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Thoughts on GitHub Giving Free Private Repos to Women


I am not going to turn this into a rant. I have a lot of strong opinions on the Women in Tech issue, but I’m keeping the scope of this limited to the fact that GitHub now offers a free private repo to women.

At least I’m going to try. A lot of what I find frustrating about this is the same stuff I find frustrating about the Women in Tech issue overall. I’m pretty sure I was the one that coined the term “Donglegate” on Twitter regarding the recent PyCon debacle. I’m up to my ass in this stuff, whether I want to be or not, because people constantly ask me what I think about it because vagina that’s why.

First, let’s back up.

From the Ada Initiative blog post:

We’re excited to announce that long-time Ada Initiative sponsor GitHub has donated unlimited free private source code repositories to the Ada Initiative, to be used by women learning to write open source software. To get a free private repository on GitHub, just email the managers of the Ada Initiative GitHub account with your GitHub account name and ask for one!

[box type=”info”]Important Update: GitHub has clarified that they are not giving women free private repos as the original Ada Initiative post seemed to imply. GitHub gave Ada Initiative an org account, which means AI is providing women with repos from their org account. That said, the GH stuff was only a fraction of what I was trying to say here, so I’m leaving the rest of the post unchanged. Thanks, GitHub. <3 you! [/box]

Setting aside the irony that the most advanced and efficient way they have to coordinate this undertaking (to provide free *source code* hosting) is being handled via… wait.. email??.. seriously?? No crazy hipster HTML9 Buttstrap Riak-powered web-sockety thing? Not even a google doc? Okay, setting that aside, this, on its face, seems like a reasonable and benevolent thing to do. I guess. Not necessary, in my opinion, but I’ll roll with it.

The Ada Initiative continues:

In working with women in open source, the Ada Initiative found that many women are reluctant to post their code publicly when they are first getting started in open source software. This reluctance has good reasons behind it: fear of being told they are bad programmers, fear of being publicly mocked or harassed, and even fear of losing job opportunities. All of these are greater risks for women on average than men. But the best way to get better at programming is to collaborate with and get review from other programmers, which is far easier to do with a shared repository like those provided by GitHub. Unfortunately, private repositories are too expensive for most women just getting started in open source software.

“Fear of being told they are bad programmers, fear of being publicly mocked or harassed, and even fear of losing job opportunities” – so, you mean the exact same stuff that makes it intimidating for men?

What about the cripplingly shy, low-self-esteemy boys who are teaching themselves to code? Fuck those kids, I guess.

If you need a free private repo, BitBucket already exists. But if you use a private repo to *learn* to code, you’re sort of missing the point. The most valuable lesson open source can teach us is that by sharing your code with the world, you and the world become better for it. Does this mean sticking your neck out a little? You bet. But it’s only by taking these risks that we get exposed to different ways of doing things, learn from people with different points of view and goals, and ultimately become better developers for it.

If you don’t believe me, ask Brene Brown how we can really only start to grow once we’ve allowed ourselves to be vulnerable.

There are a metric ass-load of repos out there. No one is looking at yours. Think of it like being a struggling actor in Los Angeles, or one of billions of stars in the vast expanse of night sky. Yes, you exist, but no one really cares. Not until you become something extraordinary.

Oh crap. Sorry. I tried to stop it. The rant is coming. I’ll try to keep it as short as I can. (This baby’s been brewing for almost two decades.)

If by some strange twist of fate, someone does happen to stumble across your code and says bad things about it, welcome to the real world. This is what the tech industry is really like. You need to take it like a grown-up. Sometimes, people will think you’re stupid. Sometimes people will think you’ve done a bad job. Occasionally, you’re going to find someone who’s a big jerk. Sometimes, people are going to be mean for absolutely no good reason at all. This is not special to women. We are not special, unique snowflakes.

You are not entitled to not have your feelings hurt occasionally. This is absolutely true for males and females, in tech and everywhere else. Sometimes, people in the world are mean.

Believe it or not, I’m not trying to sound like a jerk, or to be discouraging. I love this field. I’ve been here forever, and I’m not going anywhere.

But tech is a highly competitive field with a high concentration of very smart, frequently socially awkward people. Some of them are going to shit on you because they think you’re not as smart as them. I promise you that they will shit on you for that regardless of your gender. Sometimes they may use your gender as ammunition because it’s the easy target, but make no mistake – they would still have made you feel badly if you were a guy, they just would have picked something else to fling at you that would cut as deeply.

Sometimes they’re not even socially awkward – they’re just assholes.

If you want to get into tech — or any career in the adult workforce, really — you have to be prepared for people like that sometimes. Tech isn’t some magical haven with a big bouncer at the door that doesn’t let any assholes in. We have them, and so does every other industry on the planet. You probably have friends or family who are assholes. They’re everywhere. Sometimes when a male higher-up than you steals your idea and presents it as their own, it’s because they’re self-serving douchebags, not because you’re female. They’d have done the same to a male co-worker, too.

But those people are the exception, not the rule. I’ve been in this field for 17 years, and I can’t think of an industry that is inherently more supportive of growth, evolution, innovation, and progress through community empowerment. Yes, with the occasional jackwagon who needs to make others feel inadequate because of his or her own insecurities, but those people are everywhere.

Am I saying sexism isn’t real? Of course not – that would be crazy. What I *am* saying is that the issues women face in technology are the EXACT same ones we face everywhere else. The issue of sexism in tech is a myth. There. I said it. There is nothing about sexism in tech that is different or special as compared to sexism in the rest of our lives as women. Stop worrying about sexism in tech, and start worrying about sexism in GENERAL. Fix that, and we’ll actually be getting somewhere.

“You got your tech in my sexism!”
“No, you got your sexism in my tech!”

The notion of sexism in tech trivializes the very real sexism that is pervasive in daily life. Sexism in tech is a symptom, not the sickness. In attempting to treat this symptom, we’ve alienated ourselves so much that men in tech don’t know what to do with us anymore. They’re afraid to talk to us, and thanks to Donglegate, they’re afraid to talk *around* us. Because of the Women in Tech “movement”, I’ve never had a harder time talking to men in tech groups. So, yeah, thanks for that.

And going back to the free private repos and the shy, low-self-esteemy boys who are as afraid to open themselves to ridicule as the woman who is learning to code – we have to ask ourselves what we’re trying to accomplish through things like this.

Are we really trying to make tech more approachable for all who would find it intimidating, or just for the chicks? If it’s just for the chicks, then that sucks and it’s not fair.

It feels to me like all of the things we try to do to “fix” sexism in technology are actually meant to treat the results of specific personality traits, NOT gender. Yes, statistically, one might argue that these personality traits occur more frequently in women than men, but they are reducing me (and you) down to what society accepts a woman to be. How is that not sexist itself?

TLDR; sometimes people are jerks, and sometimes you have to deal with it, male or female.

Final note: This is how I feel. It’s how I’ve felt for a long time, and just haven’t had the energy to write up a big to-do about it. My day job as VP of Technology keeps me pretty busy. That said, it is only how *I* feel. I am not speaking for any women, in tech or otherwise, other than myself. Some may agree, lots will disagree, both are acceptable. I find it absurd that I have to specifically state that, but evidently I do.

[box type=”note”]Mark W. Schumann in the comments asked me what I thought GitHub should have done (prior to the clarification from GitHub posted above).

What I’d have liked to have seen from GitHub would be something like a code review/mentoring program. Not limited to gender or age, they could facilitate a monthly code review with someone who is an expert in the language the repo is using. Maybe it’s even completely anonymous, so the reviewer *can’t* know the gender of the review. I don’t know.[/box]

Some men suffer the same anxiety as women do when it comes to releasing code publicly. The difference is that society has made it less socially acceptable for men to show that they’re afraid. Men have to suck it up and deal, women get mollycoddled. Both options suck.

If the goal is truly to promote coding and technology, I’d rather see a program that anyone who is feeling intimidated can benefit from, regardless of gender or age.

Photo credit: CnodeJS

About the author


Iโ€™m a tech geek/dev/infosec-nerd/scuba diver/blacksmith/sword-fighter/crime fighter/ENTP/warcrafter/activist. I run Grokability, Inc, and run several open source projects, including Snipe-IT Asset Management. Tweet at me @snipeyhead or read more...

  • A wonderfully articulate article that, in my humble opinion, cuts straight to the heart of the issue. We’re not going to solve this issue overnight with platitudes and ill conceived empty gestures, nor are we going to solve myriad other issues, both in the tech industry and the world in general. I don’t want to go from a tight sexism-in-tech focus all the way out to people, opinions, prejudices in general; but all of the author’s points can probably be generalised and applied with equal validity to other prejudices and issues in and outside of our industry. I don’t think we can start to address these issues until we acknowledge and begin to address the fact that these are symptoms perceived by those in our particular industry of a more industry agnostic problem.

    To quote the author on Twitter “… [She is] shocked the flames havenโ€™t started yet …”. It’s sad that this has come to be expected of responses to someone voicing their opinions on this particular subject.

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Max. I think what’s arguably worse than the fact that I’m already bracing for the flames is the deluge of thanks I am getting via DM, email and Facebook private message, from many men and even some women.

      They feel that they can’t say they agree with me publicly, because the crazy that has come to surround this issue turns into career suicide if you disagree with it in the slightest. Same thing happened with Donglegate. Was so sad to see so many people who couldn’t agree in public for fear of repercussions. People I deeply respect in the industry.

      Grown men and women can’t even speak frankly and honestly about how they feel. And yet we somehow think that free repos are going to fix what’s broken here?

      • You’re preaching to the choir, as they say. Whatever the subject, whoever the audience, there are always going to be haters. I think people forget that in this grand quest for diversity of all sorts, human nature dictates that there are necessarily going to be a diverse range of opinions to go with it, some of which we won’t all agree with. Which goes back to your original point that we all have our own opinions, we are all entitled to air those opinions, and in doing so, people might get pissed off. Sometimes you’ll be the one pissing others off! Either way, sometimes we have to suck it up, rise above it, and get on with more important things in life!

      • On the last bit, I don’t think the question is “are free repos going to fix this?” But more like “Hey, we’re github, what can we do directly to help?” And maybe it’s not a great answer, but github can only do what github can do.

        • Sorry, reposting this to the RIGHT reply this time.

          What I’d have liked to have seen from GH, if they wanted to really help, would be something like a code mentoring program. Not limited to gender or age, they facilitate a once a week code review with someone who is an expert in the language the repo is using. Maybe it’s even completely anonymous, so the reviewer *can’t* know the gender of the review.

          Men suffer the same anxiety as women do when it comes to releasing code publicly. The difference is that society has made it less socially acceptable for men to show that they’re afraid. Men have to suck it up and deal, women get mollycoddled. Both options suck.

          If the goal is to promote coding and tech, I’d rather see something like what I just described. A program anyone who is feeling intimidated can benefit from.

          • me

            That sounds like an awesome idea.

  • I am really, really interested in what the women who identify with the women-in-tech movement think of this. I think you’re saying some important and valid things here, but they are too. Because yo, sexism is a real thing and it really does happen in tech, and bucking yourself up might help your personal situation somewhat but doesn’t make the problem go away.

    So yeah, I want to hear more about this.

    • I absolutely never said sexism isn’t a real thing. I said it’s very much a real thing. It’s just not special and unique to tech. It’s everywhere, every day. I’m not asking anyone to “buck up” either. I’m saying fight it. Fight it like hell. But fight the real issue, not one small manifestation of it. It’s like a hydra – until you kill the beast itself, you can keep working on all of the heads and they’ll just keep growing back.

      • Both/and, Snipe, both/and. That’s what I’m saying.

        • I got one of your other replies via email, but I don’t see it here. Not sure if Disqus is behaving badly or if you deleted, or what.

          I definitely don’t think that GH was trying to fix ALL THE THINGS, and I appreciate their good intentions, I genuinely do. I’m a massive fan of Github, and I pay for private repos for some of my personal projects. No lack of love for that crew.

          As “as Github, what can we do to help” is a totally valid question, and I’m not pissed at them for coming up with this as an answer. it’s not GH’s responsibility to fix this on their own. It’s just the thing that sparked me to share my thoughts on the issue as a whole.

        • What I’d have liked to have seen from GH, if they wanted to really help, would be something like a code mentoring program. Not limited to gender or age, they facilitate a once a week code review with someone who is an expert in the language the repo is using. Maybe it’s even completely anonymous, so the reviewer *can’t* know the gender of the review.

          Men suffer the same anxiety as women do when it comes to releasing code publicly. The difference is that society has made it less socially acceptable for men to show that they’re afraid. Men have to suck it up and deal, women get mollycoddled. Both options suck.

          If the goal is to promote coding and tech, I’d rather see something like what I just described. A program anyone who is feeling intimidated can benefit from.

  • rsuehle

    I don’t have enough thank yous, +1s, and appreciation to give. I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    • Thank you, rsuehle!

  • Trisha Salas

    Wow, just wow!! I wholeheartedly agree…and have been mulling this issue over since the PyCon issue….but I could not come up with the words like you have here. You don’t know me…I only found you through twitter from following @karmatosed (probably not directly but you know how that can be) but I say thank you!

    • Thanks so much for the kind words, Trisha!

  • I too find it unfair. I don’t like where this whole movement is going. Sure, people are trying to be helpful. But they are only treating the symptoms and the medicine has too many side effects. You said it very well: the issues that newcomers face are the same for both genders.

    • Anna – thanks so much for commenting. I’ve tried to reply to you like 10 times but Disqus was having problems, and now I don’t remember exactly what I wrote. Something like [Insert all kinds of awesome things here.]

      It’s like the “mansplaining” thing. We work with a majority of people who are a little socially awkward. Not all, of course, but a higher than average concentration. I don’t think “mansplaining” really exists. I’ve seen neckbeards over-explain something to other men as much as to women. I think sometimes people are confusing nerdy, arrogant and pedantic for sexist.

      I’ve had my ideas stolen by a superior at work, but I don’t assume it’s because I’m female. It’s because that guy was a giant wang who stole everyone’s ideas. And you bet your ass I called him out on it in the executive meetings.

      Ultimately, I feel like we’re attributing behaviors to sexism when they just don’t belong there. They’re annoying and aggravating and potentially destructive, but not sexist.

      • julia_disqus

        I myself much prefer the term ‘splaining, as I notice it comes equally from both men and women, and much more about cultural, not technical things. Usually, when somebody knows very little about the subject but feels superior (plenty of it in mass media). It also includes ‘splaing about “women in tech” to the women in tech.

  • Larry Garfield

    Yes, yes, very much yes! Between PHPnessGate and Donglegate, I think we’re starting to see where over-zealous, over-protective (if well-meaning and well-intentioned) actions to combat sexism can backfire badly. In any industry, those who are able to take their knocks, learn from them, and keep going will do better than those who cannot. Male, female, doesn’t matter. Coddling people, male or female, does them no favors. Coddling women in particular implies that they need it more because they’re… the weaker sex?

    I’m sure that’s not the intent of such attempts to reduce sexism in tech, but too often “treating the symptom” belies just such underlying contradictions and can cause more problems than they solve.

    There are “women in tech” groups that I’ve seen that *do not allow men to attend* to discuss issues of sexism in tech. Wha? While well-meaning perhaps (to give a “less hostile environment”), it again reinforces the negative stereotype that men are The Enemy(tm) and women are frail and weak; both of which are untrue, and we need to not make them true through our actions. That’s bad for everyone.

    • Unfortunately, I think they are two different issues. Actual sexism vs “welcoming environments”. Sexual innuendo, for example – Donglegate – that doesn’t actually trivialize women in any way – is different and even less black-and-white than actual sexism. What one woman may consider an “unwelcoming environment”, I may consider absolutely freaking hilarious. And this is where the danger lies.

      • lomifeh

        The root cause of donglegate was one thing. The reactions were the problem I thought. It degenerated quickly which is the real problem. Yes she had a problem, but it spiraled quickly all around into your typical internet shitshow.

  • AmyStephen

    A good majority of what you have said here, Snipe, I agree with. I don’t know if you remember the enormous uproar over a few comments made on Twitter about bad code written by a woman who identified herself as a Mozilla developer. People with very large followings were linking to those three people’s tweets and crucifying them. IMO, the only thing worse for a female coder is to be ignored. Feedback is a good thing.

    Having said that, I also get frustrated with responses like this because Github offering women free repositories is a good thing. Why make such a big deal about it? You don’t want it? Fine. But, why not quietly allow choice?

    I understand your frustration – I have double the years in the industry you have had. In all my years, never have I seen such a polarized people willing to throw down about such nonsense.

    At least you understand my point. There are folks on the other side that I fear we have lost all communication with as they comb thru any word said for possible offense. If they really want to women to be taken seriously in this industry – MOHR CODE. MOHR TESTS. MORE DOC. It’s how it works.

    • Amy – you have double the years in the industry as I do? You don’t look old enough to have been doing this for 34+ years. You must tell me your secret.

      I remember the Moz dev thing vaguely. I’m fuzzy on the details, I’m sorry.

      I wasn’t making a big deal of the GH thing, it was simply the starting point of this post. GH did not actually offer that – Ada Initiative conveniently phrased it in such a way to lead people to believe that, but they didn’t. They just gave Ada an org account – which was very nice of them, but also makes a very different statement than “all women get free private repos”.

      • AmyStephen

        Yea, I read that distinction in your post. I just think it would have been okay if github did that. I am so okay with grown adults deciding what to offer and what to accept. But, I get your point, frankly, I’m just tired of all of this.

        Over the past nine years out here in the open source world, I am not seeing women who are afraid or worried or oppressed or unable to get involved. That doesn’t mean it’s not happening. From time to time, I put a call out that if a woman wants to get involved and is looking for support, ping me. I’m glad to help mentor and always like having new friends.

        • “I have double the years in the industry you have had” – Do you mean half? I swear I’m not trying to dick-step or being a pedantic shit. Honestly just trying to understand your timeline.

          I have a theory that I want to research a little bit before I post separately about it, but the more I talk to people, the more I think it might have legs.

          Back when I was a young woman, young people judged each other (and genders, gender roles, etc) different. Boys that slept around were studs, women that slept around were sluts. I didn’t realize that that has sort of changed over the past 20 years (oh my god has it really been that long?)

          I chat with some of my younger friends (early 20s), and it feels to me like things have evened out. Young men and young women are viewed very similarly with respect to their sexual choices.

          While this is obviously not about sexual choices, it made me wonder. Maybe this issue is already on its way out. Sure, we’re always going to have a small % of the population that’s awful – but what if the women’s liberation movement actually worked better than we thought. They influenced the young women and men of the time, who then in turn had children who are now in their 20s, and were raised with very different notions than we were.

          Dunno. All of my evidence is anecdotal right now, but I notice it’s mostly women our age (I assume you’re younger than me, but not by that much?) who discuss it. I wonder if the work of Steinem and Frieden are finally ebign realized, because the more enlightened generation is now coming into power.

          • AmyStephen

            I was born on September 17, 1961. I have my original birth certificate, if necessary ;-). I started working in the industry when I was 20 years old. I’m very close to 52. That’s 32 years, baby. I have a 7 month old granddaughter who I hope will be as strong as her mother who was raised to take care of herself.

            I have a text document on my desktop LOADED with points I want to make about “women’s issues.” Like you are saying — one of the points I also want to think through is — maybe we have reached an acceptable level of choice for women today and the debate is burning out. I think that is part of it, although we need to remember that education has played a big part in that for people like you and me. Income levels, generational poverty, where you happened to be born on this earth, show significant progress is still needed for many women.

          • Holy shit, girl – you really MUST tell me your secret. I’m 37 and have been in it recreationally for ~22 years, professionally for about 17. You look f*cking amazing, or that photo is seriously old. ๐Ÿ˜› I’m crazy jealous.

            I hope the theory is right. How awesome will it be if you get to tell your granddaughter stories about how we used to have to deal with this stuff in the olden days.

            I want to reach out to a younger group of women to try to further cement the theory, but I do think there’s something there.

          • Larry Garfield

            I suspect it’s not strongly correlated to age as much as it is to sub-group. There likely are pockets within the IT world (certain OSS projects, certain companies, etc.) where sexism as a thing is either gone or “close enough” that railing against it too much becomes counter-productive. There are other pockets, however, where it’s still very much an issue. I have no data to suggest the relative sizes or distribution of those pockets.

            The problem comes when one tries to rail against it in the areas, even those where it is practically a non-issue. That’s where a lot of the blowback comes, and generates a bad reputation for trying to work against the sexism that still remains as being over-sensitive, looking for a fight, etc. That only makes enemies you don’t want and don’t need to make.

    • My point here is that if what we’re really looking for is equality, then that must extend to the men who are intimidated by releasing code to the public.

      Fear of failure is not a gender issue. It’s a human issue, and although society has opted to deal with it differently based on gender (men = shamed, women = fragile), it doesn’t change that.

      • AmyStephen

        And there’s the difference. I gave up looking for equality a long time ago. It does not exist. If github wants to give me a free private repository, I’ll take it. If men want to cry they have been treated unfairly, I will tease them until they wet themselves. In public. With my camera handy.

        • I want equality mostly so people will STFU about it already. I’m so exhausted by this topic. It’s why I’ve *never* posted about this before on my blog. Not because I didn’t have feelings about it. We talk on Twitter, you know I have strong feelings. It’s just so fucking exhausting to deal with all the crazy that comes after.

          I want equality because I want it to be okay for me to tease the crying girl who was treated unfairly as equally as the crying man. I’m losing half my potential victims of ridicule with this sexism bullshit. ๐Ÿ˜›

          • AmyStephen


    • I can deal with all of it. The part that breaks my heart is that the fervor has gotten so crazy about this issue, folks on both sides are afraid to talk about it openly and honestly. The more vocal feminists who seem to want something besides actual parity have created a toxic, bullying environment, where men (and women) who disagree with them are immediately torn to pieces. How exactly are we supposed to make any progress here when no one is willing to talk, and even fewer willing to listen?

      • AmyStephen

        Preaching to the choir, sister.

      • ken

        “feminists who seem to want something besides actual parity” – This includes all feminists. If you’re not in this camp, I think we call you a ‘person’.
        I don’t get it anymore. Duct tape for this, duct tape for that. Imagine a leaking pipe that just keeps bursting out elsewhere as you continue patching each specific leak rather than replacing the pipe. I don’t know what the pipe is, don’t hold me to the analogy that tightly.
        Everyone needs to get off of every bandwagon. I can’t keep track. If I were standing near a guy who (truly) sexually harassed someone I would punch him in the mouth.
        In a decent world where things evolve naturally without so much legislation for this that and the other I’d be applauded for punching him.
        In this world, however, there’s a group to call clumsy flirting ‘harassment’ (I saw a guy fired for telling a girl he liked her haircut. She didn’t complain, it was some other old hag in her dept. Yes, reread it if you like, I wrote it intentionally.) and a group to say that me punching a guy is a ‘hate crime’ if we were accidentally the wrong color, etc. etc. etc…

  • brenda003

    Love this, thank you.

    I just feel insulted when I’m offered something free because I’m a woman when it comes to the tech industry. Completely insulted, as if I need free things and all this help in order to somehow compete.

    • Hi Brenda – I totally agree. This really happened once: My company was pitching a new project to one of our existing large clients (financial institution).

      A woman on the client’s side saw me in the office a few weeks later after we won the business. She beamed at me at and said “Oh hi again! You know, you’re the reason we picked your company!”

      Excited to hear more about how awesome I am, I said “Oh really? That’s really cool – Why’s that?”

      “Your company was the only startup that brought a woman,” she said to me with the biggest smile you could imagine. She actually thought I’d find this to be a compliment.

      It took absolutely everything I had in me to not reply with something like “Well, how wonderful that you found my vagina so compelling!”

      I just couldn’t believe how proud she was at telling me this, and how she clearly could NOT SEE how this would be pretty much the most insulting things she could have said to me. We weren’t picked because we were the best, or because I impressed them with my skills, depth of knowledge, innovation and charisma. Nope. Just the vagina.

      It was shocking, and so disappointing.

      • brenda003

        Wow, and yikes. Very disappointing! I wish you had responded like that, ha!

        I haven’t gotten anything quite outright as that, but certainly a lot of “oh, finally a girl on the team!” or just extra welcoming and awe because I happen to, as you say, have a vagina.

        I’ve always been very on the fence about the whole girls in tech thing. I’ve been online for over 20 years myself now and done just fine. Of COURSE I want to encourage women, and all people, to embrace the tech industry and open source, but it just seems like many of these initiatives are pointing out the fact at every opportunity what gender (or whatever) a person is. I’m not a woman/girl/chick/whatever in tech. I’m just a frickin’ software developer.

  • Well said Snipe.

    The constant distinction of “women in technology”, imo, puts the spotlight on women โ€“ often in a manner that makes them more self-conscious and alienated than any factors generally attributed to the causes of alienation.

    From my perspective, this seems much like a fairy tale in which the ‘damsel in distress’ is coddled because she is too fragile to protect herself. All that’s happens is the hero role changes. The end message is the same โ€“ women can’t be self-reliant, someone has to save them.

    • Totally agree 100%. By emphasizing our differences more than anything else, we only widen the gap between us. Also agree on the fragility thing. I agree so hard, I think I may have popped an ovary.

  • Yeah, I totally feel you. I’m a techie that happens to have a vagina. Let’s not make a big deal about it, ok? I want equal opportunities, and the ability to pass or fail on my own merit. If I ever got a job because I’m female instead of because I’m qualified, I would be livid.

    But here’s another story that might make you feel a little better. Same client (financial institution), different project (so diff team on their end). This was a pitch meeting, and my team kicked ass on it. I represented the tech dept, the rest of my (male) team was product, marketing, CEO, etc. On the client’s side, there were mostly marketing/product people, and two techies who work in mobile joined late.

    As we were finishing the meeting up, saying goodbye, shaking hands, etc, one of the mobile guys shakes my hand and says “It was really nice to meet you! And also good to see a girl in technology!”

    I replied back instantly with a warm smile: “Thanks! I’m pretty sure we like to be called women now.” I didn’t actually mean to say it. It just sorted popped out.

    His wife is apparently in tech, and he’s a REALLY nice guy, and genuinely meant his words to be encouraging and appreciative. I didn’t take them badly, and the whole thing was more funny than anything else – but I can imagine I scared him for a second, being that he works at this giant corporate place with crazy HR rules and blah blah blah.

  • julia_disqus

    I just learned about this “promotion”, it made me feel being patronized. And how in the world does a private repository teach open source? Open source is open to everybody, to use, to add, to comment. You want a project just to learn a particular language, you can keep it on your own hard drive, it’s free. If would be a good thing, though, if github offered *learning repos* or *startup repos* to everybody, such as with a limited time and space. There is plenty of unfunded startup owners of both genders who are trying to learn coding skills, and need a private space for their project/team. It would be good for the business too, if they continue with paid accounts afterwards.

    I agree that donglegates only make the matters worse. A real problem for any minority (such as somebody perceived different from the major crowd) is not the existence of jerks, which exist no matter what. It’s the exclusion from: networking, conversations, informal meetings, decision making, jobs, promotions and other “socially bound” opportunities. Pushing self-exclusion, emphasizing being different and demanding special treatments will only create more exclusion. You can code all your nights away, nobody will bother you…

  • lomifeh

    Rant or not, I agree with what you are saying. I’ve seen sexism both in tech and in the industry I am in. It is everywhere to varying degrees. But you know most of my thoughts on that and how I tend to think it is stupid.

    Funny thing when I need to share I don’t like doing it mostly because I don’t think it is perfect enough to share then I do with a slight wince. If anything I think tech as a whole needs to be more open in general not just to women.

    If tech is a meritocracy then these type of things just enforce the stereotype even when well intentioned. Getting people involved with other people is the key not giving them a space to host their stuff in private.

  • me

    Thank you for writing this. Well written and I agree with everything you wrote.I would only add that the more ADA talks, the more it seems like their regard on woman is even lower then the average misogynist one.

    Until you wrote it, I almost started to think that I’m the only woman in IT that dislike ADA initiative whenever I hear their opinions.

  • Smith981

    Thank you for saying this. I couldn’t agree more. I see the women in tech movement as headed completely in the wrong direction, painting largely innocent men as evil predators who devour women’s salaries and bodies. Seriously, listening to some of these people, it’s like they want to create an army of Adrias to undermine and backstab their male coworkers (which I have personally witnessed on multiple occasions in my career). I’m glad to see someone out there has a more levelheaded approach.

  • Thank you for this. I wish I could express myself so well.

  • Every time someone brings up the “women in tech” thing, I headdesk. I take a lot of Aleve. Thanks for this, I’m going to print it out and pass it around my office. I usually get too apoplectic to rationally explain why this meme pisses me off so much.

  • Derick Winkworth

    I love you. Thank you for writing this.

  • fjfish

    Interested how the women in tech groups are making it harder – can you post about this more? It is weird – when I graduated in 1986 (Applied Stats and Computing) a third of the cohort were women – now I doubt it would be more than one or two.

    I find the pink girls web sites very condescending, but there’s a ton of good stuff being done like Ruby Bridge – I did see a TED talk where it was said “stop calling yourselves girls” – but I’m the wrong gender and can’t comment, really. But I have to be honest I’d be leery of anything that was for “boys” ;).

    Can’t find the TED talk and didn’t bookmark it … meh.

  • pamelafox

    Heyaz! Interesting post — this is the sort of thing I debate with myself when I run GirlDevelopIt workshops, whether I’m doing the students a dis-favor by not exposing them to a mixed gender environment where shit could happen.
    However, I think what we’re doing is providing an environment where beginners can get a little bit of confidence before going out into the bigger sea. Especially for people getting into tech very late in life, their confidence seems pretty darn low. They’ll still have to go out into the real world once they get past the beginner level that we teach, and I’ve been happy to see many GDI students show up at meetups and conferences.

    As for making the workshops womens only, I think that it helps accomplish a goal of getting more women because people of *any* background are more likely to attend something when they feel it’s especially made for them, so we get women who wouldn’t otherwise have attended a less targeted “beginners only” workshop.

    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

    • I can definitely understand the struggle. (Also, I have to say that every time I see GDI, I fill in that acronym with “God Damn It.” I’m sorry, I can’t help it! Lol)
      I don’t have numbers on what it costs us as women in tech – and I think I’m softer on the special group stuff when it’s a group that wouldn’t normally turn to programming (very young or much older), since ultimately, I want as many people kicking ass at dev (and falling madly in love with it, as I did.)
      Maybe the ends justify the means. We’ll be less rare when we’re less rare. When young men grow up expecting women in their tech classes, whose aunts and moms we’re devs. So maybe it’s okay to have this kickstart. I honestly don’t know. I know I didn’t need a group. I learned on IRC — and I don’t think I’m that exceptional. That’s probably where some of this comes from.
      To me, it still feels like it’s calling out our differences, instead of embracing the things we have in common.
      Again, that’s just me gut reaction. Plenty of room for discussion, and my mind can definitely be changed.

  • papayasoft

    So excellent.

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