Ada Initiative bails on GitHub, after sexism allegations

Workplace gender discrimination claims against the software hosting service have resulted in an ousted co-founder and a fizzled partnership.

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The GitHub team. GitHub

The repercussions of the gender-based harassment allegations made against GitHub appear to be having a domino affect.

Ada Initiative, a nonprofit that works to get more women involved in open technology, announced Wednesday that it's ending its partnership with GitHub.

The ordeal began last month when GitHub co-founder and President Tom Preston-Werner was placed on leave after a female engineer, Julie Ann Horvath, accused the company of gender discrimination.

During the two years that Horvath worked at GitHub, which is a hosting service for software projects, she said she tried to fit in with the "boys' club" but had a hard time feeling welcome because of her gender. Horvath said she was subjected to harassment by Werner's wife and an unnamed GitHub engineer, which eventually led to her resignation.

GitHub announced earlier this week that after a "full, independent, third-party investigation," Werner submitted his resignation as president of GitHub. Even though Werner is stepping down, the company maintains he wasn't involved in any sort of gender discrimination.

"The investigation found no evidence to support the claims against Tom and his wife of sexual or gender-based harassment or retaliation, or of a sexist or hostile work environment," GitHub CEO and co-founder Chris Wanstrath wrote in a blog post Monday. "However, while there may have been no legal wrongdoing, the investigator did find evidence of mistakes and errors of judgment."

After the announcement, Horvath took to Twitter, blasting the investigation and tweeting, "There was no investigation" and "there was a series of conversations with a 'mediator' who sought to relieve GitHub of any legal responsibility."

For his part, Werner wrote a blog post bidding farewell to GitHub and maintained that neither he nor his wife "engaged in gender-based harassment or discrimination."

"The results of GitHub's independent investigation unequivocally confirm this and we are prepared to fight any further false claims on this matter to the full extent of the law," Werner wrote.

It was both the harassment claims and Werner's warning of legal action that brought Ada Initiative to end its partnership with GitHub.

"The sum of these events make it impossible for Ada Initiative to partner with GitHub at this time," the group wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "We are working hard to create a world in which women can participate in open source software, Wikipedia, and other areas of open technology and culture without harassment, intimidation, or discrimination. Sometimes this means refusing to partner with or accept sponsorship from specific people or organizations."

Gender discrimination in the tech industry isn't isolated to GitHub. Over the years, the male-dominated tech world has experienced its fair share of sexism claims. In 2010, Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd resigned after an investigation into sexual harassment claims found he violated standards of business conduct. And, in 2012, junior partner at Kleiner Perkins Ellen Pao filed a gender discrimination complaint against the venture capital firm claiming unequal promotions and pay for female employees.

Ending gender discrimination in the tech community is something many groups are working on. While significant strides in equality have been made, allegations of sexism still persist. According to Ada Initiative, women make up only 2 percent of the open-source software community and the numbers are also low in other tech sectors.

CNET contacted GitHub for comment. We'll update the story when we get more information.

About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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