While the mainstream media has focused on the debate surrounding Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In,” which challenges women to fight for leadership roles in corporate America, another debate has been raging within the tech world about the treatment of women in that male-dominated field.
Adria Richards was fired last week from her position at Internet startup SendGrid Inc. after exposing what she considered to be sexist behavior by two men sitting behind her at a conference in California.
Richards’s critics, mostly in comments — some of them vile — in blogs about the controversy, blast her for taking to Twitter to out the offenders, one of whom was fired. Richards’s supporters say the backlash against her, as well as her firing, validate the “boys club” image of Silicon Valley.
Richards has not spoken publicly during the past week, but others have had plenty to say.
The Root’s Helena Andrews decried the rape and death threats that Richards has received. “Her experience was more than appalling to watch unfold online and frustratingly ironic.”
Rachel Sklar, writing for Business Insider, said SendGrid’s decision to fire Richards “seemed like an awfully kneejerk move, a clear attempt at appeasement to the troll armies.”
Jill Filipovic, a columnist for The Guardian, compares Richards’s plight to that of rape victims who are blamed for their attacks. “Of course it’s possible to disagree with Richards’ actions while still focusing on the real problem: misogyny online and in tech spaces.”
Scott Herhold, a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, argues that everyone involved overreacted: ”The chain of events illustrates the worst features of the Internet — the instant rush to judgment, the ugly personal attacks, the urge to punish a perceived wrongdoer.”