Home > All > The Julie Ann Horvath story is just the tip of the iceberg

The Julie Ann Horvath story is just the tip of the iceberg

The GitHub/Horvath saga should make for uncomfortable reading for all companies; and especially tech companies. It exposes an uncomfortable work environment that lies above legality but below acceptability — women are harassed and bullied in the work environment; and I would suggest this happens more often than not.

Julie Ann Horvath felt forced to resign from GitHub. Her story is recounted by TechCrunch. She described what amounts to bullying by an unnamed but obvious co-founder and his wife, and sexual harassment from an unnamed colleague.

While the above was going on, Horvath had what she referred to as an awkward, almost aggressive encounter with another GitHub employee, who asked himself over to “talk,” and then professed his love, and “hesitated” when he was asked to leave. Horvath was in a committed relationship at the time, something this other employee was well aware of, according to Horvath.

The rejection of the other employee led to something of an internal battle at GitHub. According to Horvath, the engineer, “hurt from my rejection, started passive-aggressively ripping out my code from projects we had worked on together without so much as a ping or a comment. I even had to have a few of his commits reverted. I would work on something, go to bed, and wake up to find my work gone without any explanation.” The employee in question, according to Horvath, is both “well-liked at GitHub” and “popular in the community.” [And has apparently since been promoted]
Julie Ann Horvath Describes Sexism And Intimidation Behind Her GitHub Exit — TechCrunch

She got precious little support from HR and eventually left.

GitHub suspended Tom Preston-Werner. CEO and co-founder Chris Wanstrath announced,

We know we have to take action and have begun a full investigation. While that’s ongoing, and effective immediately, the relevant founder has been put on leave, as has the referenced GitHub engineer.
Update on Julie Horvath’s Departure

The result of that investigation has now been announced:

The investigation found no evidence to support the claims against Tom and his wife of sexual or gender-based harassment or retaliation, or of a sexist or hostile work environment. However, while there may have been no legal wrongdoing…
Results of the GitHub Investigation

This is arse-covering of the first order. There has been no ‘legal wrongdoing’; and yet Tom Preston-Werner has resigned. GitHub is forced to protect itself legally — as any company would. But the problem with this is that it allows a divisive and bullying culture to continue because it is within the bounds of legality.

This sort of culture was described by Asher Wolf more than a year ago in her article, Dear Hacker Community – We Need To Talk:

Some parts of this article deal with misogyny, sexism, and harassment, while other aspects of it respond to experiences of down-right douche-baggery.

It doesn’t apply to all of you, but a number of you engage in it and many of you are bystanders.
Dear Hacker Community – We Need To Talk

Asher Wolf is no shrinking violet.

And yes, after I quit I said “fuck” a whole lot, and cried an ocean, then packed my son the toddler off to my mother’s house for the night and got profoundly drunk.

And now I’m ready to talk about the arse-hattery that basically broke me over the last few months.

I’m not some wall-flower or “pearl-clutching” provoker of needless moral outrage.

The experiences of Julie Ann Horvath and Asher Wolf are, I believe, the tip of the iceberg; and it is something that business needs to address. It seems to be worst in male-dominated professions — and engineering is one of the worst.

I don’t know the answer. As long as there is a ‘legal’ threshold, anything beneath that line is fair game and will continue — unless and until Asher Wolf’s bystanders cease to be bystanders. The good men in this world need to stand up and step in.

Otherwise weak men will continue to bully women because they are afraid and jealous of their professional abilities, and because they can.

Categories: All
  1. April 22, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Unfortunately in Asher Wolf’s case the problems were caused by her own disrepect and crappy uncivil attitude towards practically everyone in the hacker movement, long before she turned it into a gender-related thing (which it wasn’t). A lot of us gave her the funding and publicity that most hackers really work hard for, and we got it thrown back in our faces.

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