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Female tech worker fired after tweeting about men's comments

By Martha Mendoza and Sudhin Thanawala

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 04:11 a.m. HST, Mar 23, 2013

SAN JOSE, Calif. » A female developer was fired after tweeting about a group of men she said were making sexual comments at a computer programming conference, fueling an already vigorous debate about gender equality and culture in Silicon Valley.

Adria Richards wrote on her blog, butyouareagirl.com, that she was seated in a ballroom at the Santa Clara conference Sunday when the men behind her started talking about "big dongles."

A dongle is a device that plugs into a computer, but Richards tweeted that the men made the comment in a sexual way.

After hearing their remarks, Richards turned around, took a photo of two men and posted it on Twitter with their alleged comments.

Conference organizers said they were concerned by the tweet and quickly met with Richards and the men, who immediately apologized.

"We pulled all the individuals aside. We got all sides of the story. They said she was right, and they were very apologetic," said Jesse Noller, who chaired the conference, PyCon 2013, for people working on Python programming language.

Richards worked for SendGrid, a technology company with offices in Orange County and Colorado. CEO Jim Franklin wrote on the company's website that SendGrid agreed with Richards' right to report the incident to Pycon staff, but not the way she reported it.

"Her decision to tweet the comments and photographs of the people who made the comments crossed the line," Franklin wrote in a blog post on the site. "Publicly shaming the offenders — and bystanders — was not the appropriate way to handle the situation."

Franklin said Richards put the company's business in danger, divided the developer community and could no longer be effective at the company.

One of the men in the photo Richards posted has also been let go from his job at San Francisco-based mobile game company PlayHaven.

"PlayHaven had an employee who was identified as making inappropriate comments at PyCon, and as a company that is dedicated to gender equality and values honorable behavior, we conducted a thorough investigation. The result of this investigation led to the unfortunate outcome of having to let this employee go," PlayHaven CEO Andy Yang said in a blog posting.

The company did not release the name of the fired employee, but said a second man in the photo "is still with the company and a valued employee."

"We believe in the importance of discussing sensitive topics such as gender and conduct and we hope to move forward with a civil dialogue based on the facts," said Yang.

Gender gaps are the hot topic in Silicon Valley, in large part because of the bestselling book "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook. Sandberg has launched a "Lean In" movement to encourage and support women in the workplace.

Richards, reached today by The Associated Press, said she couldn't comment. But she confirmed her blog and tweets, along with the report that she was fired.

"Have you ever had a group of men sitting right behind you making joke that caused you to feel uncomfortable? Well, that just happened this week but instead of shrinking down in my seat, I did something about it," Richards wrote in her blog post about the incident.

She said she was spurred in part by a photo of a young girl on the stage at the time, and the thought that the men seated behind her would make it impossible for the girl to learn programming.

The men were not identified by name.

Richards said she also had confronted a man earlier after he told her what she thought was a sexist joke at the conference.

"There is something about crushing a little kid's dream that gets me really angry," Richards wrote. "Women in technology need consistent messaging from birth through retirement they are welcome, competent and valued in the industry."

SendGrid was founded in 2009 and has developed a cloud-based email system, according to its website.

Associated Press writer Sudhin Thanawala reported from San Francisco.

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lowtone123 wrote:
A little sensitve are we?
on March 22,2013 | 12:43PM
control wrote:
Hardly a case of being a 'little' sensitive. I've encounter this type of behavior and other discriminatory stuff all the time from co-workers, bosses, and prospective employers during my 35 year career in information technology. Its a form of bullying and needs to stop. Too bad she was fired for taking a stand and putting a stop to it.
on March 22,2013 | 01:20PM
Wardog wrote:
Bullying? Give me a break. She overheard a joke, tried to be a rebel, then got shut down.
on March 22,2013 | 01:38PM
mrluke wrote:
Agreed! control sounds like a professional victim!
on March 22,2013 | 02:34PM
lowtone123 wrote:
The comment wasn't even directed to her and you could even say she overheard a private conversation.
on March 22,2013 | 02:44PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Listening in on other people's conversation and then trying to make it personal??? She got what she deserved for not minding her own business.
on March 22,2013 | 06:33PM
AmbienDaze wrote:
was that allie? what was he/she doing at a tech conference? i thought his gig was serving pizza and encouraging verbal abuse.
on March 22,2013 | 08:39PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
A sexual harrassment case in a workplace environment does not have to be directed to the complanant. She just needs to feel offended and file the complaint. Beware, there is a federal law against sexual harrassment in the workplace.
on March 23,2013 | 06:38AM
dontbelieveinmyths wrote:
And that is what is wrong with this whole harassment deal. There is no standard of what is offensive. Just up to the "victim".
on March 23,2013 | 07:36AM
bender wrote:
Replying to Warddog. Nonsense. Her employer is just as guilty as the guys who were making the jokes. I guess some people will never understand.
on March 23,2013 | 10:20AM
Wardog wrote:
Go wash your panties...
on March 23,2013 | 11:26AM
Pocho wrote:
you'd think Allie would have posted a comment by now
on March 22,2013 | 02:55PM
Skyler wrote:
Maybe 'allie' did comment already... only the SA mods know for sure.
on March 22,2013 | 03:07PM
IAmSane wrote:
True, hon.
on March 22,2013 | 04:14PM
ToopMinaki wrote:
allie and 2disgusted is busy ranting about Greenwood in another article.
on March 22,2013 | 05:45PM
nitpikker wrote:
hey! gredwood deserves all the ranting she gets!
on March 22,2013 | 08:50PM
ToopMinaki wrote:
nit aree that greenwood deserves the ranting, however having someone like allie taking that position presents the impression that the opposition to greenwood is composed of uneducated fools who blindly hurl accusations and innuendo and grossly embellish what little fact they do present that would be a close to adequate description of allie and 2disgusted2.
on March 23,2013 | 11:28AM
dontbelieveinmyths wrote:
She'll come in with "yikes".
on March 23,2013 | 07:36AM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
yikes, yup, agree, dangerous, giggle...there, now that I've recited the entire ALL-LIE vocabulary there's no need for him to show up.
on March 23,2013 | 01:38PM
teatime808 wrote:
Kudos to this lady. If those two were in a room by themselves, I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass what they said. However, making those comments in public where they could be overheard is wrong. It’s just like sitting in a movie theater with someone behind you talking all through the film. Lots of people now days don’t have any decency or respect for people around them. I’d like to see them flex and make those comments with their moms or female relatives sitting in front.
on March 22,2013 | 04:52PM
bender wrote:
Excellent point. I bet their jaws wouldn't flap so much if their mosm were present. Or maybe their moms failed in rearing these two bozos.
on March 23,2013 | 10:23AM
Wardog wrote:
If anyone speaks like their mom is present ALL the time, I'd like to meet them...but wait, they don't exist. Give me a break, these guys weren't even talking to her, she got what she deserved.
on March 23,2013 | 11:29AM
teatime808 wrote:
Kudos to this lady. If those two were in a room by themselves, I wouldn't give a rat's a** what they said. However, making those comments in public where they coul be overheard is wrong. It's just like sitting in a movie theater with someone behind you talking all through the film. Lots of people now days don't have any decency or respect for people around them. I'd like to see them flex and make those comments with their moms or "lady" relatives sitting in front. Whoa da shame!
on March 22,2013 | 04:57PM
sayer wrote:
I don't see the problem with her blogging about the offensive comment.
on March 22,2013 | 06:19PM
onevoice82 wrote:
Have you ever been to a conference teatime808? It is not a movie theater or library where silence is protocol. sorry, bad analogy..
on March 23,2013 | 06:24AM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
Was the comment even directed at said female? Goodness, bfd...
on March 22,2013 | 01:22PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
No... put they apologized to me anyway. I don't know why, she should mind her business.
on March 22,2013 | 06:34PM
hilocal wrote:
saywhatyouthink, should the art installers in Sen. Hanohano's office minded their business and not repeated what she said?
on March 23,2013 | 06:44AM
ToopMinaki wrote:
allie though I might agree that if something sexually or racially offensive were directed at her she absolutely should have said and done something. However someone else making a joke in private with you eavesdropping into that private conversation well that's another thing, would you control their thoughts, is that what you're after? Though the PRIVATE joke or conversation might have offended her, it was absolutely stupid of her to transmit it over her company's network and would have been a fireable violation of the IT policy of nearly all companies. In reality she wasn't fired for repeating a joke or comment, just for being extremely stupid.
on March 23,2013 | 11:50AM
ToopMinaki wrote:
sorry hilocal for some reason I mistook you for allie.
on March 23,2013 | 11:52AM
hilocal wrote:
Hapa_Haole_Boy, were Senator Hanohano's racist comments directed at the installers? Weren't they directed at whoever selected the art being installed in her office? Do we blame the installers for reporting her comments to their boss?
on March 23,2013 | 06:40AM
ToopMinaki wrote:
allie actually Hanohano's comments debasing other ethnic groups were in fact directed to the installers. If in fact she was merely having a conversation with her aide and the installer overheard and tweeted it then you might compare what Hanohano said to what these other 2 guys said amongst themselves.
on March 23,2013 | 11:35AM
ToopMinaki wrote:
sorry hilocal for some reason I mistook you for allie.
on March 23,2013 | 11:52AM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
Richards wrote. "Women in technology need consistent messaging from birth through retirement they are welcome, competent and valued in the industry."

While apparently Adria Richards does, I would suggest that most women don't.
on March 22,2013 | 01:26PM
hilocal wrote:
Kalaheo1, I would suggest that most women still do.
on March 23,2013 | 06:45AM
entrkn wrote:
Two men talking to each other and not to her or about her that she was eavesdropping on...? Isn't that a violation of privacy?
on March 22,2013 | 02:06PM
onevoice82 wrote:
There is no expectation of privacy in a crowd of people. This is just a radical "feminista" looking for her 5 minutes of fame on her "nobody reads" blog. Funny thing is.....she got what she wanted but it had unintended consequences. She will get hired by some feminist owned business somewhere, don't cry for her!
on March 23,2013 | 06:31AM
hilocal wrote:
entrkn, it isn't a violation of privacy when people say something in an audience surrounded by others.
on March 23,2013 | 07:04AM
ToopMinaki wrote:
hilo you miss the fact that though the press is playing up this whole deal about over hearing a conversation and retweeting it and your'e evidently uninformed to buy into it, the fact is that once this woman retweeted it on to her company network it became a fireable offense of the IT policy of nearly ALL companies that have their own PRIVATE, INTERNAL network. She was in fact fired for something she should have known better than to do, in otherwords she was fired for being very stupid.
on March 23,2013 | 12:02PM
ToopMinaki wrote:
sorry hilocal for some reason you sound an awful lot like allie, uninformed yet willing to comment on things you know absolutely nothing about.
on March 23,2013 | 12:18PM
Truth wrote:
The basis of sexual harassment is that the offended person needs to notify the offender that what they are saying is offended and give them an opportunity to stop. That was done in this case and the woman took the law into her own hands.
on March 22,2013 | 02:09PM
WEATHER wrote:
What ever you may think this was....it was NOT sexual harassment.
on March 22,2013 | 07:56PM
billygoat wrote:
Perhaps she should just mind her own business - then maybe she'd have a job today!
on March 22,2013 | 02:22PM
hilocal wrote:
billygoat, minding their own business is how people keep their job and maintain the status quo. Isn't that what non-racist white southerners did in pre-civil rights USA?
on March 23,2013 | 06:50AM
ToopMinaki wrote:
hilocal the press, most of the folks commenting in this thread and you in particular are obviously uninformed in playing up this private vs non private conversation that this woman re-tweeted. She would have been fired for violating her company's IT policy which she would have been required to review and sign. Though the press angle may draw readers into the non issue of her retweeting a conversation that she clearly eavesdropped on, that was not the reason for her firing. She was fired for doing something that she shold have known would get her fired, being stupid.
on March 23,2013 | 12:07PM
ToopMinaki wrote:
sorry hilocal for some reason you sound an awful lot like allie, uninformed yet willing to comment on things you know absolutely nothing about.
on March 23,2013 | 12:18PM
TLehel wrote:
Pffft what an imbecile. I really hate how easy it is for women to take advantage of their gender. Not to say that those men didn't do something inappropriate, but she heard a conversation not even directed towards her and went all "sexual harassment" on them. How much of an attention seeker could you be? If women were having a sexual conversation behind me talking about menstruation, hoo-hoo's, ha-ha's, the dude on stage, his privates, whatever, I would either laugh myself off my seat or if I really cared I would tell them I could hear them and they really shouldn't be talking about that in front of people. If there's a comment that isn't directed towards you, don't go all feminist mode. You're just making yourself look like a fool, and making a bad example of women in the subject of sexual harassment.
on March 22,2013 | 03:15PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
That's why they fired her!
on March 22,2013 | 06:36PM
control wrote:
thank you all for proving my point
on March 22,2013 | 03:24PM
ToopMinaki wrote:
control if the point you are speaking of is that you, along with the reporter and most of the posters in this thread are ignorant of the base issue as to why that woman was fired, then YES absolutely, you have successfully demonstrated your ignorance.
on March 23,2013 | 06:19PM
Anonymous wrote:
so next time, there will be a two women in a photo, and the tweet will say #women going on about hard disk performance# then they and the tweeter will get fired. its as simple as that, huh? real thorough investigation not necessary.
on March 22,2013 | 03:35PM
Truth wrote:
The good news is with all this coverage, The guy who was fired can sue for defamation.
on March 22,2013 | 03:36PM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
Truth, your are incorrect, your moniker "truth" is an ultimate defense in a defamation case. It this case Richards said the truth about them. However, I believe that Richards' firing was justified. She overreacted to an "off color" comment that was not directed at her.
on March 22,2013 | 05:38PM
hilocal wrote:
EducatedLocalBoy, I agree with you that Richards overreacted (by taking a pic of the 2 guys and including it with her tweet) and that her firing was justified.
on March 23,2013 | 06:58AM
ToopMinaki wrote:
hilocal the woman tweeted the comments on to her company's network either by tweeting it to other workers using company phones or resending it over her company's network. She violated one of her conditions of employment and should have been fired. The incomplete reporting and your lack of knowledge on ths kind of thing is what is creating all the hubub over this non issue. She did something stupid that was a fireable violation of her company's IT policy.
on March 23,2013 | 12:13PM
ToopMinaki wrote:
add to the fact that she would have to have been turned in by one of her co-workers. What you do on your own gear and on the PUBLIC internet is your business, what you do or transmit on a company's PRIVATE network is the company's business.
on March 23,2013 | 12:28PM
romei wrote:
lay - off her "big dongles" !!!
on March 22,2013 | 05:00PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
I can see why they fired her, she thinks she is some kind of crusader for women's rights. Unless the guys were directing their comments to her, nothing wrong was done.
on March 22,2013 | 06:31PM
jussayin wrote:
Gee, it would be nice if we all relax a bit. The joke wasn't directed at her.
on March 22,2013 | 09:11PM
Bdpapa wrote:
It appears to me that the comments being made in a coference setting were totally inappropriate. This lady had a right to be upset, however, she handled it poorly. She should have reported it to the Conference monitors and move to another area. Or have them removed all together. This social media reporting is way out of hand. By the way, posting the pictures was, to me, a violation of something. Both parties got what they deserved.
on March 23,2013 | 07:54AM
daniwitz13 wrote:
Why is everyone here all jacked up about something on a Social Media? NOTHING on that format is reliable for anything. Everybody can lie on it, embellish anything, brag, fantasize, etc. It is NOT designed to be truthful. So why bother to accept anything on it as Gospel. To take action on a hearsay forum is clueless. The men had a Freedom of speech to say what they want and she had the Right to post anything she wants. That is one of goals of this type of Format. To get everyone involved and connected WITHOUT involvement with content and the Law and everyone looking over someone else shoulder and finding fault to curb free Speech. It is a Free for all format to vent or what ever but untruthful, so everyone, back off. Pity.
on March 23,2013 | 10:55AM
hornswoggler wrote:
Fine and dandy freedom of speech and blah blah blah... One problem, shes on company business. As a representative of your company you don't go and publicly humiliate people. If I was her boss I would have canned her too, I can't afford to have employees with skin 1 atom thick giving people reasons to sue...
on March 23,2013 | 06:55PM
BRock wrote:
Good for the twit.
on March 23,2013 | 11:09AM
bumbye wrote:
LOL, one could categorize almost all the comments on this topic: Made by Men and Made by Women.
on March 23,2013 | 11:35AM
Bdpapa wrote:
And what category are you?
on March 23,2013 | 01:18PM
cunfuzd4 wrote:
on March 23,2013 | 01:42PM
Jim Franklin got his head where the sun never shines, around his hemoriods, dont your agree?
on March 23,2013 | 08:58PM
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