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The Ada Initiative: Supporting Women In Open Technology & Culture

Dyn’s charitable arm DynCares recently contributed to an organization close to my heart: the Ada Initiative. They describe themselves as a “non-profit organization dedicated to increasing participation of women in open technology and culture, which includes open source software, Wikipedia and other open data, and open social media”.

It’s named after Ada Lovelace, widely regarded as the world’s first computer programmer and someone who has her own day in October that I love celebrating every year. Eager to spread awareness of the organization and the good work they do, I asked Valerie Aurora, Executive Director of the Ada Initiative, a few questions about the organization and how individuals and companies can get involved.

Ada Lovelace Day - Dyn
Ada Lovelace

What changes have you seen in the open source community since the Ada Initiative was created?

People are much more aware of women’s experiences in open source…and open technology and culture in general. Most people were shocked and horrified that women were harassed at conferences or on IRC or that anyone still made sexist jokes.

As a result, we’ve seen the adoption of official policies banning this kind of behavior at dozens of conferences, as well as more interest in things like the Allies training workshop in which we teach “snappy comebacks” to use when they run into sexism.

How have open source communities responded to the Ada Initiative? Have you heard particular stories from conference attendees or tech workers who have been impacted by the Ada Initiative’s work?

For the most part, responses have been quite positive. Usually there are a few people who complain vocally about their right to say or do sexist things anywhere they want, including on other people’s private property. But overall, there’s a feeling that we want more women around and maybe these Ada Initiative people have some ideas worth listening to.

There are a number of women who credit the Ada Initiative with being the reason they haven’t left open tech/culture over the last year. We’re thrilled to be making a difference in their lives. We also hear from conference organizers and sponsors that they are grateful that our work on spreading the conference anti-harassment policy has made it easier for them to run or sponsor a conference, since they worry less about bad press from bad behavior.

How can tech-driven companies like Dyn help promote more participation of women in open technology and culture, in addition to donating and spreading the word?

Companies are in a great position to help increase the participation of women because they can hire women and give them fulfilling work and enjoyable work environments. It takes work, of course. It’s not obvious to everyone what makes a work environment turn off women and getting women to apply for jobs in the first place is often a challenge. One of our projects is to make it easier for employers to make these changes by publishing guides and resources.

Learn more about how DynCares is contributing to and getting involved in open source and please learn more about the Ada Initiative’s plans for 2012!

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