Harassment of Female Community Tech Leaders & the After-effects

I am angry. Incredibly angry.

In writing this, I hope those who harass anyone in person, sexually, with spam, and ESPECIALLY online will understand the effect that you have on an extending community.

This article is also explicitly to address the harassment of women in tech.

I will be mostly covering online harassment. Within the college hackathon community, online harassment has especially come to light. I speculate it is because larger conglomerate groups like the Facebook Hackathon Hackers have formed, so the anonymity and attention any incident receives magnifies 10 fold in comparison to individual and personal communities that had existed before.

***I am very careful not to blame these incidences on Hackathon Hackers itself, because there is no way that an entire awesome community can or should be held responsible for the actions of a few.***

Let’s first talk about specific incidences.

The first time a personal experience came to light was Tess Rinearson’s experience. She addressed her experience with this Medium post that I encourage you all to read.

I was so saddened because we lost an awesome mentor, leader, and person from our community that day.

Unfortunately, it did not just stop there.

A wonderful person and female mentor was harassed online. For privacy and safety reasons, I will not say her name. It started out with a fake Facebook account posting in various Facebook groups searching for her. The fake account also made many insulting sexist posts as well as comments. Administrators have worked really hard to get rid of this account from their groups.

Then, someone started attacking her Github account and making various irrelevant pull requests into her personal repositories. After that, someone made a fake dating site account of her using her PERSONAL EMAIL.

Soon after, someone used her PERSONAL CELL PHONE NUMBER to bully her into taking down a post in a Facebook woman’s community. Here was the original post posted in a trolling group that went out of line that she ridiculed and took a screenshot of.

Not only is this a problem about sexism, but it has gotten down to basic safety.

Are you serious?

Let’s continue with the 3rd incident. This was during a livestream event streaming a hackathon with an organization that I respect so much. If you do not already know the organization’s name, I will not list it here for fear of having people associate their good name with the incident.

There was a female commentator, about whom many made incredibly inappropriate messages within the chat bar. In an unrelated point in time, due to various harassing anonymous messages on Facebook, she also had to shut down her facebook account for 24 hours. I also know of a handful of other women who have had to shut down their social media accounts.

EDIT: After this post, I was messaged by an anonymous number with the following.

I want to make it fully apparent that I attribute NONE OF THIS to the HH group mentioned or the person who made the post above. That person I fully support and has made a incredibly mature apology.

All I wanted to make apparent was that yes. This shit still happens.

Due to legal reasons, I need to remove the phone numbers from the screenshots of the phone texts I received. Will update the article when I’m done. Stay tuned.

The After-effect

When things like this happen to women, especially visible female leaders, the rest of the community is affected. Discouragement festers, and it causes an entire group of people to feel disheartened about the current situation in the hackathon community.

Other women see these as examples of what could happen as a direct result of participating in online hackathon forums. One comment I saw after the second incident was…

“And they wonder why women don’t attend hackathons?”

On top of that, the leaders themselves feel discouraged and cannot perform as the role-model they have the potential to be.

If this sort of behavior continues, we will lose our female leaders and female hackers.

Whether male, female, non-binary, or human, I urge you, please. Support us. If you see a form of harassment and are unable to do anything, reach out and let the person know you appreciate them for being a part of the community. If you are able to identify the harasser, report them. They don’t deserve to be a part of this community.

This is a call to action.

If you see a form of harassment, whether victim or witness, please share your experience. It is important not only to demand consequences, but also so that others going through the same thing do not feel alone. People often find strength in shared experiences.

If you see any form of harassment at a hackathon, contact an organizer. If you see a form of harassment online and know the culprit, reveal their identity so that the victim can reach out to the police for situations in which the harassment continues.

I also want to make it abundantly clear that I love hackathons. And I still will encourage people to go.

Together, we can change the community.

Check out my follow-up here.

Please recommend and share this post. It is incredibly important.