Join me in supporting The Ada Initiative
When I first read that Linux kernel developer Valerie Aurora would be changing careers to work full-time on behalf of women in open source communities, I never imagined it would lead so far so fast. Today, The Ada Initiative is a non-profit organization with global reach, whose programs have helped create positive change for women in a wide range of communities beyond open source. Building on this foundation, imagine how much more they can do in the next four years! That’s why I’m pledging my continuing support, and asking you to join me.
For the next 7 days, I will personally match your donations up to $4,096. My employer, Heroku (Salesforce.com), will match my donations too, so every dollar you contribute will be tripled!
My goal is that together we will raise over $12,000 toward The Ada Initiative’s 2014 fundraising drive.
Since about 1999, I had been working in open source communities like Debian and Ubuntu, where women are vastly underrepresented even compared to the professional software industry. Like other men in these communities, I had struggled to learn what I could do to change this. Such a severe imbalance can only be addressed by systemic change, and I hardly knew where to begin. I worked to raise awareness by writing and speaking, and joined groups like Debian Women, Ubuntu Women and Geek Feminism. I worked on my own bias and behavior to avoid being part of the problem myself. But it never felt like enough, and sometimes felt completely hopeless.
Perhaps worst of all, I saw too many women burning out from trying to change the system. It was often taxing just to participate as a woman in a male-dominated community, and the extra burden of activism seemed overwhelming. They were all volunteers, doing this work in evenings and weekends around work or study, and it took a lot of time, energy and emotional reserve to deal with the backlash they faced for speaking out about sexism. Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner helped me to see that an activist organization with full-time staff could be part of the solution. I joined the Ada Initiative advisory board in February 2011, and the board of directors in April.
Today, The Ada Initiative is making a difference not only in my community, but in my workplace as well. When I joined Heroku in 2012, none of the engineers were women, and we clearly had a lot of work to do to change that. In 2013, I attended AdaCamp SF along with my colleague Peter van Hardenberg, joining the first “allies track”, open to participants of any gender, for people who wanted to learn the skills to support the women around them. We’ve gone on to host two ally skills workshops of our own for Heroku employees, one taught by Ada Initiative staff and another by a member of our team, security engineer Leigh Honeywell. These workshops taught interested employees simple, everyday ways to take positive action to challenge sexism and create a better workplace for women. The Ada Initiative also helped us establish a policy for conference sponsorship which supports our gender diversity efforts. Today, Heroku engineering includes about 10% women and growing. The Ada Initiative’s programs are helping us to become the kind of company we want to be.
I attended the workshop with a group of Heroku colleagues, and it was a powerful experience to see my co-workers learning tactics to support women and intervene in sexist situations. Hearing them discuss power and privilege in the workplace, and the various “a-ha!” moments people had, were very encouraging and made me feel heard and supported.
– Leigh Honeywell