GitHub: Sorry for secrecy with the sexism claims investigation

The software hosting service’s CEO comes out with new details on the inquiry surrounding allegations of gender harassment at the company.

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The GitHub team. GitHub

GitHub co-founder and CEO Chris Wanstrath has apologized for not being "open" and "transparent" about the investigation into allegations regarding gender-based harassment at the company.

"We failed to admit and own up to our mistakes, and for that I'm sorry," Wanstrath wrote in a blog post Monday. "GitHub has a reputation for being transparent and taking responsibility for our actions, but last week we did neither. There's no excuse. We can do a lot better."

In the blog post, Wanstrath detailed the work and outcome of an investigation by an "independent, third-party investigator" named Rhoma Young. Wanstrath said that Young looked into all of the gender harassment accusations levied against GitHub, which is a hosting service for software projects, and concluded that even though there have been some mishaps, the company provides a good work environment for women.

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. Horvath said she was subjected to harassment by Werner's wife and an unnamed GitHub engineer, which led to her resignation. At that time, GitHub said it was hiring Young to investigate.

Then, last week, at the conclusion of the investigation, Wanstrath announced that Werner had submitted his resignation as president of GitHub. While Wanstrath said there was an investigation, he didn't divulge any details that came of it. Instead he summed it up saying, "While there may have been no legal wrongdoing, the investigator did find evidence of mistakes and errors of judgment."

Since last week's announcement, the company has come under criticism for not doing enough to create a harassment-free environment. Also, because of the claims and lack of clarity, Ada Initiative -- a nonprofit that works to get more women involved in open technology -- announced it was ending its partnership with GitHub.

So, with Monday's announcement, Wanstrath appears to be coming clean and letting people know more about what happened. He said Young's investigation showed that Werner acted "inappropriately" but other gender harassment claims at GitHub are unsubstantiated.

"The investigation found Tom Preston-Werner in his capacity as GitHub's CEO acted inappropriately, including confrontational conduct, disregard of workplace complaints, insensitivity to the impact of his spouse's presence in the workplace, and failure to enforce an agreement that his spouse should not work in the office," Wanstrath wrote.

"Rhoma spent a significant amount of time investigating Julie's claims of sexual and gender based harassment," Wanstrath continued. "After interviewing over 50 employees, former employees, and reviewing evidence, Rhoma found nothing to support a sexist or discriminatory environment at GitHub, and no information to suggest retaliation against Julie for making sex/gender harassment complaints."

Despite these conclusions, Wanstrath appears to be apologetic about the turmoil involving Horvath.

"I'm sorry to everyone we let down, including Julie," he wrote. "I realize this post doesn't fix or undo anything that happened. We're doing everything in our power to prevent it from happening again."

For her part, Horvath appears to have accepted Wanstrath's apology. She took to Twitter on Monday to say that she's "pretty satisfied" with Wanstrath's blog post and even though she doesn't agree with the results of the investigation, she's glad Werner is gone and that "GitHub is a better place now."

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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