In a week filled with discussion about the Steubenville case and rape culture, news comes that tech evangelist Adria Richards was fired for reporting some typical tech dudes for making sexist remarks she could hear during a conference. She blogged about it here.
The situation is awkward; while the two men in question clearly violated the conference’s code of conduct and the men were removed (edited to add: removed from the session, not the conference), she decided to report the behavior by tweeting their picture, thus alerting the conference organizers. The conference immediately kicked the two men out of the conference, and it seemed like a job well done.
Until Adria Richards was fired by her company, SendGrid (one of the men was also fired from his job as well). SendGrid fired her not because she reported the sexist remarks, they claim, but because she did it via Twitter, stating that “it had harmed her relationship with programmers and her ability to effectively do her job.” Not only did SendGrid fire her, but they made a public statement about it on their Facebook page (since removed, but you can read it here).
As women that blog about motherhood, we sometimes live in a sort of tech bubble, exclusive just to us and the many brands that want to use our platforms to promote their stuff. Dad bloggers and male brand reps at “mom bloggers” conferences are careful to behave conspicuously carefully, working double and triple time to treat us with respect and deference (for the most part, anyway). It’s a rare thing to hear that someone made a sexist joke at Blissdom or the Mom 2.0 Summit.
Sadly, this isn’t true for women outside of the momosphere. Women like Adria Richards that stand up for other women get slammed with sexist hate remarks all the time. Hell, just this week blogger Elise Andrew who runs the popular Facebook group “I F**king Love Science” linked to her Twitter profile on her site (with over four million followers), thereby revealing that she was female and was immediately flooded with sexist comments and trolling just because she was a girl. Even those that don’t make death and rape threats tell women like Adria to “just get over it” and “get a sense of humor” and the classic “you just can’t take a joke.” Those are classic ways to diminish women for calling out sexism.
As far as the situation goes for Adria Richards, I think Rachel Sklar’s piece got it right, particularly when she spoke about why SendGrid hired Adria Richards in the first place.
Presumably they hired Adria Richards based on her record and experience. Presumably they interviewed her. Presumably they knew she had a blog and that it was called, “But You’re A Girl” – which presumably they understood to mean she’d be writing about her experiences being a woman in technology (presumably with a little edge). And presumably they’d done a little research into her methods. They hired her as a developer evangelist which means that they were presumably on board with the perspective from which she’d evangelize. And up until two days ago, they got a lot of goodwill from it.
Personally, I’m grateful that Adria Richards stepped up, regardless of her methods. The only way women are going to feel welcome in technology is when they stop having to listen to guys discussing how much they want to “fork” a woman speaking at the conference.
Image courtesy of Twitter.