btonfeminism

Open Letter to GitHub

I know it’s not movement-related, but this is really important to me.

Dear GitHub,

I’m a college student, studying computer science and eagerly lining all of my ducks in a row, working to find a job in the field of software design and development after graduation. I’m also a woman. I’ve followed the Julie Ann Horvath debacle from quite near the start of the situation and now, a month later, I feel compelled to speak up.

You see, as far as I can tell, not much has been said or done about the reasons behind Horvath’s departure in the past month. I found one article that claims that Theresa Preston-Werner is now barred from the GitHub office–written on March 17th, an entire three days after the initial tweets from Horvath–but truly, the only sustained information source continues to be Horvath’s Twitter feed. There, amid the personal comments, discussions of race/ethnicity, and pictures of ducks, she regularly posts about women’s rights, both in and out of the tech industry.

To reiterate: in the past month, there has been so little follow-up regarding this situation that I have turned to Twitter as my news source. Incidentally, when I looked at the Twitter feeds for Tom Preston-Werner, Chris Wanstrath, and PJ Hyett, I couldn’t find anything that mentioned Horvath’s departure, let alone feminism.

At its very core, this letter is about the brogrammers of the tech industry. It’s about my fears for my future, the unquestioned effect of “culture fit,” and the juxtaposition of my anger toward everyone who perpetuates this sexist culture and my respect for the women who climb their way past the haters. It’s about personal comments that make their way onto pull requests and anyone who can’t respectfully accept “no” for a romantic answer. It’s about articles that insinuate that a woman’s best reason for saying “no” is that she already has a partner. It’s about company founders that bully their employees and HR departments that stand by and watch.

This letter is about following Horvath’s lead, standing up, and saying no.

I am glad the situation has come to light. I am glad that Tom Preston-Werner and the as-yet unnamed engineer have been suspended. These are steps in the right direction. However, they’re baby steps, and I’d like to believe that we’re all grown-ups, here. Further steps need to be taken.

Preston-Werner and this engineer cannot be allowed to return to GitHub (and neither can Theresa Preston-Werner). Additionally, your lax HR department must be subject to an external audit to ensure competency and moral standards. I also encourage transparency around the issues of equity and women’s rights, and I believe a great opportunity to practice that transparency would be to see a series of follow-ups to the issues covered in this article, posted a year ago.

As I said, I’m in college. We use GitHub, free of charge, as our primary repo site. Obviously, repository sites are incredibly important for the field of software design and development. That being said, learning how to create a small but functional repo site is a great project for a computer science class, and we are looking forward to the challenge.

I want to support the steps that GitHub is taking, however reluctantly, toward transparency. I urge you–please continue on this path. However, should you stray, I can no longer support your website. I encourage all of my peers, in the classroom and beyond, to favor equity over any one repo site.

This letter is about a call for equity and transparency.

Thank you for your time. 
Kiri Strack-Grose