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Saturday, 22 March 2014

You! Be Informed! #0059 – Github Dev Quits Over Sexism

Github, an open source code sharing community is a household name for web developers. It’s common practice in the industry to hunt for new and fresh code to jazz up our latest projects and “fork” code for websites.

On March 15, Julie Ann Horvath, the developer behind the Passion Projects, announced in her tweets that she would be quitting over sexism and a toxic work-culture environment.

 

 

The Passion Project and Gender Disparities in Tech

 

Horvath, who was one of the first female developers for the then start-up had joined the company in 2012 as its only female web developer/web designer. In an interview with TechCrunch, she spoke about the difficulties of constantly being in a male-dominated environment. She stated: “I had a really hard time getting used to the culture, the aggressive communication on pull requests and how little the men I worked with respected and valued my opinion.”

She then started the Passion Projects, a call to get women more interested in coding and tech. The aim of Passion Projects is to create a safe-space to celebrate women in the technology industry. It also seeks to preach understanding and create better working environments. A project that seems sorely needed.

Here are some quick facts about the industry.

  •  A 2012 study by Appcelerator  – shows that 96% of mobile app developers are male.
  • Googling “Female Web Designer” will lead to 20 Hot Female Designers as its first result.
  • A study by Microsoft states that: 1.4 Million computing jobs will open in the U.S. between 2006-2018. ONLY 29% will be filled by women. 
  • Tracy Chou created a public Google Spreadsheet to highlight gender disparities in the technology industry.
  • The Ratio for Female Web Designers is 3 males : 1 female.
  • In 2012, the hashtag #1ReasonWhy trended and asked questions about the treatment of women in the gaming industry.

 

These facts are the reason why movements such as the Passion Project need to exist.

While there are many aspects of Horvath’s case that are under investigation by GitHub. According to an account she told TechCrunch that the straw that broke the camels back was:

Two women, one of whom I work with and adore, and a friend of hers were hula hooping to some music. I didn’t have a problem with this. What I did have a problem with is the line of men sitting on one bench facing the hoopers and gawking at them. It looked like something out of a strip club. When I brought this up to male coworkers, they didn’t see a problem with it. But for me it felt unsafe and to be honest, really embarrassing. That was the moment I decided to finally leave GitHub.

 

This and coupled with tales of harassment and poor office conduct by a github founder and his wife fueled Horvath’s leave. Horvath, who’s original intention was to render a quiet resignation  spoke up against the start up when someone in the application Secret spoke against her character.

 

Chris Warnstrath, CEO and a Co-Founder of GitHub has issued a public apology about her departure. We are still waiting for more developments about this case.

The fact that Horvath quits over the behavior she actively advocates against should be a wake up call about a deeper seated issue in the technology industry. Culture cannot be moved overnight, but what we can do in the mean time is to lead by example. We should be proactive in treating female colleagues with equal respect and all  being sensitive to their feelings. This isn’t something that shouldn’t have to be advocated in 2014, but it’s behaviour that goes a long way.

 

SOURCES: 

 

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