Sqoot Knows Squat About Apologies
Sqoot was a company I’d never heard of until their recent, massive, epic flub. It all started with this stupid ad for the Boston API Jam:
Can’t imagine why that might cause a problem.
A lot of people got mad. Rightly so. Advertisers pulled their dollars. And Sqoot was caught in a shitstorm of its own creation. So they did what any company whose PR department consists of one flakey intern: they fauxpologised.
While we thought this was a fun, harmless comment poking fun at the fact that hack-a-thons are typically male-dominated, others were offended. That was not our intention and thus we changed it.
Translation: “Look, guys, we still think this is funny, but apparently you all got your panties in a knot or something, so whatever, we’re changing it. Now let’s all go to Hooters.”
I looked for the sauce gdoc on that one, but I can’t find it. Maybe it’s been pulled? I don’t know. Possibly, because when people found this non-apology insufficient, they issued a second semi-fauxpology.
Recently, we decided to host a hack-a-thon in Boston. Our goal: to bring developers together with the community and new technologies to build amazing things. Like any good party, we wanted great music, great people, and great food. We wanted to do better than pizza and soft drinks, and truly wanted everyone involved to benefit in a big way. We didn’t want developers to leave in the same cliques they came with because of a lack of cross-pollination nor did we want sponsors to spend thousands of dollars yet still miss connecting with ideal users. We really wanted to do better.
Unfortunately, we did worse. When we put together the original event page, we used language that we now realize was reckless and hurt efforts to diversify gender in tech. We immediately and deservedly received an enormous backlash. While we aimed to call attention to the male-dominated tech world through humor and intended to be inclusive, the gravity of our wording was just the opposite. Our words completely undermined our intentions and went further to harm the world we’re trying to have a positive impact on.
We apologize unequivocally to our sponsors, customers, friends and family, and community. We’d like to thank everyone for being so outspoken. As a young startup, we learned a lot today and are better people and a better company for it.
As we decide whether to continue with the event, or reschedule for another time, we will focus efforts on making sure that our event marketing is inclusive to all. We will do better.
If you have any questions, or want to chat, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Now you might be thinking, well, that ain’t so bad. They “unequivocally apologize” so that’s pretty good, right? Well, first of all, this is a second apology, not an initial apology, so it’s only here because someone, somewhere, finally got the hint that to properly apologize, you have to sound like you’re actually sorry. And second of all, look at that shit I done bolded.
“Humor that intended to be inclusive.” Really? I mean, really? In what world does singling women out as service-givers, as something to come give you beer, as entities that don’t participate in the coding part, they’re just there to look cute, folks, while the men do the real work, count as inclusive? In what world does pandering exclusively to the most base heterosexual males count as inclusive?
This tells me one of two things is true, with regards to Sqoot. One, they actually don’t get it. Sqoot does not actually understand what “inclusive” means. They don’t get what they did wrong, despite being yelled at by tonnes of tweeters, bloggers, and advertisers. They honestly just don’t understand. Or two, they totally get it, but they just ran out of fucks to give. Sqoot really wishes they could have just gotten away with an event where chicks hand them beer while they coded, and don’t get what all these whiny bitches be whining about, but they lost money, so they guess they should apologize or something.
So which is it, Sqoot: Idiots, or assholes?
But there’s something awesome that came out of this: women were stupidly objectified and treated as non-participants in the programming community, and the community flipped. And not just flipped like a few blogs got angry about it. People pulled participation, they pulled dollars. A company wasn’t just given a wag of the finger, they were financially punished for their behaviour.
This makes me really happy. It’s hard to remember sometimes, as a lady engineer dealing with my own ish here at my job, that there are really decent people out there. And they’re not small in number. It’s really comforting that there are people who will stand up and say “this is not acceptable, we do not talk about people this way, and we do not treat people this way.” So, you know what, Sqoot? Thanks for that.