First off, I want to thank you for taking the time to share this, and particularly for being specific about where we could (and should) have done better in what our language choices conveyed.
I’m the VP of Community Growth at Stack Overflow, and I’m mostly here to tell you what we took away from this, and what I hope will happen going forward.
1. We clearly communicated really poorly here, and failed to recognize places our phrasings just plain sucked. Ironically, “there’s no way to sugar coat it” was the author’s way of saying, “we can’t keep pretending there’s not an issue here — something is wrong.” But in hindsight, it’s easy to see how you read it: “I guess SO thinks that’s just the way it is. Shrug.” I don’t think that, and neither do my colleagues, including those who worked on this. Whatever the number is today (10%, 12%, 25%…), I think it sucks. What makes me sadder is that it’s pretty clear that it’s gotten a lot worse since the 70s. But my point is that you’re right. While we did intend to convey our concern with lines like, “The gender disparity in tech is shamefully imbalanced across the age spectrum,” it didn’t change the fact that our language choices elsewhere could easily imply we accept this. Or worse, that we deny the existence of all the talented women who code today. We blew it there. We can do better.
2. And we tried to do a little better today. We took your feedback to heart, and changed the language in the survey where we were clearly sending exactly the wrong message. That doesn’t make it okay to get it wrong in the first place, but its one thing we CAN do now to ensure we don’t keep sending a message — one we truly didn’t intend — to future readers.
3. One of the things I care most about is that our community is inclusive for ALL developers. so I want to be crystal clear about one aspect of our approach to moderation on SO: We have less than zero tolerance for overt sexist language or disparaging any group on site. (That’s NOT supposed to sound like something to be proud of — it’s a sad reflection that it feels important to say it.) If you see it happen, flag it. It WILL get dealt with. (If it doesn’t, you can email me personally at email@example.com)
4. One of the thing I’ve learned as I’ve tried to be a stronger ally (and just a more empathetic person)is that what’s INTENDED is often less important than the emotional reaction you create, so my main take-away today is that we clearly blew it with our language choices here. But I want you to know this: Our intent was truly to help ensure the dialogue around these issues continues. We don’t know the answers, but we’re eager to listen and engage in the discussion. So thanks for being part of the dialogue, and I hope you’ll be willing to keep talking in the future.