Black Woman Techie Fired After Outing Sexist Jokesters at Conference

The tech community is divided over Richards' firing

adria richards sendgrid

Source: Twitter

A female technology developer has been fired by tech company SendGrid after tweeting about a group of men she said were making sexual innuendos about “dongles” at the PyCon US 2013 Developer Conference in California, MSN reports.

Adria Richards wrote on her blog, that she was at the conference in Santa Clara last week when the men behind her started talking about “big dongles.” A dongle is a device that plugs into a computer, but Richards said the men made the comment in a sexual way.

She turned around, took a photo of the men and posted it on Twitter with their alleged comments.

“Not cool. Jokes about forking repo’s in a sexual way and “big” dongles. Right behind me #pycon,” Richards tweeted.

The men, who worked for a company called PlayHaven, were asked to leave the conference. And later, one of the jokesters was fired by PlayHaven for his “inappropriate comments.”

After his firing, hackers attacked Richards’ employer SendGrid’s servers in protest, and soon thereafter, SendGrid in turn fired Richards saying: “publicly shaming the men was inappropriate and she had to be terminated for alienating the developer community.”

Twitter has responded under the hashtag #Donglegate. Some feel Richards is being unfairly punished for daring to stand up to the white boys club in Silicon Valley, while others feel it’s she who acted inappropriately by “shaming” the perpetrators in a public forum, and she should have just ignored the whole thing.

What do you think?

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  • goahead1000

    Maybe #Washington can amend #FreeSpeech Law for #Socialmedia while amending #Marriage Law

    • Guest

      Free Speech has nothing to do with how private entities choose to run their business. I don’t agree with her being fired but this is not a free speech issue law issue.

  • I just finished reading an article about “Racial Micro-Aggressions in the Workplace” and it is these everyday insults, and slights and verbal assaults and invalidation that confirms racism and sexism continues to exist and be subtly woven into the fabric of the workplace. Racial Micro-Aggressions are real!!!!!!!!! Everyday women and people of color are expected to turn the other cheek in order to “fit in” at the sacrifice of their very soul and integrity. I had a similar situation happen to me last week and I didn’t say anything…but it eats me up inside…not that I didn’t say anything…but I felt the pain of saying something and reporting the incident would be greater than the pain of staying silent. So I didn’t say anything…but I keep playing the incident in my head…and the feelings of disrespect kept bubbling up and the thought “He wouldn’t have done that to a white person….so why did he feel that was okay to do to me?” Racial Micro-aggressions are hazardous to our feel because they are hard to prove but yet they exist…and there is very little justice for the victims…and no awareness or education for the perpetrator, and so the cycle of racism discrimination and oppression continues on.

    • Jay

      Regardless of what those developers might have said, or what jokes they may have made, I don’t think of what she did as “brave” or “daring”. What she did is what any teen these days would do. Instead of confronting them, or adressing their conduct in a professional manner, she took their pictures and used social media to publically shame them. Can you imagine the reaction if the roles were reversed and it was a man taking a woman’s photo and used it to publicly shame her in the same manner?
      The jokes were inappropriate, and the men facing reprecussions for that at their jobs makes sense; but her being terminated for the way she handled the situation -also- makes sense.

  • conect2u

    Were the tweets & blogs posted to personal or professional accounts…it makes a difference.
    Flip the race of the offenders and Ms. Richards, SendGrid’s CEO would have not grossly overreacted w/termination; its an exaberation of the situation & punitive. A public retraction, notes in her HR employee jacket, stern reprimand, revokation of priviledges, etc all would have been more suitable actions.
    The men misbehaved, Ms. Richards might have made a better choice, but the CEO’s made a very poor managerial decision…period!

    • Stock

      No, it has nothing to do with being male or female.

      Her job was to foster good relations with the developer community to get them to want to work for or with SendGrid. Her tweet, and the firestorm it has set off, is the exact opposite of what she was hired to do. It is obvious that she (or even he if it was a guy) will no longer be capable of the job they were hired to do and thus their services are no longer needed.

      It is a simple as that.

      • conect2u

        Gender affects people’s perceptions & reactions. Considering your statements, would Richards have reacted to the man’s remarks if she had been a man & if so, how and conversely, the remarks, what would have been said or anything at all..?
        Weeks ago, Mayer of Yahoo, eliminated telecommuting while installing a nursery next to her office. A firestorm erupted over her decision, yet Best Buy’s CEO & several other businesses, all men, implemented the same policy…no reactions. Society and individuals react differently according to gender sometimes, i.e. Lilly Ledbetter Act, Equal Pay Act, it’s inherent to our natures.

        I must admit, I didn’t read the blog or tweets, but both firings appear to be examples to other employees. We only need to look to those who brought world economies to their knees 5yrs ago, yet still earn millions despite egregious transgressions. Employees make mistakes, only because jobs are scarce do employers have the liberty to hold us to an extreme higher standard…always…

  • Leonard Campbell

    This is both racist and sexist. The attitude of ignoring things is why the world is so messed up. Im going Martin Niemoller on this one:

    When the Nazis came for the communists,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a communist.

    When they locked up the social democrats,
    I remained silent;
    I was not a social democrat.

    When they came for the trade unionists,
    I did not speak out;
    I was not a trade unionist.

    When they came for the Jews,
    I remained silent;
    I wasn’t a Jew.

    When they came for me,
    there was no one left to speak out.

  • Brian Tucker

    The way she handled it was wrong: I wouldn’t have used Twitter. I would have used a personal blog and sent it to a select group of mavens within my network. Racial Transgressions happen in this space: all the time. It happened to me at while contracting with Microsoft and at three different integrated digital agencies. I even had to accuse a person I managed of harassment! I’m amazed at the bullying that goes on within these organizations. It comes down to 2 things: insecurity and a lack of empathy. I can write a book, in what I have experienced, from outright hostile interviews to blatant unprofessionalism. This space is a mess!

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  • Mtsprink

    Had the roles of the players been reversed….a totally different outcome would have ocurred. Again, people of color, by the current rules of the good old boy network are supposeed to “turn the other cheek” or be accused of being thin skin or overreaction to what are clearly racist and sexist comments and banter in the workplace. This kind of crap should not be happing in the workplace in 2013. PERIOD!!
    No, she should not have been fired. She should sue their asses off for wrong
    ful termination.

  • Innuendos are funny things. You can turn the meaning of ANYTHING with a roll of the eyes or a hand gesture. How about the oft used line, “That’s what your mother said” ? This woman was looking for a fight. The men were talking amongst themselves and did not engage her in any way. She should have just paid attention to the presentation instead of listening for something that offends her.

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