With 9 days to go in our 2014 fundraising drive, we challenge you to join us in raising another $50,000 for the Ada Initiative’s important work! Donate now and spread the word:

Donate now

One year ago, you gave just over $100,000 for women in open tech/culture during the Ada Initiative’s yearly fundraising drive. With that funding, we organized three AdaCamps on three different continents, taught 15 Ally Skills Workshops, developed our Impostor Syndrome Training into a standalone program, and helped dozens of community and conference organizers adopt and enforce codes of conduct.

Two women sitting on the floor writing intently

Impostor Syndrome training at AdaCamp
CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Imagine what we can do with $150,000! We’re already planning so much for the coming year: four AdaCamps, dozens of Ally Skills Workshops, and the launch of our full-scale, standalone Impostor Syndrome training program to help women in open technology and culture overcome the messages telling them, “You aren’t good enough to do that.” If you meet this challenge to raise $150,000, we make this promise: we will give away half the seats in our first two Impostor Syndrome Workshops for free (one in the San Francisco Bay Area, one in Sydney).

Here’s why we think $150,000 is achievable: This year, in the first 21 days, librarians alone raised over $20,000, Python programmers raised over $25,000, functional programmers over $12,000, scientists and academics over $5,000, and science fiction and fantasy fans nearly $3,000. They had fun doing it – and directly helped women in their communities at the same time.

With your help, 2015 will be an amazing year for women in open technology and culture! Take a minute to donate now and spread the word. Our 2014 donation drive ends Wednesday, October 8!

Donate now