Woman is sacked for tweeting picture of men who made 'sexist' dongle jokes at PyCon developer conference

Email firm SendGrid let Adria Richards go for 'public shaming' male PyCon attendees

Rob Williams
Friday 22 March 2013 16:38 GMT
Adria Richards claimed to have heard two PyCon attendees joke about 'big dongles' and use the technical term 'forking repos' in a sexual way
Adria Richards claimed to have heard two PyCon attendees joke about 'big dongles' and use the technical term 'forking repos' in a sexual way

A woman who was offended by a conversation between two men at a US conference for computer developers has been sacked after tweeting an image of them.

Adria Richards, a former employee of the email firm SendGrid, claimed to have heard two PyCon attendees joke about “big dongles” and use the technical term “forking repos” in a sexual way.

She detailed her version of the events in a blog post earlier this week writing: “Have you ever had a group of men sitting right behind you making joke that caused you to feel uncomfortable?”

Ms Richards, who was a “development evangelist” at SendGrid, goes on to detail the incident explaining that having heard the comments she decided to tweet a photo of the two men.

The men were later escorted from the conference session after Richards tweeted a message using the #pycon hashtag.

One of the two men was later fired by his employer PlayHaven.

Andy Yang, CEO of PlayHaven said in a blogpost that: “PlayHaven had an employee who was identified as making inappropriate comments at PyCon, and as a company that is dedicated to gender equality and values honourable behaviour, we conducted a thorough investigation. The result of this investigation led to the unfortunate outcome of having to let this employee go.”

However, Ms Richards has also since been sacked by her employer after an outpouring of online abuse was directed at her.

The online criticism culminated in a hacking attack on the site of Richards's employer SendGrid, which brought the site down.

In a blog post chief executive Jim Franklin wrote: “A SendGrid developer evangelist's responsibility is to build and strengthen our developer community across the globe.

"In light of the events over the last 48+ hours, it has become obvious that (her) actions have strongly divided the same community she was supposed to unite. As a result, she can no longer be effective in her role at SendGrid."

Mr Franklin also said he thought Ms Richard's actions had ”crossed the line.“

Ms Richards has said that she took her action after seeing pictures of female coders at the conference, and becoming concerned that they would be put off joining the industry if such comments were allowed.

She wrote on her blog: "Women in technology need consistent messaging from birth through retirement they are welcome, competent and valued in the industry."

The internet backlash against Ms Richards included campaign to get her fired on the 4Chan message board, denial of service attacks on her blog and an attack on her employer's website.

SendGrip subsequently made the decision to sack Ms Richards and posted a message on their Twitter account stating: "Effective immediately, @AdriaRichards has been terminated from @SendGrid".

In a blog post today SendGrid boss Jim Franklin wrote that though the company supported Ms Richards's right to complain, "her decision to tweet the comments and photographs of the people who made the comments crossed the line.

"Publicly shaming the offenders – and bystanders – was not the appropriate way to handle the situation," he said.

PyCon has also responded to the scandal by updating its Code of Conduct with the note: "Public shaming can be counter-productive to building a strong community. PyCon does not condone nor participate in such actions out of respect."

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