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Julie Horvath Describes Sexism And Intimidation Behind Her GitHub Exit
March 17, 2014 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Julie Ann Horvath has left Github, claiming a strong culture of sexism and intimidation. Github is investigating the claims, and has suspended two employees.
posted by Chrysostom (234 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was just reading this. Talk about shocking. I hope they manage to clean up the culture, it sounds like a shit place to work if an employee feels the need to go cry in the bathroom for extended periods of time.
posted by Carillon at 10:06 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Well, at least that response from Github shows no signs at all of circling the wagons or reflexively denying there's a problem.
posted by yoink at 10:10 AM on March 17 [5 favorites]


I'm of a split mind about this. On one hand, I'm thrilled to see GitHub responding forcefully and without denying or dismissing the problem. On the other hand, as Horvath said on Twitter yesterday:
I'm glad it's being addressed now, but don't congratulate and praise an org that knew and refused to act for over a year.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:11 AM on March 17 [35 favorites]


Github is huge deal in the dev world so how they handle this will be scrutinized by many. I hope Horvath finds a better place to work at.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:12 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]


She began telling me about how she informs her husband’s decision-making at GitHub, how I better not leave GitHub and write something bad about them, and how she had been told by her husband that she should intervene with my relationship to be sure I was ‘made very happy’ so that I wouldn’t quit and say something nasty about her husband’s company because ‘he had worked so hard.’

How funny, to be so perceptive AND YET handle it so poorly. "Hmm, I can tell Julie Ann is unhappy here.... quick, honey, take her out for a drink and tell she's not allowed to be unhappy or quit or ever say anything bad abut this place!" Clearly, that worked out well.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:12 AM on March 17 [42 favorites]


What a mess. Hopefully, Horvath will land on her feet at a competent organization.

Horvath called the situation, aptly, “bananas.”

Natural 20 on a Pithiness roll.

While the above was going on, Horvath had what she referred to as an awkward, almost aggressive encounter with another GitHub employee, who asked himself over to “talk,” and then professed his love, and “hesitated” when he was asked to leave. Horvath was in a committed relationship at the time, something this other employee was well aware of, according to Horvath.

The simultaneity here is really what classes up the joint.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:15 AM on March 17 [11 favorites]


“She began telling me ... how I better not leave GitHub and write something bad about them, and how she had been told by her husband that she should intervene with my relationship to be sure I was ‘made very happy’ so that I wouldn’t quit and say something nasty about her husband’s company because ‘he had worked so hard.'"
...
The wife also claimed to employ “spies” inside of GitHub, and claimed to be able to, again according to Horvath, read GitHub employees’ private chat-room logs, which only employees are supposed to have access to.
I mean jesus christ what kind of shit-show are you running if you just hand out the rope your rightfully dissatisfied employees are going to hang you with? As far as I'm aware, making someone feel happy and secure with their job doesn't tend to involve naming the ways in which the position is similar to a ministerial posting in the Kremlin.
posted by griphus at 10:15 AM on March 17 [20 favorites]


The place sounds nuts. And right here?

She began telling me about how she informs her husband’s decision-making at GitHub, how I better not leave GitHub and write something bad about them, and how she had been told by her husband that she should intervene with my relationship to be sure I was ‘made very happy’ so that I wouldn’t quit and say something nasty about her husband’s company because ‘he had worked so hard.

....that's about the time I'd advise somebody to get the hell out of there. That's bush-league bullshit.
posted by jquinby at 10:16 AM on March 17 [19 favorites]


So, what are my code hosting options if I were interested in pulling my repos from GitHub?
posted by DWRoelands at 10:17 AM on March 17 [12 favorites]


Really hoping some enterprising editor will find a way to publish the headline, "Tech Firm GitHub Proves to be Hub for Gits."
posted by explosion at 10:18 AM on March 17 [123 favorites]


In reading the TechCrunch article - I can't help but notice most of the issues presented relate to the awkward and inappropriate interactions with the founders wife. Certainly - the colleague professing his love and attacking her work when rejected - show the sexism, but I wish the article focused more on the inherent issues with the team than the terrible "working" relationship with the founder's wife.

As a woman in the tech industry, I can relate to the "boys club" mentality and defending your work ever harder - I just wish the focus touched more upon the internal sexism issues, and less with a psycho-wife of a founder.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 10:19 AM on March 17 [28 favorites]


DWRoelands: BitBucket never got quite the traction GitHub did but it's been plugging away adding more and more features for some time now for git and Mercurial repositories.
posted by foxfirefey at 10:20 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


So, what are my code hosting options if I were interested in pulling my repos from GitHub?

Bitbucket is rather nice, and, unlike GitHub, does not require a paid account for private repositories.
posted by /\/\/\/ at 10:20 AM on March 17 [6 favorites]


This MeFi post from earlier this month seems relevant: Do we really need managers?
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:21 AM on March 17 [11 favorites]


I dunno, having the founder's wife to take a female employee out for drinks (presumably because there are no senior-level women managers) sounds pretty sexist to me. The rest of that relationship is indeed bananas.
posted by muddgirl at 10:22 AM on March 17 [33 favorites]


So, what are my code hosting options if I were interested in pulling my repos from GitHub?

Obvious candidates include BitBucket if you aren't concerned about open-sourceness, with Gitorious and SourceForge as more direct competitors for open-source needs. The latter is notable for having filled more-or-less the role GitHub does today as a semi-universal open source code center, Once Upon a Time.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:22 AM on March 17


Having the founder's wife sent to give you a talking-to is absolutely, positively a plausible example, if true, of internal sexism. I seriously, seriously doubt that a new male hire would have been taken out for a drink by the founder's wife and told not to quit and say anything negative. Maybe I'm wrong. But internal sexism doesn't always take the form of either unwanted attention from male co-workers or having them attack your work. Sometimes it's just the awkwardness of the dynamics you're expected to tolerate that make your life and your work harder.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 10:23 AM on March 17 [86 favorites]


Just to provide some alternatives to bitbucket (which I like but did receive some flak on the blue a while ago), here's a listipost (minimal content, just names): 12 Git Hosting Services Compared

That said, GitHub seems to be the big, entrenched wheel in terms of repository hosting, and I doubt that this will shift it much.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:25 AM on March 17 [7 favorites]


Agreed that the founder's wife taking her out to drinks may be part of the issue - but I feel it comes across as more of a "catty/jealous woman being a bitch to the female employee" and less "forced intimidation by wife of founder because she's a woman".

Perhaps it was just my read of it - but something that often causes me ire in the tech world - is that women can't disagree/have arguments without it being a "cat fight" - I guess I am concerned that this is how it will be interpreted.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 10:26 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]


What is a git, anyway?
posted by smrtsch at 10:26 AM on March 17


What was meant by aggressive communication on pull requests (non-techie here)?

Also this place sounds really weird and dysfunctional. Does the founder's wife just sort of hang around and look over peoples' shoulders? Is she actually involved in running the place? How does a guy get away with randomly turning on someone and deleting her work without anyone wondering what the deal is?
posted by Hoopo at 10:29 AM on March 17


As Llama-Lime pointed out above, this immediately reminded me the "Do We Really Need Managers?" discussion from last month -- particularly how that article started with the idea of treating employees as adults. The problem is that, too often, adults in position of power don't act like fucking adults.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:32 AM on March 17 [15 favorites]


What was meant by aggressive communication on pull requests

I was also wondering this as I read about this earlier this morning!

Other thing I wondered: How, in a system that is (from what I understand) specifically built so people can track versioning and seeing what other people have done to the code, did the guy who just deleted her work think that was an okay thing to do that no one would notice?
posted by rtha at 10:33 AM on March 17 [3 favorites]


I've come to believe that power is something that human beings can't handle and shouldn't be trusted with, any more than a toddler should be trusted with a gun.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:34 AM on March 17 [7 favorites]


Hoopo, I read this article in ModelViewCulture today about unpaid labor in startups (among other things), and it describes the wives/girlfriends of founders as often running the non-technical parts of the business, unpaid, before they get established enough to begin hiring HR and other administrative workers. I wondered if something similar had happened in Github, leading to the strange status of the wife.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:34 AM on March 17 [36 favorites]


Other thing I wondered: How, in a system that is (from what I understand) specifically built so people can track versioning and seeing what other people have done to the code, did the guy who just deleted her work think that was an okay thing to do that no one would notice?

I couldn't tell from the way the article is written if they didn't notice, which could be possible if they were the only two people reviewing that section of code, or if others noticed and let it occur. The latter is far more insipid.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:36 AM on March 17


I've been following this pretty closely; just a few months ago, Horvath had staunchly defended the company and angered a lot of activists over a controversy involving a rug with the word "meritocracy" (the controversy being that tech may aspire to be a meritocracy but isn't in reality) and now says she regrets doing so.

One of the things that Horvath was allegedly taken to task for was being in a relationship with another Github employee. I think this is a good example of how social norms against dating co-workers are often used to hurt women's careers.

As for how her code could be deleted without anyone noticing, I'm guessing that whoever deleted it had some meritocratic-sounding reason for doing so and attempted to cast doubt on the overall quality of her contributions.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 10:38 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]


As a woman in the tech industry, I can relate to the "boys club" mentality and defending your work ever harder - I just wish the focus touched more upon the internal sexism issues, and less with a psycho-wife of a founder.

It's tricky, because "women experience sexism at work, especially in the tech world" is a relatably broad-gauge story, but Horvath herself also had her own particular journey at GitHub. Horvath experienced a number of unacceptable situations at Github, including both the wife nonsense and the more outright, plain old sexism. The wife stories are more concretely juicy, whereas the sexism stories are more depressingly familiar.

It's a bit theoretical for us to debate just how sexist it is to have the boss's wife take you out for drinks, but I certainly buy the idea that it could be indicative of a sexist environment. Maybe that boss had sicced his wife on her because he didn't feel comfortable threatening her himself? Maybe the wife had insisted on it, because she thought Horvath needed a talkin'-to? I could only speculate. (FWIW, as a guy, I would have found it odd if the boss's wife gave me a one-on-one meeting with me over drinks, but there could be contexts in which that could make sense.)

Either way, the couple sounds totally inappropriate.

...

How does a guy get away with randomly turning on someone and deleting her work without anyone wondering what the deal is?

He's angry because his penis was denied an audience, so his judgment is clouded, plus he's either consciously or unconsciously relying on the idea that people wouldn't take her seriously if she were to fight back. "Oh, yeah, right, like I fixed your work because I like you, pffft, what a stuck-up bitch, amirite?"

Either way, we're wondering about the deal now, so clearly his plan didn't work.

...

Regarding the role of the wife at all, it's not super unusual for reality to reflect the old saying that "behind every great man is a great woman". People often rely on their romantic partners for advice. Where this becomes hinky is when people step beyond the role of "informal advisor". Had the wife actually been an employee, she would have been professionally accountable in a way that she wasn't as just the boss's wife.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:38 AM on March 17 [4 favorites]


What was meant by aggressive communication on pull requests (non-techie here)?

It means they were being assholes when she tried to change code. A pull request is a message indicating changes you made in the code, usually done when you want to contribute. The owner of the git repository can then comment about it, and allow/deny the changes.

Back handed code review comments are some of the most common passive aggressive asshole moves a coder can make.
posted by zabuni at 10:38 AM on March 17 [21 favorites]


@Hoopo: in the git paradigm, everyone has a complete copy of the repository (current code, old code, commit history, etc). You make your changes against your local copy. But someone has the master or authoritative copy of the repository (the one that releases are made from). A "pull request" is a request from you that they pull your changes into their copy of the repository. It's sycning or publishing your changes to a wider audience.

It relates to the git command to do these. A "pull" command syncs commits from a remote repository and merges them into my current working copy. A "push" command (if I have permission) pushes my local commits to a remote repository and merges them.

GitHub makes pull requests into a kind of ticketing system request with the option for additional comments. And then it's tracked (as a ticketing system would) whether all of the pulled commits were accepted or rejected. I usually put a summary of my commits in the pull request comment. My guess is that the aggressiveness is in how this employee denied the request and the comments he made.
posted by sbutler at 10:38 AM on March 17 [8 favorites]


What was meant by aggressive communication on pull requests (non-techie here)?

A pull request on Github (or Bitbucket, etc.) is basically an easier way to submit code fixes ("patches") to software projects you don't own, as well as accept patches for projects you do own.

I don't know which end of project ownership Ms. Horvath was on which involved aggressive communication, but if I had to guess, she submitted patches to improve internal code, and perhaps that was threatening to some coworkers who couldn't deal with her being female, and so they rejected or otherwise made up bullshit reasons not to let the fixes go through?

That's just a shot in the dark though. It could also be the other way around, where she owned a project and coworkers expected their patches to go through unquestioned. Hard to say which without more detail.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:40 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I've come to believe that power is something that human beings can't handle and shouldn't be trusted with, any more than a toddler should be trusted with a gun.

And yet people need to handle it, one way or another.

Anyway, IMO the boss' wife thing is straight-up crazy. Not only is there some weird sexism going on, but it's a straight-up abuse of power for the wife, who is otherwise not an employee, to say she's the one running the place. wat?

The unwanted advance of the co-worker seems sort of random. It's not appropriate and I hope HR has a talk with the guy, but I suspect it's unrelated and may not be a structural failing of the company's policies the way the boss' wife situation is. Infatuated people act irrationally. Which is an explanation, not an excuse.

A crazy story all around. I wonder if some other side of it will come out.
posted by GuyZero at 10:40 AM on March 17


Oh geez, on re-reading comments Ive glossed over the rejected co-worker deleting her code. That's incredibly bad. Like, terminatingly bad. I'll be impressed if they find a way through this.
posted by GuyZero at 10:42 AM on March 17 [6 favorites]


Damn, she had to put up with a lot of shit. What is it about the tech industry that makes its male members such assholes? It's as if they equate technological skill and high pay with social immunity, or somehow being above other people. Honestly, it's just programming.
posted by spiderskull at 10:44 AM on March 17 [11 favorites]


Github seems to have had a really toxic culture for a long time. I'm reminded of Zed Shaw's claim a few years ago:
There's a sort of running hidden gag among the Ruby Iluminati (aka Rubynati) within San Francisco. Employees from Engine Yard, PowerSet, and ... github love this joke where they create code that generates ASCII art penis pictures and then force other people onto their project without permission.
posted by enn at 10:45 AM on March 17 [5 favorites]


Hoopo, I read this article in ModelViewCulture today about unpaid labor in startups (among other things), and it describes the wives/girlfriends of founders as often running the non-technical parts of the business, unpaid, before they get established enough to begin hiring HR and other administrative workers. I wondered if something similar had happened in Github, leading to the strange status of the wife.

Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if this is also a factor here - and this itself is a function of a sexist society that devalues "women's work" and the contributions of female partners to businesses. If the founder's wives had official status rather than being unofficial "chief-cook-and-bottle-washer... until we find an actual credentialed person to do those jobs" then navigating this situation would have been a lot easier for employees.
posted by muddgirl at 10:46 AM on March 17 [15 favorites]


We're great, we're young, we're clever! We don't need to follow basic laws or standards about how to treat other people in the workplace! Because of the internet!
posted by entropone at 10:54 AM on March 17 [32 favorites]


Man, what does it say about my experiences with sexism in tech fields that the most surprising thing to me is that Github is taking it seriously?
posted by KathrynT at 10:54 AM on March 17 [69 favorites]


Man, what does it say about my experiences with sexism in tech fields that the most surprising thing to me is that Github is taking it seriously?

Truly. I read their response and was like 'WTF? Co-founder suspended and wife barred from the offices? Whoa, there must be MUCH worse than what I've read going on.'
posted by Mooski at 10:56 AM on March 17 [24 favorites]


Sounds like brogramming, once again. This stuff starts at the top. If you have an executive culture which is broken, your company will be broken. How hard is it to try to insure an employee stays happy by keeping a professional environment and making sure they have the tools they need to get their job done well? The co-founder guy absolutely should be kicked from the company, he's completely unsuitable to have any sort of role where he influences the day-to-day operations. His complete lack of smarts in regards to this actively brought about the thing he was trying to avoid.

So many dudes don't realize "a fun place to work" doesn't mean you get to run around with your nerf guns and gawk at fellow employees boobs or whatever it is you think sounds like a good time. This part of tech culture I could definitely do without. There's plenty of space between white-shirts-and ties and "frat house for nerds" to run an organization professionally.

This is another reason why (well run) unions are important: HR is there to protect the company, full-stop. It can help keep things professional, but it's not there to advocate for employees. A union, on the other hand, is there to go to bat for employees.

My experience has also been that founders/owners/whatever of small businesses which become large can easily become "little Napoleons", with astonishing senses of entitlement...exactly the sort of people who play the "do you know who I am" card at coffee stands. They feel that they can do anything they want within the confines of "their" company, and that's eventually a recipe for disaster in all but a very few cases.
posted by maxwelton at 10:57 AM on March 17 [31 favorites]




As for how her code could be deleted without anyone noticing,

sbutler covered it, but that's also why I really dislike the git paradigm/distributed VCS .. the whole "everyone is their own island" or somesuch.

I know there's pro/cons to each side (eg with git, anyone crash/burns, can recover vs centralized if server crash/burns you're out time to restore from back up), but I prefer a centralized authority of the source.
posted by k5.user at 11:03 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


At my office we use Mercurial for private repos.
posted by fontophilic at 11:04 AM on March 17


Really hoping some enterprising editor will find a way to publish the headline, "Tech Firm GitHub Proves to be Hub for Gits."
Your search - site:theregister.co.uk "hub for gits" - did not match any documents.
Well so much for the usual suspect for headlines like that. But a search for gits+github restricted to The Register does yield a few hits.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:05 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]


I filled in a spot on an athletic team building event for a start-up that a friend works for and the founders wife was in a very similar position as described by this article. She was nice enough but I was practically interrogated by her and had to give my life story to her, and I didn't even work for them nor would I be in the future, it was odd to say the least. I can only imagine the dynamic that my friend must deal with.
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 11:06 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


"I hope HR has a talk with the guy..."
From the Ars Technica article I read about this, the statement from Github says that they just recently hired an HR person, so for almost the entire time that Julie was probably going through all of this mess, they did not actually have an HR department to handle any of these issues.

I know a lot of start-up culture is very loosely defined orgs, and their goal is much more towards creating a product than setting up the systems and institutional structure of a functional business, but as this incident outlines, it really is something that you should be thinking about from day one, because as others have pointed out, when there is no one to turn to (like an HR department, that isn't totally cozy with upper management, but actually a) trained about HR rules and the laws the govern employee/employer relationships, and b) able to actually do the proper record keeping for when an employee files a complaint against another employee, isn't corruptible by management, and does the job they are supposed to be doing, rather than just being another extension of managerial bullshit), you end up with hostile work environments, bad management behavior, and people who don't even fucking work there talking to the employees like they are some kind of wayward child, in need of some tough love talk, instead of actually, you know, not behaving like a bunch of idiots, blindly trying to force their will on their employees, instead of actually making the work place a productive and safe environment.
posted by daq at 11:07 AM on March 17 [5 favorites]


I read this article in ModelViewCulture today about unpaid labor in startups (among other things), and it describes the wives/girlfriends of founders as often running the non-technical parts of the business, unpaid, before they get established enough to begin hiring HR and other administrative workers.

Every small company I've ever worked at had this situation, sometimes adult children as well. And in one of those situations the wife was a good coworker and friendly acquaintance of mine, but she herself was uncomfortable with the position that put her in - the same one that other C-spouses might abuse. (And then there's the time they had a fight and he informed the entire company that she was terminated effective immediately and wasn't allowed in the building. 10 days later she was back at work, no one ever spoke of it.)

Also any fool with the inclination can start a business and therefore be a C-level executive. That doesn't make them good at running a business, and it doesn't make them not be a fool, and that's part of the reason you end up with incredibly toxic cultures at these companies, because the fools weren't inclined to care anyway and by the time the venture cash arrives the crazy train is already well up to speed. I think if the VCs cared you'd see some interesting trends in HR education and specialization, but I don't think most of your major funders would give a shit if management were eating employees, as long as they weren't the important employees. But HR is considered about as important as the office cleaning company, and most places I've worked HR is a task on the controller's job description.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:11 AM on March 17 [18 favorites]


I know there's pro/cons to each side (eg with git, anyone crash/burns, can recover vs centralized if server crash/burns you're out time to restore from back up), but I prefer a centralized authority of the source.

That's a common misconception: if you have more than one authoritative git/hg repo you're using it wrong; in fact I can't quite imagine how your build system works. A build system will pull from a repo. Whichever repo it pulls from is the blessed one; the others are a convenience for coders and teams. And an indispensable one: I will never go back to centralized version control without kicking and screaming.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:12 AM on March 17 [7 favorites]


the sort of people who play the "do you know who I am" card at coffee stands.

"Do you know who I am?"
"Sure. You're the asshole holding up the coffee line."
posted by thelonius at 11:15 AM on March 17 [5 favorites]


This makes me sad, not least because one of the best technical relationships I ever had was with a "founder's wife". She was a fabulous engineer in her own right, and stepped in for a couple of years to help the company when there was a shortage of her specialty. It was a real loss when she moved on to her other interests once there was more coverage and we lost her as a mentor.
posted by tavella at 11:16 AM on March 17 [3 favorites]


The sooner this fucking bubble pops and sweeps this filth away, the better.
posted by symbioid at 11:17 AM on March 17 [5 favorites]


The sooner this fucking bubble pops and sweeps this filth away, the better.

What, exactly, is the bubble? I have been trying to figure this out.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:21 AM on March 17 [1 favorite]


sweeps this filth away
One day, a real commit is going to come?
posted by thelonius at 11:22 AM on March 17 [22 favorites]


The sooner this fucking bubble pops and sweeps this filth away, the better.

github isn't exactly pets.com. It's a real business based on a great idea.

That it's run like an episode of The Bachelor meets The Apprentice is an entirely different matter.
posted by GuyZero at 11:26 AM on March 17 [21 favorites]


Back handed code review comments are some of the most common passive aggressive asshole moves a coder can make.

This is the most insidious part, in a way. "Yeah, we hired a female developer once, but she just could not code -- [brogrammer] always had to look over every change she made and rewrite her stuff."

For those of you who follow this kind of thing, the #iamdoingprogramming hashtag, inspired by a comment about how women developers probably spend their time "taking selfies in a mirror with a sign like 'I am doing programming!'", is a lot of fun today.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 11:26 AM on March 17 [12 favorites]


Man, as a paid github account holder this is wicked ugly reading.

I think if the VCs cared you'd see some interesting trends in HR education and specialization

Yeah, or at least VCs should be ready to provide that skeleton HR team from Funding Event Day onward as part of doing business, protecting all involved.

Startups are launched due to sheer will sometimes, and often that does not translate well from the true-believer-all-hands-on-deck-product-dev era to paying-people-with-lives-and-running-a-business era. The founders wife was asked to intervene. She might have been the only one willing to interface with employees once upon a time, so from her perspective she's an authority. A biased non-equipped authority.

Frankly, I would have taken this beef to 11 once my commits got disappeared. That is grounds for a whooping at any shop, let alone the Place Where Code Goes to Be Safe.

Also, on preview "real commit" has to become a protest/reform thing regarding github. Nice.
posted by drowsy at 11:36 AM on March 17 [5 favorites]


It sounds to me as though sexism is less the problem itself, than it is a symptom of a larger underlying problem: No one there seems to be running the place like a real business at all. Sexism is just one of the many -ism's that pile into places like that. I'll bet its friends: racism, nepotism, and cronyism aren't all that far away. Run a circus and it's gonna fill up with clowns.
posted by tyllwin at 11:39 AM on March 17 [24 favorites]


peeling the faded cat-opus off of my laptop, sigh.
posted by sibboleth at 11:45 AM on March 17 [5 favorites]


This article about what your culture really says about work is probably my favorite thing about work environments/culture I've read all year.
Culture is about power dynamics, unspoken priorities and beliefs, mythologies, conflicts, enforcement of social norms, creation of in/out groups and distribution of wealth and control inside companies. Culture is usually ugly. It is as much about the inevitable brokenness and dysfunction of teams as it is about their accomplishments. Culture is exceedingly difficult to talk about honestly. The critique of startup culture that came in large part from the agile movement has been replaced by sanitized, pompous, dishonest slogans.
If you don't even HAVE an HR department at this point in your organization, I think your company deserves to get nailed to the wall. It's not like these are unlearned lessons elsewhere.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:50 AM on March 17 [7 favorites]


In fairness to small startups lacking a HR department, HR was, until recently, often the most hated department in the company and in big companies has a reputation of being the corporate thought police.

Of course, then shit like this happens and we're all reminded why HR exists.
posted by GuyZero at 12:04 PM on March 17 [15 favorites]


My company was once run by the founder and his wife was the HR director. She was a nice enough woman, but only slightly competent in HR. But the biggest issue was that she was the founder's wife, so it's not like anyone felt comfortable complaining about any company issues. Because, pillow talk.
posted by Kokopuff at 12:12 PM on March 17




When your company has a highly popular product and there is a ton of money rolling in, and continues to roll in, and then even MORE comes after that, nobody really has to learn much about being a manager or an executive. It's easy to believe that whatever you're doing, you're doing right, because the proof is in the zeroes on your bank statement. Nothing discourages self-reflection like wild success.


I think the most salient point I've read about this is one I saw on Hacker News yesterday, paraphrased thus:

- Red Tape isn't just a straitjacket. Sometimes it's a crash harness.
posted by chimaera at 12:16 PM on March 17 [30 favorites]


We had a deal, Kyle: "Sounds like brogramming

Noted by Today in Tabs: 'a company that staged a literal "passing of the fedora" when it changed CEOs this January.'
"

If I have a "burn it all down and head for the mountains" moment any time in the near future I will be writing an explanatory note consisting exclusively of a link to that GIF.
posted by invitapriore at 12:34 PM on March 17 [25 favorites]


tyllwin: "It sounds to me as though sexism is less the problem itself, than it is a symptom of a larger underlying problem: No one there seems to be running the place like a real business at all. Sexism is just one of the many -ism's that pile into places like that. I'll bet its friends: racism, nepotism, and cronyism aren't all that far away. Run a circus and it's gonna fill up with clowns."

These are not unrelated.
posted by symbioid at 12:34 PM on March 17


I've come to believe that power is something that human beings can't handle and shouldn't be trusted with, any more than a toddler should be trusted with a gun.

Sounds like brogramming


I don't think it's symptomatic of "brogramming" and I fear casting it as such actually hides the problem. Having been a developer on various teams for a decade or so, I see the problem this way: "power" or "leadership" is something that has to exist. Because if you don't acknowledge it or try what Github did and actively say you won't have it, it doesn't go away. It then winds up in the hands of whomever wants to grab it. Which winds up being lots of people and then you have this weird fractured mess that's worse than having a boss.

When we think of people who grasp for power we tend to think of assholes and the incompetent, but in an organization you're really talking about lots of little bits of power, not One True Ring. So while assholes may grasp for power, there's also Ted who woke up with a hair across his ass this morning or Barry who just got unfairly steamrolled in a meeting a couple of hours ago and now is going to put his foot down about an unrelated component that he knows better than anyone, etc.

This is one of those topics I have a long, involved and probably totally nuts Theory about, but my general shorthand reference for how to handle organization and team dynamics comes from the Aubrey & Maturin series of novels. Over 20 novels there are a ton of themes they return to, but one of the main ones is the characters are two men devoting their lives to fighting tyranny in the form of Napoleon with the giant glaring irony that to fight that tyranny, Captain Aubrey has to be a tyrant himself because if you're literally responsible for the lives of 200-400 people, you can't have a democracy and there's no taking a meeting in the middle of battle to ease someone's hurt feelings. As much as it sucks and leaves you feeling alone and like a prick, being in charge of something means being responsible and accepting the downside to make sure everyone else gets to the goal. Github's attempt at creating a ship full of old salts so talented they don't need a captain isn't a noble effort anywhere outside a vacuum; it's a childish attempt to spurn responsibility. It's great you don't want to boss Julie around, but then who the hell is going to help her when someone else does?

As an aside, I'm currently in a situation a bit like this except the team is very nice and everyone plays well together. I'm a contractor/ hired gun so I have limited/ no input into how the team is run but I do have to watch. It's at a university so it's similar in that no one wants to be the Parent/ Boss the project clearly needs. Instead of having coding standards* so everyone's code looks pretty similar, we have hooks that do the barest bit of nagging to make sure you're not checking in complete shit. As such, the code varies wildly but no one says anything because no one wants to be mean. And the power vacuum means people who don't really know what they're talking about have made major decisions and send around housekeeping nanny shit that makes 0 sense but checks a box on their personal To Do list and makes them feel better. All we really need is someone at the head of the longboat to make sure we're rowing in the same direction and we'd get there a lot faster.

* A source of endless arguments among developers.
posted by yerfatma at 12:38 PM on March 17 [18 favorites]


I'd just like to point out that HR isn't really the solution and lack of HR isn't really the problem.

HR is generally a department tasked with helping the management layer (or owner/investment layer) protect itself from lawsuits. As an investor or owner, you want this. As an employee, HR might nominally prevent you from being on the receiving end of illegal activities, but in reality HR will most likely just help your manager walk the line so they can screw you over legally.

Is this really better for employees? I don't think so. If someone's manager is stupid enough to do something illegal, then the employee affected has the recourse available of suing them and/or the company. If HR is involved, then people will say just the right thing to get it done "right."

HR doesn't work for you, they work for the boss.
posted by twjordan at 12:39 PM on March 17 [20 favorites]


HR is generally a department tasked with helping the management layer (or owner/investment layer) protect itself from lawsuits.

This is an oversimplification, and ignores the fact that one of the ways that HR protects the company against lawsuits is to make sure that the laws against discrimination, harassment, and hazing aren't being broken, i.e. making sure that employees get the protection against a hostile workplace that they are legally entitled to.
posted by murphy slaw at 12:45 PM on March 17 [29 favorites]


HR doesn't work for you, they work for the boss.

Correct. But sometimes you and the boss have the same goal, ie, you being able to work without some asshole "colleague" deleting your stuff because you won't sleep with him.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:50 PM on March 17 [18 favorites]


I don't think it's symptomatic of "brogramming" and I fear casting it as such actually hides the problem. Having been a developer on various teams for a decade or so, I see the problem this way: "power" or "leadership" is something that has to exist. Because if you don't acknowledge it or try what Github did and actively say you won't have it, it doesn't go away. It then winds up in the hands of whomever wants to grab it. Which winds up being lots of people and then you have this weird fractured mess that's worse than having a boss.

See the Tyranny of Structurelessness.

This means that to strive for a structureless group is as useful, and as deceptive, as to aim at an "objective" news story, "value-free" social science, or a "free" economy. A "laissez faire" group is about as realistic as a "laissez faire" society; the idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others. This hegemony can be so easily established because the idea of "structurelessness" does not prevent the formation of informal structures, only formal ones. Similarly "laissez faire" philosophy did not prevent the economically powerful from establishing control over wages, prices, and distribution of goods; it only prevented the government from doing so. Thus structurelessness becomes a way of masking power, and within the women's movement is usually most strongly advocated by those who are the most powerful (whether they are conscious of their power or not). As long as the structure of the group is informal, the rules of how decisions are made are known only to a few and awareness of power is limited to those who know the rules. Those who do not know the rules and are not chosen for initiation must remain in confusion, or suffer from paranoid delusions that something is happening of which they are not quite aware.
posted by zabuni at 12:53 PM on March 17 [22 favorites]


I'm not saying that HR doesn't lead to sometimes better outcomes for both sides. My point is that I see a lot of comments in here about HR being the solution here and I think it's often just a way to toe the line. You don't need HR to prevent harassment, you need co-workers and managers who don't tolerate harassment.

Consider that the vast majority of companies DO employ HR departments, and have done so for a long time, yet harassment, illegal firings, and discrimination happen all the time.

It's not always a bad thing for an employee, but HR is simply not on your side when push comes to shove.
posted by twjordan at 12:53 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


You don't need HR to prevent harassment, you need co-workers and managers who don't tolerate harassment.

But that's like saying "you don't need a fire department; you just need everyone to not cause fires!" I mean, sure, if everyone behaves properly you don't need policies in place for how to deal with bad behavior and mechanisms in place to act on those policies. But, you know, in the whole history of everywhere ever there has never been a more-than-tiny organization which didn't end up including the odd asshole.
posted by yoink at 1:02 PM on March 17 [16 favorites]


I encounter people who think that tech is somehow being held to some kind of higher standard because that's the only explanation for why women are so complainy about conditions in tech! After all, this doesn't happen with women working in law and education and medicine! And I'm thinking "yeah, because they're not trying to run an office LIKE A FUCKING FRATHOUSE."
posted by rmd1023 at 1:06 PM on March 17 [16 favorites]


Just anecdotal - but what I have seen in medicine and law was often worse than what I have seen in tech.
posted by dominik at 1:08 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


But that's like saying "you don't need a fire department; you just need everyone to not cause fires!"

Not quite. In my opinion HR would be more likened to a fire department that isn't generally concerned with putting out your fire insomuch as preventing the fire from spreading.

I'm also not saying anything with 100% resolve, certainty, or condemnation, but I stand behind my argument that the mandate of most HR departments is not to serve the employees.

Conflicts and problems can be solved by a legitimate 3rd party, like an Ombudsman and workers would probably be much better off for it.
posted by twjordan at 1:12 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


As a professional woman married to a co-founder of a start-up, I'm interested by the comments on the role that start-up wives have played. I'm hesitant to describe myself as hands-off because of course I'm hands-off, that's his gig. But my husband didn't have to put in any of the capital and his company has been doing great so I really have no reason to involve myself. If either of those things were different, maybe I'd be more involved somehow.
posted by kat518 at 1:14 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Github has had an aggressive stance against management and is quite proud of it. I appreciated (Metafilter's own) Mike Migurski's comments in his blog post managers are awesome / managers are cool when they’re part of your team. "the still-evolving story of Julie Ann Horvath suggests that the removal of one form of workplace violence [management] has resulted in the reintroduction of another, much worse form".

Putting one of the founders on leave is a big deal. I hope GitHub is serious about figuring out if there's a problem and fixing it if there is one. GitHub is the most important thing to happen to the Internet software development community since coining the term "open source". I'd hate for it to dissolve because of some dumbass bro culture.
posted by Nelson at 1:15 PM on March 17 [6 favorites]


dominik: my experience is that it's not officially endorsed in the way it sounds like github was. (Also, if you're looking where techies complain, you're going to primarily see techie complaints, which is the other reason techie women seem so chatty about the suck going on in tech.)
posted by rmd1023 at 1:15 PM on March 17


I've been following this for a while (as someone who's both in tech and has a successful wife in tech who's dealt with all manner of bullshit) and I'd just like to say: THANKS METAFILTER . . . this is the first comment thread about the Horvath story I've seen that isn't chockfull of entitled, misogynistic derails.

A particularly disappointing part of the story is that Github took their first investment from Andreesen Horowitz back in 2012. Part of the A16Z pitch for "why they're different" from traditional VCs is their claim that they've structured their firm and their team to provide a broad range of support beyond just funding--help with organizational, talent, and executive development as well as operations. They seem to have failed here as well.
posted by donovan at 1:17 PM on March 17 [15 favorites]


this is the first comment thread about the Horvath story I've seen that isn't chockfull of entitled, misogynistic derails.

This. I first read about this on The Verge and the comments there just made me hate humanity.
posted by octothorpe at 1:22 PM on March 17 [6 favorites]


"HR managers accountable to investors" and "hand-wavey hidden structures implicit in the social ties of the employees" are not the only options available for ensuring workplace accountability. It is possible to have people who perform an HR-like function and have HR-like training but are accountable to workers. These people are called shop stewards. I know unions are not common in tech but come on, people in this thread are talking like they've never even heard of them.
posted by enn at 1:26 PM on March 17 [22 favorites]


I've been at many otherwise innocuous tech meetups or conferences where the GitHub crew show up and immediately turn the proceedings into a frat party. This is a disgusting turn of events, but not a shocking one. The beardo, beer and brogrammers culture is alive and well—and not just at GitHub.
posted by littlerobothead at 1:28 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


enn: unfortunately, I think years of misinformation and propaganda have pretty much erased knowledge of true workplace democracy from our national psyche.
posted by twjordan at 1:29 PM on March 17 [11 favorites]


From that Fedora link: "2014 is going to be an exciting year. I, for one, can't wait to see what happens!"
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 1:29 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


Is the goal here to increase racial equality by heavily disincentivizing tech companies from hiring white women in SF? Starting to hear stuff like this,..
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 1:29 PM on March 17


I read this article in ModelViewCulture today about unpaid labor in startups (among other things), and it describes the wives/girlfriends of founders as often running the non-technical parts of the business, unpaid, before they get established enough to begin hiring HR and other administrative workers.

It should be noted that at this point GitHub has 238 employees, so they are well beyond the point where an unofficial HR/admin function would/should happen. Not to say that a founder's wife couldn't have done this at the start and that has lead to some odd behind-the-scenes power dynamic that persists.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:29 PM on March 17 [5 favorites]


" This. I first read about this on The Verge and the comments there just made me hate humanity."

Oh my god yes. I nearly curled up in a ball after scrolling through that cesspit.

"There's nothing wrong in leering at girls hula-hooping"...

btw Kate Losse (linked above) on twitter is great on this stuff, and her book "the boy kings" is also a great dive on the early culture of facebook.
posted by stratastar at 1:32 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


I think it's kind of interesting that it apparently took them 10 months to find an "experienced" HR person. There's a lot of ways to read between the lines there.
posted by rhizome at 1:41 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Is the goal here to increase racial equality by heavily disincentivizing tech companies from hiring white women in SF? Starting to hear stuff like this,..

Which goal? Whose goal? Is there evidence that tech companies in SF are hiring so many women that they need to cut back in order to hire people of color (who I guess would be men, because...women can't also be people of color?). I don't understand what your comment means.
posted by rtha at 1:42 PM on March 17 [11 favorites]


I think what save alive... was paraphrasing (? espousing?) was the idea that white women like this are so bitchy that companies will go out of their way to hire women of color, who, you know, know their place.

Which. Wow. Yeah.
posted by fontophilic at 1:52 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Just an observation on one point: if a colleague of mine is sabotaging my work because I turned down his/her declarations of love, that is not sexism. That is just someone going rogue & harassing me and management should take action.
posted by lahersedor at 1:56 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


lahersedor: "Just an observation on one point: if a colleague of mine is sabotaging my work because I turned down his/her declarations of love, that is not sexism. That is just someone going rogue & harassing me and management should take action."

Arguably yes. On the other hand, the sense of entitlement that can spur that sort of behavior often has its roots in sexism, as does the general tolerance of such behavior.
posted by Karmakaze at 1:59 PM on March 17 [12 favorites]


I just wish the focus touched more upon the internal sexism issues, and less with a psycho-wife of a founder.

I parsed the article as implying the wife was asked to speak to Horvath because of her unhappiness with on-going issues related to "being treated differently internally simply due to her gender and not the quality of her work."

The (incredibly awkward) meeting with the wife seems like a seriously misguided attempt by the founder to pass handling that problem on to the wife, which only ended up introducing a whole new set of issues.
posted by Panjandrum at 2:00 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Damn, she had to put up with a lot of shit. What is it about the tech industry that makes its male members such assholes? It's as if they equate technological skill and high pay with social immunity, or somehow being above other people. Honestly, it's just programming.

Off the top of my head, lack of socialization, different abilities to acquire social skills and recognize and understand social situations, inability to empathize with or understand the feelings and thoughts of others, plus unfortunate reinforcement of the wrong behaviors.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:02 PM on March 17


I just wish the focus touched more upon the internal sexism issues, and less with a psycho-wife of a founder.

That part rang particularly true as an indicator to me because of my military experience -- the easiest way to suss out a toxic unit in the U.S. military is to check how often the CO's wife is hanging around HQ. If she's always there, running the Family Support Group, welcoming new female officers, throwing her husband's rank around like it's hers -- that is invariably a bad unit. When you have people who aren't in the company acting as unofficial channels to the boss, it speaks volumes about the climate that boss is attempting or failing to engender.
posted by Etrigan at 2:03 PM on March 17 [27 favorites]


*So, what are my code hosting options if I were interested in pulling my repos from GitHub?*

I like Repository Hosting. Unlimited GIT/SVN/Hg repos with unlimited Trac issue management for $6/month. I've been using them for many years, never any issues.
posted by rada at 2:07 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Just an observation on one point: if a colleague of mine is sabotaging my work because I turned down his/her declarations of love, that is not sexism.

That is pretty much the textbook definition of sexual harassment.
posted by Jairus at 2:08 PM on March 17 [34 favorites]


I'm not sure why no one is considering the possibility that she just writes bad code, they didn't want to fire her for obvious reasons, and the founder's wife is tactless.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:15 PM on March 17


One of the nice things about the MetaFilter discussion is that it comes after GitHub's response, which validates all of Horvath's accusations, and lays to rest sidetracking questions about "alternative" explanations for the situation that are counter to Horvath's take.
posted by Llama-Lime at 2:16 PM on March 17 [14 favorites]


> I'm not sure why no one is considering the possibility that she just writes bad code, they didn't want to fire her for obvious reasons, and the founder's wife is tactless.

Well, the company's official statement isn't making that claim - no one is making that claim except you. Absent the slightest hint of evidence that this is the case, I'd say that that "considering" says more about you than anything else.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:19 PM on March 17 [42 favorites]


I'm not sure why no one is considering the possibility that she just writes bad code, they didn't want to fire her for obvious reasons, and the founder's wife is tactless.

. . . because Github took it seriously, so why shouldn't we?

Also, what are the obvious reasons?
posted by KathrynT at 2:19 PM on March 17 [6 favorites]


Github's response is pragmatic PR. It doesn't validate anything. Depending on how sympathetic you are, it makes them look responsive.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:19 PM on March 17


Well, the company's official statement isn't making that claim - no one is making that claim except you.

They have no incentive to say she's not good at her job since she's gone now. Their only incentive is to get this to blow over and make sure this never happens again. They seem to be doing that.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:21 PM on March 17


Obviously, her code retroactively became bad around the time that she turned down that guy's romantic advances, and that's why it had to be removed. Why hasn't anyone considered this explanation??
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:22 PM on March 17 [12 favorites]


Obviously, her code retroactively became bad after she turned down that guy's romantic advances, and that's why it had to be removed. Why hasn't anyone considered this explanation??

What guy? Did I miss part of the article?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:23 PM on March 17


Reverting someone else's changes is an incredibly hostile act. In any place I've been, changes got reverted occasionally but the responsibility always fell to the person whose changes they were - unless there was a burning, house-on-fire emergency, which almost never happened (I can't remember even one that happened on a team I was on).

This can be a little humiliating, but it also gives you a chance to justify what you did - and frankly, this happened to me several times and it was always my mistake, so I learned something from it.

And people are generally really nice about it - if nothing else, because you're the one who has to do the clean-up.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:23 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


> What guy? Did I miss part of the article?

Apparently so.
While the above was going on, Horvath had what she referred to as an awkward, almost aggressive encounter with another GitHub employee, who asked himself over to “talk,” and then professed his love, and “hesitated” when he was asked to leave. Horvath was in a committed relationship at the time, something this other employee was well aware of, according to Horvath.

The rejection of the other employee led to something of an internal battle at GitHub. According to Horvath, the engineer, “hurt from my rejection, started passive-aggressively ripping out my code from projects we had worked on together without so much as a ping or a comment. I even had to have a few of his commits reverted. I would work on something, go to bed, and wake up to find my work gone without any explanation.” The employee in question, according to Horvath, is both “well-liked at GitHub” and “popular in the community.”

His “behavior towards female employees,” according to Horvath, “especially those he sees as opportunities is disgusting.”
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:24 PM on March 17 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure why no one is considering the possibility that she just writes bad code, they didn't want to fire her for obvious reasons, and the founder's wife is tactless.

Even if your completely speculative claim is true and she was worth firing, then they should have worked with HR to do that rather than harass her. The issue at hand--harassing someone to the point where she is crying at work--is still the same, no matter her ability.
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:25 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


Oh, I see, I missed a couple paragraphs. Not sure why she doesn't talk about what happened when (if?) she went to their manager. Or did she not do that because that employee is well-liked?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:29 PM on March 17


Not sure why she doesn't talk about what happened when (if?) she went to their manager. Or did she not do that because that employee is well-liked?

This is really starting to sound like yet another round of "Ladies, The Problem Is You Always Respond To Harassment Wrong."
posted by KathrynT at 2:32 PM on March 17 [122 favorites]


Not sure why she doesn't talk about what happened when (if?) she went to their manager. Or did she not do that because that employee is well-liked?

This is really starting to sound like yet another round of "Ladies, The Problem Is You Always Respond To Harassment Wrong."


I think that's the obvious thing to do. Don't you?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:33 PM on March 17


If you don't give the manager a chance to fix the problem, you're really not giving the company a chance to make you happy.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:34 PM on March 17


please go back and catch up with the thread, esprit de l'escalier. a large part of this thread has been discussing the lack of formal management and\or administrative groups at startups like Github. Such functions have recently been derided in tech circles as being redundant (because everyone is so smart and tech sectors are so meritocracly magical).

so, the answer to your question is that she had no real manager to go to. The equivalent of an escalation was a sketchy drinks chat with a founder's wife. You would have gotten that answer by reading the thread.
posted by bl1nk at 2:35 PM on March 17 [46 favorites]


Don't you?

there is no obvious thing to do. When women go to their managers, they're accused of having thin skins and wanting other people to fight their battles for them, or of making a mountain out of a molehill, or of lacking the leadership skills to manage these problems on their own. Very, VERY frequently, women who pursue official channels for these things are retaliated against in subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways. And that's even ignoring the fact that due to Github's famously anti-manager organizational scheme, she probably didn't have anyone to go to except the guy whose wife had taken her out for drinks and threatened her if she'd ever said anything bad against the company.
posted by KathrynT at 2:37 PM on March 17 [20 favorites]


Thanks, I skimmed the thread. If the founders are in charge, then that's who she should have gone to. There's always someone in charge — usually someone who owns part of the company.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:38 PM on March 17


I'd suggest going and reading the article and reading the thread before jumping in with another round of "BUT HAVE YOU CONSIDERED THE STATUS QUO?"
posted by rmd1023 at 2:40 PM on March 17 [31 favorites]


[Comment removed; esprit de l'escalier, this is feeling more like you showed up bored than like you're making a real effort to participate in the actual reading and discussion here. Please give this thread a pass at this point.]
posted by cortex at 2:42 PM on March 17 [52 favorites]


a large part of this thread has been discussing the lack of formal management and\or administrative groups at startups like Github. Such functions have recently been derided in tech circles as being redundant (because everyone is so smart and tech sectors are so meritocracly magical).

Or in other words, the workplace equivalent of this xkcd strip.
posted by pie ninja at 2:52 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


The wife thing is very strange but I think telling. I wonder if it's related to this phenomenon of married men who use their wives as their model for how they communicate with women. That makes for a lot of really really inappropriate workplace behaviors in my experience.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:13 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


If I had any female friends going into tech right now, I'd seriously suggest they carry a voice recorder at all times. That depresses me a bit.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:30 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


I'd seriously suggest they carry a voice recorder at all times

Good idea to check your applicable state laws before you do that.
posted by yoink at 3:31 PM on March 17 [8 favorites]


I'm glad it's being addressed now, but don't congratulate and praise an org that knew and refused to act for over a year.

It's kind of like seeing and hearing someone drown, but then go out to investigate after they go under and then act surprised that it's a little late. Appropriate action does have an expiration date -- before the injured party has to leave to find any peace...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 4:05 PM on March 17


Some truly[1] classy writing on the subject from Dave Winer: Roy Wildstein

[1] No, not truly.
posted by ChrisR at 4:07 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


So freaky. In the late 90s, I worked for the CEO of a tech company, and ended up quitting almost a year earlier than I had planned because my boss's then-fiancee went from "oh, you're the greatest" to "you will respect my author-a-tah" at me for reasons I still don't understand 15 years later. And my boss did nothing about it - no one did anything about it. Finally, I had to quit. It was making me physically ill. Just reading the original tweets brought it all back, and the articles here make me a little queasy.

This is why I rarely step foot into my husband's office, stay the hell out of his admin's hair at all costs (and only communicate with her via email when I absolutely have to), and would laugh in his face if he ever asked me to take one of his team for drinks to talk about work.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 4:21 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


Thanks ChrisR for the Winer link, a nice remindder of why I stopped following him on Twitter:

"But every time a company hires someone who is not a young male, they run the risk that the new hire isn't there to work, rather is there to scam you."

Good to know that young males are never involved in "scamming you". [facepalm]
posted by donovan at 4:39 PM on March 17 [18 favorites]


I think Gihub's flat management structure and lack of HR (or was it that they had a HR person and were trying to hire an _experienced_ HR person, that wasn't clear to me) is a bit of a red herring. I'm sure no one here is saying that this sort of harassment doesn't happen at "normal" companies, or that a HR department magically fixes everything when employees experience it.
posted by markr at 4:40 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I think what save alive... was paraphrasing (? espousing?) was the idea that white women like this are so bitchy that companies will go out of their way to hire women of color, who, you know, know their place.

Which. Wow. Yeah.
posted by fontophilic at 4:52 PM on March 17 [+] [!]


That's where your mind goes, not mine. Wowyeah.

Which goal? Whose goal? Is there evidence that tech companies in SF are hiring so many women that they need to cut back in order to hire people of color (who I guess would be men, because...women can't also be people of color?). I don't understand what your comment means.
posted by rtha at 4:42 PM on March 17 [5 favorites +] [!]


Where my mind goes is, one thing I've noted in personal experience, though I've never found numbers on this when I've looked - the male gendering of tech seems a bit culturally bound to or at least stronger for America. So like the Chinese engineers in some place will still skew male but notably less so than the White engineers. When I was in grad school, forget it ... I think there was a White woman around, singular, though there were always a decent number of women in my classes. So considering this whole movement is mostly a White American thing, I'm figuring the hiring people out in SF (who will see a mostly White/Asian/Indian pool) are looking a bit more closely into the political pasts & affiliations of White women than Chinese women...

I like being out in NYC where it's lean in as fuck I can just hire women and not give a damn. On the other hand you guys should let de Blasio know this whole idea about not giving spouses executive power... #FLONYC
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:46 PM on March 17


Good to know that young males are never involved in "scamming you". [facepalm]

I think his point is that if they fuck up then they have nowhere to hide.

Regardless, he's an amoral hypocrite and I don't know what his point is other than that some people are terrible, himself included.
posted by GuyZero at 5:01 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Since age is a protected class only over 40, but sex is always a protected category (male or female), Dave Winer has more grounds on which to "scam" a potential employer than Julie Horvath does.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:15 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Some truly[1] classy writing on the subject from Dave Winer
It was at this point that the edges of my vision darkened and the room began spinning.
[1] No, not truly.
Aaaand relax.

It's not funny to just blithely fuck with reality like that.
posted by fullerine at 5:38 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


So considering this whole movement is mostly a White American thing, I'm figuring the hiring people out in SF (who will see a mostly White/Asian/Indian pool) are looking a bit more closely into the political pasts & affiliations of White women than Chinese women...

Still not making any sense to me, nor does this comment illuminate your previous one in the least. I can't tell if you're being deliberately cryptic or what.
posted by rtha at 5:51 PM on March 17 [11 favorites]


Now that I think of it, this is a bit reminiscent of the events in The Boy Kings by Kate Losse. Not quite the same cult of personality involved, but definitely a boy's club run wild.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:18 PM on March 17


rtha, I can't understand save alive's comment at all either.
posted by sweetkid at 6:28 PM on March 17


OK. More drawn out.

Serious business people don't give two shits about politics except as it affects their business, or if they do they can put it aside to a certain extent. It's common enough that once businesspeople have enough money they'll make legal aboveboard donations to whoever's on top politically or to both sides as necessary.

So I've heard from a couple people out West that people are starting to look more thoroughly at the political backgrounds of potential American woman hires, as smart, thinking businesspeople looking out for dangers to the company. Lean In Y, gleeful-joke-misandry intersectionality N. Also individually men being more hesitant to collaborate with unfamiliar women, though personally I think they're being paranoid. There was an article posted on here, by a woman, mentioning this - got deleted.

Meanwhile as I said I am happy to be out in NYC where this political drama doesn't seem to be such a thing in tech, as in no one's heard of it. (We also don't have brogrammers, I don't think - an apolitical source confirmed for me that brogrammers are a real annoyance in SF.) I was regaling my boss with stories - he was incredulous that people were upset that TOO MUCH MONEY was flowing into San Francisco, but hadn't heard a thing about any of it.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:00 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


Lean In Y, gleeful-joke-misandry intersectionality N.

I find the idea that these are the two "types" of political backgrounds for potential American woman hires. I say this as someone who has serious questions about the effectiveness and fairness of Lean In style feminism. I basically take this to mean some people think that if a person thinks there might be something inadequate about Lean In they are misandrists (and wtf linking intersectionality with misandry)?

Can you elaborate what you mean? It's a very odd choice to juxtapose.
posted by R343L at 7:37 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


No, those are not the only two "types," there are also Republican women, libertarian women, Green party women, immigrants with different political referents, apolitical women... those aren't even the only two "types" of feminism (I've liked what I've seen of French feminism, for instance.) but they are two types that have been in the news lately and have thrown some shade.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:46 PM on March 17


Regular 1-1 on meetings, supportive management, and clear HR policies around harassment all seem like they would be 'easy' fixes to this problem. I mean, they aren't going to stop people from being crazy, but presumably they'd have helped deal with this situation a year ago and someone wouldn't have had to publicly rage-quit her job to effect any change. What a train wreck. I guess it's tricky when a company founder is involved, though.
posted by chunking express at 7:48 PM on March 17


OK. More drawn out.

And yet still completely incomprehensible--and of no evident relevance, whatsoever, to the case described in the FPP.
posted by yoink at 7:51 PM on March 17 [13 favorites]


save alive seems to be saying that white American women can cause trouble with their political beliefs, or that many tech managers in SF think so, while Asian foreign women do not, so the white women are investigated to make sure they do not have trouble-making beliefs. However, save alive thinks this happens in SF, and in NYC there are no brogrammers.

I'm not trying to snark, but that's the best way I can process the comments. It's all wildly wrong and pretty offensive, but. I don't know how else to read it.
posted by sweetkid at 7:53 PM on March 17 [12 favorites]




The idea that somehow there are no brogrammers in New York is pretty hilarious.
posted by octothorpe at 8:09 PM on March 17 [9 favorites]


More or less correct. All I'll personally testify to observing is that I don't see any brogrammers or much political drama around NYC tech, as for SF, I just hear things and visit occasionally.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:09 PM on March 17


I mean by Metafilter standards sure but multiple people I know have gone NYC to SF and later complained about brogrammers in their new home.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:10 PM on March 17


Anyone know the deleted thread save alive referenced?   And save alive is discussing valley rumors, which might be full of shit, sweetkid. Imho "I've heard from a couple people [in a part of the country I'm glad I don't work in] that more [companies there] are [engaging in immoral/illegal hiring practice]" does not sound like an endorsement, defense, etc.

An "aggressive stance against management" should not go al lord-of-the-flies like GitHub apparently did, Nelson, Mike Migurski, etc. (see Valve)  There are good managers and bad managers, but as an organization grows the bad ones become unavoidable and very costly. And flat management seeks to reduce that risk by creating a structure that shares power. Yes, one could screw it up easily, but hiring shitty managers is easy too.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:10 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


white women are investigated to make sure they do not have trouble-making beliefs

What "trouble making beliefs" is Horvath supposed to have held in this scenario?
posted by yoink at 8:12 PM on March 17 [6 favorites]


And save alive is discussing valley rumors, which might or might not carry any weight, sweetkid.

To be clear, i don't endorse or believe what save alive was saying, I was just trying to write it as I parsed it, and it seems my paraphrase was accurate.

And yeah there are brogrammers in NYC. Also I'm an Asian American woman - does that mean tech managers would not think I was trouble makey enough to look into my political background?
posted by sweetkid at 8:13 PM on March 17 [8 favorites]


While I am not particularly surprised by the events that transpired there vis a vis sexism and weird power plays, I am very surprised that there apparently isn't a process/action triggered when there's a build/integration/commit/coding fiasco that occurs when someone has to back out code from a developer several times.

Every place I worked as either a designer/developer or manager, such an instance would inspire an independent code or process review, a look at the conflict to see what needed to be resolved or improved (e.g. is the problem rooted in coding standards, coding quality, conflicting calls/connections, the integration process, human conflicts, conflicting requirements, etc), and to determine how to resolve or improve issues going forward. These code reviews or process reviews can be tough, but they can also rewarding (and extraordinarily useful to managers and executives). It's hard to hide shenanigans like the ones the amorous developer she turned down apparently committed during these sorts of reviews (if done without bias or agenda).
posted by julen at 8:30 PM on March 17


Resists continuing with derail ...

julen- From what I've read, it sounds like github didn't really officially have a management hierarchy in the traditional sense and thus no real recourse. Even in a situation with more typical management systems, I can easily see a "valued" senior developer being able to get away with a lot of bullshit, including backing out other dev's changes because, well, tech is not in fact a meritocracy and there's a lot of politics. When you add on assumptions about the technical competency of women (there's evidence that many developers, male or female, hold women developers to higher standards), a senior male developer could easily railroad a less senior female developer. It would require those around to notice and be willing to stand up to the male developer and sadly it's normal for people to think it's not their business, he must have a reason, why rock the boat, etc.
posted by R343L at 8:43 PM on March 17 [4 favorites]


tech is not in fact a meritocracy

Word.
posted by chunking express at 8:47 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


he was incredulous that people were upset that TOO MUCH MONEY was flowing into San Francisco, but hadn't heard a thing about any of it.

He hasn't heard about gentrification in Brooklyn, then? He should totally google this guy called Spike Lee.
posted by gingerest at 8:55 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


I've been in the tech industry for 16 years, never at a startup. I came from the world of television production in the Midwest, and worked side by side with some amazing and talented freelancers, some of whom were women. Also a few freelancers who were terrible, none of whom were women. In tech, I've had the pleasure of working with men and women who really know their stuff. Also a few who were terrible, only one of whom was a woman. I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with the best of these people regardless of sex (or race for that matter) and I feel sad wondering if my daughter will ever want to put up with this crap, because I know she's smart enough to excel at the work.
posted by davejay at 9:55 PM on March 17






I use and pay for GitHub. It's always struck me as a good company to work for and to be associated with.

I don't have a problem with the "Passing of the fedora" or the beards or the "managerless structure." The former was cute; the latter was interesting. Associating this scandal with any of these things strikes a sour note. It's not like there aren't a million conventional organisations that struggle with the same kind of issue. It's not as if a playful approach to who is CEO or who has skinny jeans and a beard is in any way indicative of sexism.

In GitHub's defence, I was struck with how quickly they dealt with the C Plus Equality issue and how much shit they were willing to take by taking a pro-diversity stance with this. There was no running it through legal or procrastinating. They said "We don't like this. We won't host this. We don't care if you take your business elsewhere."

For this reason, and because they *finally* seem to be taking this latest scandal seriously, I'm willing to stick with them longer.

But. They could have done better; there do appear to be systemic problems with the culture; Horvarth was treated in an appalling fashion.
posted by zoo at 2:09 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


We should stop dissecting save alive's failed joke but Sascha Segan made exactly the same comment with more eloquence in that Why I Don't Want My Daughter to Work in Silicon Valley piece :

"In my travels, the Silicon Valley culture seems to be restricted to Silicon Valley. In New York, for instance, banking seems to draw most of the jerks, resulting in a more inclusive tech culture. The pre-eminence of academics in Boston make for a more thoughtful culture there. Seattle still styles itself as a work-to-live town, not a live-to-work town. Austin's blueness in the midst of red Texas keeps folks there a little humble. In Toronto, well, they're Canadian."
..
"It's also hard to measure what isn't being created. But if I were you, I'd keep a close eye on those other tech hubs. If they welcome geeks who really look like 21st century America, perhaps they'll find technologies more likely to bring us together than to pull us apart."


I disagree with scare quoting the term "disrupt" though, which just refers to beating the competition on price or functionality by a lot, and should always be lauded.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:52 AM on March 18


Note that some commentators (e.g. in the linked PCMag article) are implying that the GitHub code base is full of racist terms, when instead, code hosted by GitHub contains these terms. It's a crucial distinction, and one that sites like the Daily Dot either don't understand or are deliberately obfuscating.
posted by zoo at 3:01 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


In New York, for instance, banking seems to draw most of the jerks, resulting in a more inclusive tech culture.

This feels like the same as dismissing it as a symptom of "brogramming". It doesn't have to do with the dress style of men at the company, it doesn't have to do with the region of the country (and who can honestly say they know the tech scene in multiple regions of the country?). It has to do with a pernicious thread of tech culture where guys who have gained some status in an industry but still feel persecuted in the world at large take it out on people they perceive as below them in the corporate non-hierarchy utopia they pretend they work in. It's a social problem, not much different than Irish immigrants stringing up black people in the Draft Riots. The real problem with it in tech is most of the people in tech are too young or too egotistical to accept what I think is a fundamental law: there are no technological solutions to social problems. You still have to fix those the old fashioned way, not by adding anonymous forums for people to shit on each other "safely".
posted by yerfatma at 4:44 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]


That David Winer post deserves a thread all of its own, what a totally irresponsible thing to write.
posted by axon at 5:05 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure Dave Winer's bad-faith shit-stirring is really worth any more attention than it already gets.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:21 AM on March 18 [16 favorites]


I disagree with scare quoting the term "disrupt" though, which just refers to beating the competition on price or functionality by a lot, and should always be lauded.

Bit of a derail, but I saw a Ted event once that was 'disruption' themed, and started with a big multimedia fanfare with placards encouraging us to 'disrupt health' and 'disrupt community', amongst other things........ I read it more as 'hey, look at these problems that aren't being solved; let's shake things up and see if they get better!' From a business standpoint, this 'works' if it generates lots of money, but has lots of potential for going awry as an ethos.
posted by kaibutsu at 5:50 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


pernicious thread of tech culture where guys who have gained some status in an industry but still feel persecuted in the world at large take it out on people they perceive as below them in the corporate non-hierarchy utopia they pretend they work in.

Also, one could easily swap in 'tech' for a number of cultures, operating rooms, academia, non-profits, retail, etc. I wanted to fave this, but I'm not comfy with the Zinn-esque historical note as applied. It might be possible that the github culture was designed to keep the crabs in a barrel while the uppermost laughed to the bank, but this seems more accidental. It is not less evil to allow this through ignorance or laziness, but I doubt TFA author's experience was an architectural goal for github.

The point raised is a good one: self-marginalized people marginalize, and social problems are only solved with caring human interaction.
posted by drowsy at 5:58 AM on March 18


This whole episode brings up something I hope Horvath expands on. What kept her there for so long? I have been in situations where I ate shit rather than leave, and dear friends have been driven to tears at work and it is easy to say "get outta there." So as I reflect on these experiences I'm interested in hers.

The more I read, the worse I think the situation was with a top-connected personality stinking up the place. Paradoxically, it is harder to combat when the person doing the mess is not even an employee.
posted by drowsy at 6:05 AM on March 18


The idea that somehow there are no brogrammers in New York is pretty hilarious.

They are in Seattle, too, which some may find surprising for a supposedly progressive PNW.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:28 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Also, one could easily swap in 'tech' for a number of cultures

Absolutely and I could have stated this more clearly: tech's specific problem is members are unwilling/ unable to accept that social dynamics inside the culture are the same as the culture at large that they loathe. Probably true in other places as well, but it's definitely a problem here.
posted by yerfatma at 6:52 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


Such an odd story, this - obviously the sexism in the workplace stuff is depressingly un-odd, but the alleged behaviour of the co-founder's partner is just bizarre. Like Should I pay to replace a rude guest's shawl? levels of bizarre.

These people are called shop stewards. I know unions are not common in tech but come on, people in this thread are talking like they've never even heard of them.

Oh my goodness, can you imagine a Hacker News thread about the founding of a programmers union?!

Talking of which, wouldn't it be nice to have a site for tech-related discussions that isn't infested by right wing extremists? Just once I'd like to read about an interesting new application without risking exposure to Ayn Rand-licking libertarian money-worshippers who don't believe racism is a thing and see 'females' as subhuman succubi.
posted by jack_mo at 7:02 AM on March 18 [7 favorites]


Tech's specific problem is that it's full of people trained to think about systems, how systems interact, how systems can be generalised and how to tell other people about these systems.

People think somehow that tech is more broken, because people talk more about how broken it is. That's not the case. Tech is just full of people who like talking about how to fix the broken things.
posted by zoo at 7:05 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Elementary Penguin, shouldn't we challenge what he says?

He's influential and what he says is incredibly damaging to minorities working in tech.
posted by axon at 7:13 AM on March 18


Tech's specific problem is that it's full of people. Some people are assholes.
posted by Mooski at 7:37 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


The problem is that he didn't say anything, as far as I can tell, just that he once fired an old guy and I guess we should always hire young males unless we want to be scammed. I mean, you can argue that this idea is wrong, but it's self evidentially wrong, and the only people who are going to be persuaded by it are not people you were going to reach anyway. Better to try and convince the people you can convince that Horvath's treatment at GitHub is a problem and the solutions are this, that and the other thing, and ignore Winer's random anecdote that he just happened to think about recently wink wink nudge nudge.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:38 AM on March 18


GitHub is the most important thing to happen to the Internet software development community since coining the term "open source".

Can you defend that hyperbole, Nelson ?
posted by k5.user at 7:58 AM on March 18


What other things do you think would rank? It's clearly had a huge impact on open source software. Pretty much every single project is now hosted on Github, and I suspect most people would agree that it's easier to contribute to projects hosted on Github compared to anywhere else.
posted by chunking express at 8:05 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


And yeah, David Winer says something fucking stupid every couple months. That blog post doesn't deserve any more attention than it is getting.
posted by chunking express at 8:06 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


OK, most open source projects I use have been on google code, or apache's hosting. (or older sourceforge). So, I'm aware of github as source hosting, but don't use any open source projects that use it.

Since there are alternatives and open source made plenty of non-trivial progress before it existed, I think it was hyperbole.

Now, some of those alternatives may use git, or have git access, but that is separate issue.

(hey, osmdroid is moving to github, ok, so now I can say I use 1 project .. )
posted by k5.user at 8:26 AM on March 18


I wouldn't count on Google Code being around in the long term. I moved our project off it and onto Github after Reader was killed. The documentation options are more varied and better for Github, and it is much easier for people to submit patches.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:52 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


GitHub is the social network for open source coders, particularly anything on the leading edge of engineering in the past few years. When I see a project still hosted on SourceForge or on Google Code my immediate thought is that it's either a mature product no one is really working on or else from someone who's just a bit out of touch with the zeitgeist. I'm sure there are exceptions to this rule, if you really want to argue the point it'd be useful to look at some statistical data about project liveliness on the various services.

It's important to separate the git part of GitHub from the hub part. There's lots of other good git hosting services out there. The key thing about GitHub is the community. Also the swarm of tools GitHub has built around the repos, like Pages and Issues.
posted by Nelson at 8:56 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


The key thing about GitHub is the community.

But if it went away tomorrow, people could soldier on with Bitbucket or something similar. Heck, if it went away and took all the data with it, git's very nature means it would only be a temporary hiccup. I don't disagree Github has been very good for tech and open source but at the end of the day it's just syntactic sugar on top of distributed version control. Of course that's nothing to sneeze at and it's been wonderful, it's just not irreplaceable.
posted by yerfatma at 9:08 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I disagree with scare quoting the term "disrupt" though, which just refers to beating the competition on price or functionality by a lot, and should always be lauded.

Well, except that in practice those price cuts or functionality boosts have some sort of unscrupulous activity at their core, whether it take the form of dodging regulations or exploiting workers. And that's not even to mention the cases where "disruption" isn't just a bunch of empty rhetoric dressing up pretty uninspiring gains.

Tech's specific problem is that it's full of people trained to think about systems, how systems interact, how systems can be generalised and how to tell other people about these systems.

People think somehow that tech is more broken, because people talk more about how broken it is. That's not the case. Tech is just full of people who like talking about how to fix the broken things.


Haha, yeah! Tech's problem is that it's just too awesome!
posted by invitapriore at 9:12 AM on March 18 [10 favorites]


or else from someone who's just a bit out of touch with the zeitgeist.

I unfriended the zeitgeist a long time ago. It's a complete douchebag.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:20 AM on March 18 [9 favorites]


Joey Hess' git related projects rock, btw.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:00 AM on March 18


ValleyWag claims the nameless married GitHub founder is Tom Preston-Werner, and drops this verrrrry interesting nugget into their story:
"We've confirmed with a GitHub employee that "the wife" is in fact Theresa Preston-Werner, making her husband complicit in covering up (or at least condoning) repeated allegations of harassment and abuse at the company he helped create. We're told this is certainly not the first time the Preston-Werners have treated a female employee this way: Melissa Severini, the company's very first hire, was allegedly paid to sign a non-disparagement agreement after being victimized by Theresa Preston-Werners and subsequently terminated. Other employees have been pressured to do pro bono work for Theresa Preston-Werner's own startup, Omakase."
Assuming this is true, Severini obviously can't confirm or deny...
posted by Asparagirl at 2:36 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Well, there are only three founders at GitHub. One of them wrote the apology post. It probably doesn't take that much more sleuthing to figure out which of the other two is the instigator here. (I'm pretty sure the other two founders aren't married, for example.)
posted by chunking express at 3:28 PM on March 18


"Tech's specific problem is that it's full of people trained to think about systems, how systems interact, how systems can be generalised and how to tell other people about these systems.

People think somehow that tech is more broken, because people talk more about how broken it is. That's not the case. Tech is just full of people who like talking about how to fix the broken things.
"

What?

Let's think about what's more likely — a culture set up around college/post-college nerd machismo with long, documented lack of diversity is more likely to be sexist as a function of its population, or because it's full of people who think about systems and therefore examine just how to solve the sexism problem (yet, apparently, aren't very good at that, because they still have abysmal diversity levels).

How about people think somehow tech is more broken because of numbers that demonstrate that and a clear causal theory so far well-supported by evidence obvious to everyone who does not have a vested interest in dissembling about sexism/racism/homophobia/etc. in tech?
posted by klangklangston at 6:11 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]


Why isn't Horvath all lawyered up?
posted by gertzedek at 8:22 PM on March 18


Maybe she wants to publicize and fix the greater problem at GitHub and other tech companies more than she wants to sue and fix only her own problem at GitHub?
posted by gingerest at 8:38 PM on March 18 [8 favorites]


Yeah, the specific incidents at github say less about the diversity problem in tech than do the discussions on any technology board following the revelation of something like the incidents at github.
posted by fatbird at 10:42 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Exactly. When initial responses to stuff like this aren't, "she's probably a dirty feminist liar who can't program/design/whatever," then we can start talking about how the tech industry isn't embarrassing in its 1950s workplace stupidness.
posted by chunking express at 4:23 AM on March 19 [9 favorites]


Why isn't Horvath all lawyered up?

Easier to hang GitHub in the court of public opinion.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 6:06 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Also, we're so used to the idea that a lawyer will tell you to shut up, that we're assuming her public utterances have somehow damaged any future case she might bring. Maybe, maybe not, but it's not obvious to me that she's done herself any damage if she sues them later.
posted by fatbird at 8:57 AM on March 19


She probably isn't lawyering up because she thought Github would do what it has done so far -- take the blame for allowing this culture to exist, take action against the worst offender and commit to making things better. Suing them (or even lawyering up) would, at best, result in the same thing and get a bunch of lawyers a bunch of Github's money, with a little going to Horvath, who is likely not in need of the money as much as she'd like to shine a light on the brogrammer culture.
posted by Etrigan at 9:22 AM on March 19 [5 favorites]


Wanstrath's very public praise during a difficult situation looks far more valuable, even just financially.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:54 AM on March 19


Easier to hang GitHub in the court of public opinion

Right, and not what she's said, that she's doing it to help others. The other problem with staying quiet when your previous employer is an 800lb gorilla is it becomes hard to get a next job: she either has to explain this during an interview and sound suspicious or she hopes they don't bother to check references. Without saying something she'd have a hard time staying in the industry she's been a success in.
posted by yerfatma at 12:16 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]


If she sued, she would probably still get tons of shit, either for opportunistically demanding too much in terms of damages (pretty much for any non-zero amount), or for economically bullying a hard-working startup with the big bad Hand Of The Law. Let's be real, there's no way for her to handle this that would inoculate her from criticism.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:19 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


There might also be embarrassing details that would come out if she were to sue. I am not saying this to cast aspersions on Horvath. What I'm saying is, lawsuits put everything into the open. Very rarely are plaintiffs squeaky-clean angels who have never done anything questionable ever. Sometimes even people who have been genuinely wronged may decide it's better for them to move on, rather than drag themselves through the mud.

To take just one example, in the article, Horvath alludes to having "gone along with" the boys' club atmosphere at first. This may be totally innocuous, or there may be some examples of Horvath engaging in behavior that some people might consider to be bad/hypocritical/mitigatory/whatever.

Again, not saying this as a criticism of Horvath. I'm saying that this is a realistic part of how people decide to deal with things. If Horvath is aware that some things would be best kept private, then she's probably making the right choice.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:39 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


Why isn't Horvath all lawyered up?

Maybe she thinks that some problems can be solved without lawyers.
posted by rhizome at 2:53 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]




Sexism In Tech: How To Suppress Women's Coding

Warning: you can really go down the rabbit hole reading links from that article. It's really good.
posted by sweetkid at 12:02 PM on March 21


More or less correct. All I'll personally testify to observing is that I don't see any brogrammers or much political drama around NYC tech...

Sexism doesn't just come from brogrammers.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:03 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]




Yunha Kim is CEO and founder of Locket, a San Francisco based startup that’s changing the way we use our lock screens.

I defy someone to take that sentence back in time to, say, 1980, and see if anyone can even guess what it might mean.

Also...really? Really? People try to recruit you for a job and you think it's appropriate to ask for a date? Despite being a man, I'm coming around to the point of view that we should, indeed, kill and eat all of the men.
posted by maxwelton at 12:15 AM on April 13



Yunha Kim is CEO and founder of Locket, a San Francisco based startup that’s changing the way we use our lock screens.

I defy someone to take that sentence back in time to, say, 1980, and see if anyone can even guess what it might mean.

Also...really? Really? People try to recruit you for a job and you think it's appropriate to ask for a date? Despite being a man, I'm coming around to the point of view that we should, indeed, kill and eat all of the men.


I was chatting with a girl at an airport bar who was trying to write a speech for her sister's wedding. I asked "well, how did they meet?" "Oh we can't talk about that. He hired her…"

The email was incredibly rude and inept, but let's not be ridiculous. People hit on each other all the time.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 12:24 AM on April 13


"Perhaps there are some unconventional ways to lure me away from my company (besides stock options) if you know what I mean" goes beyond "hitting on someone", "rude" and "inept" - it's grossly objectifying and it's dismissive of the CEO's authority.
posted by gingerest at 5:00 PM on April 13 [9 favorites]


That's what rude means — although I have no idea what "authority" the CEO has on some random guy who doesn't work for her. All I'm saying is that maxwelton's is a reaction to the wrong problem. The problem is the guy being rude — not, as understandably offensive as it is to the CEO — that the guy is shooting for something romantic like a normal human being.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 5:49 AM on April 14


The problem is the guy being rude — not, as understandably offensive as it is to the CEO — that the guy is shooting for something romantic like a normal human being.

So you wouldn't have a problem with someone pissing in your coffee? Because urination is even more normal than romance. It's only rude, it's not, like, grossly rude or dismissive or anything like that. Just... rude.
posted by Etrigan at 5:54 AM on April 14


What's with the vulgarity?

If you spend your life criticizing normal human instincts, you are going to end up, like maxwelton (maybe jokingly) declaring that we should kill all men. Sometimes people are just rude. When you hyperbolize umbrage, you're not more convincing, instead you become hard to take seriously.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 6:34 AM on April 14


It's an obviously gendered pattern of behavior, which is the point here. But, you know, lacking a private workshop isn't really a good excuse for doing all this axe grinding in public.
posted by invitapriore at 6:46 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


What's with the vulgarity?

Oh, a tone argument. How refreshing.
posted by Etrigan at 6:49 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


It's an obviously gendered pattern of behavior, which is the point here.

I think wording it as if it's something that has to do with gender rather than individuals is stupidly sexist and honestly offensive. What can you hope to accomplish by trying to paint an ugly behaviour as "gendered" except to demean a gender?

What's with the vulgarity?

Oh, a tone argument. How refreshing.


I made two arguments: (1) that criticising normal human instincts is futile, and (2) that hyperbole is unconvincing. I only pointed out the vulgarity, my friend, because I didn't think that it was called for in this discussion.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 7:21 AM on April 14


I can't believe I'm wading into a discussion this stupid. But just so folks know exactly what we're talking about the text of the email is
I'm pretty happy with current job, but if you're single I'd like to date you. Perhaps there are some unconventional ways to lure me away from my company (besides stock options) if you know what I mean ;)
If you don't understand why that response is more than garden variety "rude", you are part of the problem. Just for fun try to imagine it with genders reversed, a woman candidate responding that way to a male CEO. Then imagine being a woman CEO and getting this kind of nonsense regularly from people.

I'll give Yunha Kim credit, from her article she seems to not let it get under her skin. I wish her and Locket all the best.

(Bonus link about gender and Internet culture: demographics of Reddit's "Men's Rights" group.)
posted by Nelson at 7:23 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


esprit de l'escalier: "I think wording it as if it's something that has to do with gender rather than individuals is stupidly sexist and honestly offensive. What can you hope to accomplish by trying to paint an ugly behaviour as "gendered" except to demean a gender?"

It's a matter of interpreting an event in context. Isolating the event from its context is foolish, just like it would be foolish to ignore Serbian nationalism as a contextual factor in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Neither framing is offensive.
posted by invitapriore at 7:42 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


I made two arguments: (1) that criticising normal human instincts is futile,

It can be a normal human instinct to find someone attractive and want to date them without saying so out loud in an obnoxious and offensive way that is incredibly unprofessional.

You said what sounded a lot to me like this poor dude couldn't possibly be expected to control himself or know when or how it's appropriate to ask someone out because "normal human instinct." Please.
posted by rtha at 8:19 AM on April 14


It's a matter of interpreting an event in context. Isolating the event from its context is foolish, just like it would be foolish to ignore Serbian nationalism as a contextual factor in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. Neither framing is offensive.

You're right.

If you don't understand why that response is more than garden variety "rude", you are part of the problem.

Let's leave the ad hominem out of our polite discussion. At outset I acknowledged that the letter was “understandably offensive”.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 8:21 AM on April 14


I made two arguments: (1) that criticising normal human instincts is futile,

It can be a normal human instinct to find someone attractive and want to date them without saying so out loud in an obnoxious and offensive way that is incredibly unprofessional.


That's exactly what I said, rtha.

You said what sounded a lot to me like this poor dude couldn't possibly be expected to control himself or know when or how it's appropriate to ask someone out because "normal human instinct." Please.

I'm sure if you read carefully the three or so comments since the first, you will be disabused of that unfounded opinion.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 8:22 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


> The email was incredibly rude and inept, but let's not be ridiculous. People hit on each other all the time.

Sounds like lame-ass excuse-making to me.
posted by rtha at 8:50 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


"I think wording it as if it's something that has to do with gender rather than individuals is stupidly sexist and honestly offensive. What can you hope to accomplish by trying to paint an ugly behaviour as "gendered" except to demean a gender?"

Divorcing sexual harassment from gender relations is just stupid, and no one cares if you're offended by that. It's not demeaning to either gender; it's a description of a well-attested pattern that only disingenuous anti-feminist fartpipes argue against.
posted by klangklangston at 9:54 AM on April 14 [12 favorites]


What can you hope to accomplish by trying to paint an ugly behaviour as "gendered" except to demean a gender?

Nope, sorry -- the not-all-men-are-horrible-stop-blaming-all-men-for-this argument doesn't fly either. This guy sent this email because he knew (consciously or sub-) that he lives in a society and works in an industry that will allow that sort of behavior with a vanishingly small chance of it ever coming back to haunt him because of the genders of the two people involved. That. Is. Gendered. And it has nothing to do with demeaning all men.
posted by Etrigan at 11:05 AM on April 14 [6 favorites]


Nope, sorry -- the not-all-men-are-horrible-stop-blaming-all-men-for-this argument doesn't fly either. This guy sent this email because he knew (consciously or sub-) that he lives in a society and works in an industry that will allow that sort of behavior with a vanishingly small chance of it ever coming back to haunt him because of the genders of the two people involved. That. Is. Gendered. And it has nothing to do with demeaning all men.

Etrigan, do you know the people involved or have some,inside knowledge that makes you more familiar with this specific situation? Otherwise, I don't see how you are getting all that from the post Yunha Kim wrote! You are going off another commenter based on some very speculative reasoning:

1. You believe you know all the context here because Yunha Kim shared one line of one response to an email correspondence.

I have no idea what Yunha Kim wrote in her own email reaching out to this guy. I really wish I did. Granted, this response seems pretty damned offensive or at least tone deaf to me.

But the engineer did not send a resume in or anything like that. According to what I have read in this AND other sources, Yunha Kim sought him out in an attempt to persuade him to jump ship and work for her at her new startup. Her correspondence with him could have been anything from, "I am writing to ascertain if you would be interested in a position with my new startup, Locket" to "When we worked together on X project, we made a good team. How about we get together and discuss the possibility of us collaborating again?"

Like I said, I would really like to see both sides of the correspondence so we knew the context here.

2. You think there is a "vanishingly small chance" of someone getting called out for sexual harassment. I have no idea where this comes from, but in my experience, we are seeing more light being focused on the issue today than ever before. In the private sector, companies have sexual harassment policies and sensitivity training because companies today recognize the potential liability. Every company in the US with over 15 employees is subject to Title Seven employment practices making sexual harassment in the workplace an actionable offense.

3. This is gendered because why? You say so? I have seen this kind of thing going both ways. I have experienced, and know other women who have experienced, sexual harassment in college and on the job. On the other hand, I personally know of more than a few women who literally slept their way into positions at their jobs or used sex to persuade a professor in college to give them a better grade, too. The anecdote about a woman marrying her boss is not at all a rare occurrence in my experience, either.
posted by misha at 2:34 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Her correspondence with him could have been anything from, "I am writing to ascertain if you would be interested in a position with my new startup, Locket" to "When we worked together on X project, we made a good team. How about we get together and discuss the possibility of us collaborating again?"

So maybe it's me, but I don't think that that either of those example emails provides any kind of excuse for hitting on a potential employer, or for somehow assuming that hitting on them could be socially acceptable. The only sort of email that might would probably have to read "Would you be interested in working for me company? Also, I'm currently looking for straight guys to date."
posted by Going To Maine at 2:53 PM on April 14 [5 favorites]


Yeah I don't see why anyone would need context to understand that that email is inappropriate. Whether or not hitting on someone is a "natural instinct," it's not something you should act on in that scenario.
posted by sweetkid at 2:59 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Would you be interested in working for me company?

Apparently my example employer is a pirate.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:03 PM on April 14 [5 favorites]


The author was literally suggesting the CEO prostitute herself to get the guy interested in a job. Again, men who do not understand how offensive and sexist this is are part of the problem.
posted by Nelson at 3:07 PM on April 14 [5 favorites]


Her correspondence with him could have been anything from, "I am writing to ascertain if you would be interested in a position with my new startup, Locket" to "When we worked together on X project, we made a good team. How about we get together and discuss the possibility of us collaborating again?"

Both of those are totally professional and only a sexist ass would think it was OK to reply with a request to hook up.
posted by KathrynT at 3:48 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I can't imagine a normal recruiting-type email where it would be professional to respond the way this guy did.
posted by rtha at 3:55 PM on April 14


Etrigan, do you know the people involved or have some,inside knowledge that makes you more familiar with this specific situation? Otherwise, I don't see how you are getting all that from the post Yunha Kim wrote!

I stand in awe of your ability to contort logic, common sense and language to support your worldview, ma'am. Absolute. Awe.
posted by Etrigan at 5:29 PM on April 14


^ I have no idea what Yunha Kim wrote in her own email reaching out to this guy. I really wish I did. Granted, this response seems pretty damned offensive or at least tone deaf to me.

Joining in the puzzlement as to what a CEO, recruiting for her company, could possibly have said to invite a response of "no way, unless you pay me in sex, j/k lol"

This is gendered because why? You say so? I have seen this kind of thing going both ways.

It's gendered because Yunha Kim says it's an example, and a relatively polite one at that, of the e-mails she gets from male engineers she tries to recruit, in an article explaining why it sucks to be female in tech.

^ criticising normal human instincts is futile

Nobody's criticizing the instinct - we're criticizing the choice to express the instinct in business correspondence, which goes beyond rudeness to gendered hostility.
posted by gingerest at 5:39 PM on April 14


Yeah, I still think the guy's response is at least tone-deaf; my comment was in response to Etrigan's, which was both declarative and speculative in nature, assuming things we could not know and also definitively stating that this is a gendered issue, etc.

I know that Kim was recently part of a three-women panel on women business leaders, and she spoke about how hard networking was for her specifically. She said she had been frantic to find engineers and had been reaching out to everyone she could find, including guys she knew personally, fellow alumni of her university, etc. (she got a little pushback later for actively poaching some of them from other companies as well).

So she was basically cold-calling likely candidates, which might also be why her subject line was simply, "Hey", and not anything more professional (or informational) on her side.
posted by misha at 5:55 PM on April 14


"Yeah, I can't imagine a normal recruiting-type email where it would be professional to respond the way this guy did."

"I am recruiting for my casual hook-up site BoneTown and wanted to know if you have any casual boning experience or if you'll need on-the-job training from the Chief Boning Officer. Wear your sex clothes to the interview."
posted by klangklangston at 6:02 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


criticising normal human instincts is futile

Being a jerk is a normal human instinct, and I feel very okay with criticizing it. Making a "normal" behavior unacceptable in society is a good way to reduce the incidence of it, even if it may never be completely eliminated.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:09 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


So she was basically cold-calling likely candidates, which might also be why her subject line was simply, "Hey", and not anything more professional (or informational) on her side.

So what?

What is with the contorting and absurd theorizing about how this might could not be a gendered response. I'm hearing hoofbeats and it's almost dead-certain to be horses. And if it's not...what? What does that mean? That the bullshit that so many men feel totally fine aiming at women is not gendered? That sexism doesn't exist? That it can only exist if we are perfectly correct in assessing every interaction, because if we're wrong once in a while....something?
posted by rtha at 7:06 PM on April 14 [5 favorites]


Rtha, maybe we are just talking at cross purposes here.

Etrigan specifically theorized that:
This guy sent this email because he knew (consciously or sub-) that he lives in a society and works in an industry that will allow that sort of behavior with a vanishingly small chance of it ever coming back to haunt him because of the genders of the two people involved.

I replied with several reasons why I felt Etrigan's statement of this man's motivations was highly speculative given what we have to go on.

One of the reasons was that I disagreed that this kind of inappropriate conduct was (a) being condoned more often in society and the workplace than before, and (b) perpetrated by men against women because men know they can get away with it.

To make point (b) I gave examples to illustrate that inappropriate sexual conduct in a professional setting is not limited to men, using my own lived experiences.

So, if when you call this a "gendered issue" you mean that you agree with Etrigan that sexually inappropriate conduct in the workplace IS limited to the male gender, then we are at odds.

Otherwise, I am not in disagreement with you.
posted by misha at 10:10 PM on April 14


So, if when you call this a "gendered issue" you mean that you agree with Etrigan that sexually inappropriate conduct in the workplace IS limited to the male gender, then we are at odds.

That's not what I mean and that's not how I read Etrigan's comment, which says nothing about whether or not women can never be inappropriate. Men feel entitled to say this kind of thing not just to colleagues but to potential bosses who are women because of gender. What women do that is comparable is irrelevant to whether this behavior by men towards women is gendered.
posted by rtha at 11:00 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Ohhh, now I see your misunderstanding, misha:

So, if when you call this a "gendered issue" you mean that you agree with Etrigan that sexually inappropriate conduct in the workplace IS limited to the male gender, then we are at odds.

"Gendered issue" does not mean "exclusive to one gender." It means, in this case, "heavily associated with gender" with a little of "made possible by gender standing" mixed in. The man who wrote that email to Kim did so because he's a man, working in a society where you can get away with that sort of thing with little more than a mild anonymous slap on the wrist, working in an industry where that sort of thing is even more allowed. Note also that when I discussed his motivations, I allowed for the possibility that this was all subconscious on his part, which is itself part of the problem.
posted by Etrigan at 4:06 AM on April 15 [5 favorites]


Thanks for the explanation, Etrigan, now I get what you mean! I think it was your first sentence (the not-all-men phrasing) that originally threw me off, but in any event I read what you wrote and arrived in a completely different place.

I can see where you are coming from now, though; gender definitely comes into play in that this situation is not going happen in our heteronormative society between two men or two women having the same correspondence.

That this jerkishness was "made possible by gender standing" is also a valid point. I agree the tech industry has a long way to go with accepting and welcoming women in the field still.

My spouse occasionally recruits and hires from local universitities, and we have talked about how few young people are choosing to pursue his field (engineering), because many feel the core requisites are too challenging. Young women engineers, though, are even rarer. He recently traveled to a local ollege job fair with the goal of recruitment, and followed up by interviewing a number of potential candidates who looked promising.

He was disappointed when he questioned them that so many applicantsdid not have the technical knowledge he considered essential for the job. In his final interview of the day, though, the young woman in question really knew her stuff. He was impressed by her, and when he learned she had an offer already, he worked hard to get the company to offer her a really nice compensation package, which she accepted.

So we were talking about this young woman, and I mentioned how tough the transition can be from new grad to working, not just in his field but in his workplace specifically. My husband has mentored other young employees before, and I knew he would do right by this young woman, but I asked him if there were any other women that he could recommend that she could turn to for help as well.

I said that because his field is still a male-dominated one, a woman might have a tougher time assimilating. She might have issues that she would feel more comfortable speaking about with another woman. He wasn't clear why gender would matter here, though.

So I pointed out that to someone coming in, with no context, the last thing you'd want is for the workplace to even appear to have the hallmarks of a Good Old Boys Club. One way to encourage more women to apply was to make sure that the women already working in the field had positive experiences; a woman shouldn't have to feel like she'd have to become one of the guys just to fit in. One way the company could negate that Good Old Boys impression would be to foster relationships between women in the workplace. So it would be in everyone's benefit for this young woman to have at least one woman to help mentor her, too.

To his credit, my spouse listened, heard what I was saying, and acted on it. He thought right away of the perfect woman for to talk to about mentoring this new hire., and also decided to suggest to their outreach people that they make this an accepted policy when hiring women grads from now on.

The point of this story is: before I brought this up, it had never even occurred to him that a woman having other women to go to like this would be beneficial for everyone involved. It didn't even occur to him, despite being well aware that women were under-represented in the field, that hiring more women was only part of the equation. Making efforts to be more inclusive so that they wanted to keep working there was important, too.

It didn't occur to him, of course, because gender has never been an issue for him. It's never been a barrier to entry, or a distinction marking him as other, because in his field, being male is the default setting.

Anyway, sorry for the rambling post. Etrigan, thanks for taking the time to engage with me so I could get my head right on this.
posted by misha at 10:31 AM on April 15 [2 favorites]


He was disappointed when he questioned them that so many applicantsdid not have the technical knowledge he considered essential for the job. In his final interview of the day, though, the young woman in question really knew her stuff.

This reminds me of something interesting I noticed recently which is admittedly pretty tangential to the topic of this thread. I was interviewing at a large-ish tech startup, and I was happily surprised to see gender parity in the team that I was interviewing with, and a culture there that seemed to be oriented towards addressing the diversity problem head-on. Later, though, in the more informal segments of the interview, I realized that all of the women on the team had comparatively impeccable credentials: to a T they each had a BS in Computer Science, at least one or two moderately visible public accomplishments in various open source communities, and one of the women I interviewed with had attended Hacker School in NYC. The men, meanwhile, were all obviously capable but not as skilled on paper: there were some humanities majors in the bunch, not as much of a public presence, and so forth. I still think the team is doing a good job with combatting tech's ongoing issues with race and gender (especially since this team was largely assembled from people who already worked at the company), but I suspect what I saw was an indication that women are held to a higher bar, as if they have to prove their worth in a way that men don't.
posted by invitapriore at 7:48 PM on April 15 [2 favorites]




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