Find out more about the Ada Initiative and how you can help! Please contact us if you have additional questions! More information about donating to the Ada Initiative is also available.

The Ada Initiative

What is “open technology and culture”?

Open technology and culture is an umbrella term for a range of projects, movements, and communities including:

  • Open source/Free/Libre software
  • Creative commons, open content, and free culture
  • Wikipedia and other wiki projects
  • Open data, including open government data and data portability
  • Open standards and the “open web”
  • Open education, open access journals
  • Remix, mashup, and creative fan culture
  • Grassroots online participation, including online activism
  • Open, decentralized alternatives to Facebook and other social media

What these fields have in common are a culture of sharing, reusing, and modifying work, collaboration among a wide variety of people, and open access (at least in theory!) to the community behind the project.

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Why focus on women in open technology and culture?

Open technology and culture are shaping the future of global society. If we want that society to be socially just and to serve the interests of all people, women must be involved in its creation and organization.

Women are one of many groups currently under-represented in several areas of open technology and culture. Recent surveys have shown that around 2-5% of open source developers are women (compared to 20-30% of the larger tech industry), and that women represent just 10-15% of Wikipedia editors.

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How does the Ada Initiative define “women?” Are trans women included?

The Ada Initiative uses an inclusive definition of the word “women” in “supporting women in open technology and culture.” We specifically include and welcome trans women. We warmly invite anyone who identifies as a woman in a way that is significant to them to all events or programs for women run by the Ada Initiative. We also specifically support genderqueer women, women who present in ways that are not stereotypically feminine, and LGBTQ women.

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Why women and not some other underrepresented group?

We support other initiatives to increase underrepresented groups in open technology in culture but realize that we don’t necessarily have the wisdom and knowledge to lead that work. Each person must find where their own expertise and interests lie, and that of our founders is in women in open tech/culture. We strongly support similar initiatives that do focus on other under-represented groups. We are committed to the concept of intersectionality and believe that we can improve the rights of women without taking them away from any other group.

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What is your strategy to increase women in open tech/culture?

In general, we have two prongs in our strategy: Change the culture of open tech/culture communities to stop discouraging women from participating, and teach women skills, technical and social, that help them join and stay in these communities.

Our focus is on work that:

  • Few other people are doing
  • Is difficult for volunteers to take on
  • Is scalable and reusable

For example, volunteer-run coding workshops for women on Python and Ruby are quite successful already and aren’t something Ada Initiative will get involved with directly. On the other hand, no one had ever run a conference entirely for women in open tech/culture, so we created the popular AdaCamp series of conferences.

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What roles are you aiming for women to take?

We want get women more involved in open technology and culture in ways that shape the technology and culture – project leaders, speakers, architects, editors, developers, and writers. One of the benefits of women’s participation is in creating or influencing projects to meet women’s needs and desires. This can only be done if women are in leadership or design roles.

In many projects and communities, women’s participation is sidelined, downplayed, or ignored, or women are disproportionately found in supporting roles where they have little impact on the direction of the overall project. While supporting roles are important to the success of the overall project, and leaders often take on supporting roles before becoming leaders, our goal won’t be satisfied if we increase women’s participation only in supporting roles.

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Why aren’t pure volunteer efforts enough?

Most “open” projects begin as volunteer initiatives. However, as their impact and influence grows, they usually take on paid staff in leadership roles, or key contributors are supported by industry. For example, the majority of Linux kernel developers are employed by corporations; many open projects from Mozilla to Wikipedia have non-profit foundations with paid staff; and a range of projects are supported by grant money from various institutions.

Many volunteer-oriented groups for women in open technology and culture already exist, and the Ada Initiative’s staff have been involved in many of them for over ten years. These groups often provide community, support, and advocacy. In our experience, however, volunteer organizations cannot bring together the focused effort required to take on major projects.

The Ada Initiative aims, through sponsorship and partnerships with other organizations, to have multiple people working full-time on projects which are beyond the capacity of volunteer organizations.

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I know of a job opening in open technology and culture, can you help me find women to apply for it?

Corporate sponsorship of the Ada Initiative is a great way to attract women in open technology and culture to your company. For a limited time, we will also retweet job openings.

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How are you funded?

Our major source of funds is donations from individual supporters. Corporate sponsors and other large donors comprise a significant minority of our funds, particularly corporate donation matching programs. Some projects, particularly our events, are funded by program sponsors.

If you would like to donate, thank you!

Button: support our work, donate now!

More information for donors is available in the donation FAQ.

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I am a donor and need information for my tax return

Please see the donation FAQ for the information to supply to the IRS regarding your donation.

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Helping the Ada Initiative

What role do you envision for men?

Men are important partners in the work to make open tech/culture more welcoming to women, especially in fields when men are the majority of community members. When a community is 98% men, progress will be very slow if only women work to change the culture! Many men feel very strongly that more women should be involved in open tech/culture communities, and we are happy to support them with information and workshops.

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How can I get involved?

The Ada Initiative does not rely heavily on volunteer labor. But we need help achieving our mission! Here are some ways you can help us:

  • Donate and help fund our activities
  • Encourage other people to donate
  • Apply for matching donations from your employer, if they offer them
  • Advocate for conference policies helping make women and other attendees safe at events you attend
  • Come to an AdaCamp or other Ada Initiative event
  • Write about the Ada Initiative and why its programs are important to you

If you’d like to find out about opportunities to help us out, please join our announcement list.

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