The Ada Initiative, a Women in Tech Non-Profit, Is Shutting Down

The feminist organization will publish its training materials so others can use them.

Aug 4 2015, 7:16pm

Image: Colin Adams, for the Ada Initiative/Wikimedia Commons

Feminist non-profit organization the Ada Initiative announced Tuesday it will be shutting down after four years of working to advance women in open technology and culture.

The organization launched a variety of efforts to that end, crafting anti-harassment policies for tech conferences, launching "AdaCamp" events to increase women's participation in open technology, and creating an Ally Skills workshop that taught men how to use their societal advantages to combat sexism in their communities.

Valerie Aurora told me by email she and other co-founder Mary Gardiner believe the Ada Initiative, named for a female mathematician known for creating the first computer program ever in the 1800, made major headway one of the main issues it set out to tackle: sexual assault and harassment at tech conferences.

"The problem wasn't widely visible at the time we founded the Ada Initiative, and not five years later, thousands of conferences are using anti-harassment policies based on our model policy, many of which we have never directly worked with," she said.

"Women are much more aware that being a public presence on the Internet could result in being driven from their homes over the most mundane and trivial topics."

A statement on the organization's website said it will shutter in mid-October after using its remaining funds to complete its "current obligations." The post explained the shutdown is due to changes in administration and a struggle to find someone to fill the executive director role.

"We don't feel like non-profits need to exist forever," the organization wrote. "The Ada Initiative did a lot of great work, and we are happy about it."

Aurora said the co-founders hope their organization has made it easier for other groups to do similar work in the future and even "do less things than we did."

"We think we have paved the way for further non-profit and also for-profit and private efforts to continue improving the number and status of women in open technology and culture," she wrote.

She said they see a future in that activists can choose to work for a for-profit model as more and more corporations realize the value of feminist organizations in creating change in their organizations.

She said problems that have grown since they began the organization include tokenization of women in tech and online harassment.

"Online harassment is much more coordinated now and some harassment campaigns involve thousands of people," she wrote. "Women are much more aware that being a public presence on the Internet could result in being driven from their homes over the most mundane and trivial topics."

All of the policies, codes of conduct, anti-harassment framework and more that came out of the initiative will be published so the mission can continue and be modified by other groups.

"We've worked hard to make sure that all our major projects can be continued by the community or by other activist organizations in some form," Aurora said.

The initiative's conference anti-harassment work is available for free reuse and modification on the Geek Feminism wiki. It has also shared the Ally Skills Workshop materials publicly as well as "AdaCamp Toolkit" for reuse and modification so that others can run similar events. Aurora said the organization will share Impostor Syndrome Training materials in August.