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Tech Developer Adria Richards Fired for Reporting Sexual Harassment

By | 3/21/2013 Leave a Comment
 photo adria-richards.jpg

A couple of years ago, I asked "Where are the Black Women in Tech?" Since, then we've seen more than a few Black women like Angela Benton, Kathryn Finney, and Kimberly Bryant (to name a few) inspire women of color to pursue digital innovation with their ventures. More black women with a desire to share their knowledge and their time has opened up new worlds in tech, but there's still far to go for simply wish to work in the industry unbothered. 

Last week, web developer and blogger Adria Richards detailed an encounter she had at the PyCon tech conference on Twitter and her blog.

The guy behind me to the far left was saying he didn’t find much value from the logging session that day. I agreed with him so I turned around and said so. He then went onto say that an earlier session he’d been to where the speaker was talking about images and visualization with Python was really good, even if it seemed to him the speaker wasn’t really an expert on images. He said he would be interested in forking the repo and continuing development.

That would have been fine until the guy next to him…

began making sexual forking jokes

I was going to let it go. It had been a long week. A long month. I’d been on the road since mid February attending and speaking at conferences. PyCon was my 5th and final conference before heading home.

I know it’s important to pick my battles.

I know I don’t have to be a hero in every situation.

Sometimes I just want to go to a conference and be a geek.

But…

like Popeye, I couldn’t “stands it no more” because of what happened –

Jesse Noller was up on stage thanking the sponsors. The guys behind me (one off to the right) said, “You can thank me, you can thank me”. That told me they were a sponsoring company of Pycon and from the photos I took, his badge had an add-on that said, “Sponsor”.

My company was a Gold sponsor as well.

They started talking about “big” dongles. I could feel my face getting flustered. Was this really happening?
How many times do I have to deal with this?
Can they not hear what Jesse is saying?
Richards snapped pictures of the two men and alerted the conferences organizers. To their credit, the organizers took action, and according to reports, those men were fired for their actions.

This, however, spurred further harassment of Richards within the tech community. Digital trolls bombarded Richards' site as well as that of her employer Sendgrid with attacks effectively taking them offline. Richards received rape and death threats for daring to speak up about the behavior.

Today, SendGrid posted this update on their Facebook page.

Effective immediately, SendGrid has terminated the employment of Adria Richards. While we generally are sensitive and confidential with respect to employee matters, the situation has taken on a public nature. We have taken action that we believe is in the overall best interests of SendGrid, its employees, and our customers. As we continue to process the vast amount of information, we will post something more comprehensive.

SendGrid fired Adria for attempting to make predominantly white-male spaces safer for women. Take a look at SendGrid's Facebook page or any number of popular tech communities on web. Richards continues to be berated and shamed for voicing her discontent. Detractors claim she was too sensitive and handled the situation inappropriately. But it seems there is no "appropriate" way to address the rampant sexism that pervades these communities.

The question is no longer "Where are the Black women in tech?" but "When will tech provide safe spaces for Black women and all women?"

We stand with Adria.

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or   .
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