The Weekly Geek: The Ada Initiative


Are you ready to hear the most uplifting story to come out of a very unfortunate and totally sexist incident so far this week? Meet Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner, founders of the Ada Initiative (named after female computer science pioneer Ada Lovelace), after hearing about yet another incident of a woman being groped at a tech convention.

If you’re a lady nerd of any sort, you’re probably all-too familiar with this sort of bad behavior. It comes with the territory of being a tiny minority at a tech conference (or gaming/fandom meet up of many kinds), and it so aggravated these two women that they decided to stand up and do something about it: They’ve created a network for women who work with open source technology. Power to the people!

From The Mary Sue:

“I think part of what happens in some of these fields [like open source is that] you have a really extreme minority of women and you get the outsider status that’s associated with being an extreme minority,” said Gardiner. “People at have started it calling it being a unicorn. I think someone last year actually had their camera and would take pictures of women [when they spotted some].”

I’ve been called a unicorn before (at E3, in fact), so I can confirm this happens in all walks of nerd-dom.

“We believe that open technology and culture has a higher leverage affect on society as a whole,” said Aurora. “So it’s like we can say ‘Oh well what we really need to do is fix sexism in society overall,’ and then we can say ‘Well look if we’re writing Wikipedia, if we’re writing the software that everybody uses, if we’re creating what’s on the internet and setting the culture on the internet, which spreads to everybody, then we are changing sexism in society at large.'”

Of course, with any one particular segment of society, there’s no consensus about the situation at hand.

“There’s a wide range of opinion among women and open source and women in open stuff in general about what we should do and what approach we should take. Whether we should just hide ourselves and pretend nothing’s wrong, or never, never talk about the gender gap problem,” said Aurora. “Our guideline is that you believe women should have equal rights and that participating in technology is important other than that we have a lot of different people with different opinions.”

If you like what these women are doing, you can head on over to their website to find out more – and you can even donate or support them if you’re so inclined.

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