Diversity in Tech Is Messy Business, Firing of Developer Evangelist Shows

When a developer evangelist called out some developers for bawdy jokes at a tech conference, they got fired. And so did she.

In the lead-up to his Launch conference this year, Jason Calacanis, a blond man in his 40s, got into some trouble for insisting that there was no racial or gender bias in the technology industry.

Calacanis apparently falls into the well-meaning but clueless camp when it comes to such matters. To show his good will after his remarks were soundly criticized, he hosted a diversity in technology panel at Launch.

That may not sound like much, but those in the startup field are not used to being criticized for much of anything. Even failures are celebrated as examples of daring-do.

On the panel was Adria Richards, a black woman who works as a developer evangelist at SendGrid, an enterprise email company.

At a Pycon developer conference yesterday, Richards overheard some developers making bawdy puns about dongles. Such jokes are not especially unusual, although this round seems to have gone on for some time and at substantial volume. At Python-related conferences, though, the salty jokes violated the code of conduct.

Richards messaged the organizers on Twitter and asked them to intervene. She also snapped a photo and tweeted it, along with a summary of their remarks.

The developers were fired. Big kudos all around for the tech industry for taking diversity issues seriously, right?

Not exactly. Richards was subsequently fired as well. SendGrid did not say why, but it made the announcement after it was subjected to a DDOS attack, in which hackers apparently sought to punish the company for Richards’s actions.

“We have taken action that we believe is in the overall best interests of SendGrid, its employees, and our customers,” the company said in a Facebook post. It also tweeted that it had fired Richards.

Richards is now being harassed on Twitter for her public criticism of the developers.



Debates are ongoing on Twitter and on Hacker News. If you want a sense of how little some young tech guys know about sexism, we recommend you check out Hacker News.