GitHub Fiasco Sheds New Light on Same Old Tech Sexism

Last week, Julie Ann Horvath, an established developer at GitHub a hosting service for development projects, suddenly quit, citing harassment, character assassination, and an unhealthy work environment. While the details have yet to be completely sorted through, Horvath shared her side of the story with Tech Crunch and the details are harrowing.

Horvath joined GitHub in 2012 as their only female developer at the time, something that took some getting used to:

"I had a really hard time getting used to the culture, the aggressive communication on pull requests and how little the men I worked with respected and valued my opinion."

On top of that, Horvath describes meeting with a founder's wife (who was not employed by GitHub), for drinks and ended up discussing Horvath's place at GitHub:

"I met her and almost immediately the conversation that I thought was supposed to be causal turned into something very inappropriate. She began telling me about how she informs her husband's decision-making at GitHub, how I better not leave GitHub and write something bad about them, and how she had been told by her husband that she should intervene with my relationship to be sure I was 'made very happy' so that I wouldn't quit and say something nasty about her husband's company because 'he had worked so hard.'"

After that meeting, Horvath, who felt uncomfortable with the woman and her unofficial role in the company, was called into an HR meeting to "relay the details of that personal conversation that took place out of the office." As the founder's wife's behavior became increasingly intimidating, Horvath continued to feel unwelcome at the company. About a month afterwards, the founder requested a meeting with Horvath:

According to Horvath, the founder accused her of "threatening his wife, who she had "not interacted with or contacted since [the wife] asked [her] out to drinks." Horvath cried during the episode, as she said the founder both "chastised" her, and called her a "liar." He ended the meeting by saying that it was "bad judgement" to date coworkers (referring to her relationship, which was with another employee at GitHub) and then left. Horvath recalls sitting there after his departure both "crying and shaking uncontrollably."

While this was happening, Horvath also endured an altercation with another employee, whose romantic advances she turned down:

According to Horvath, the engineer, "hurt from my rejection, started passive-aggressively ripping out my code from projects we had worked on together without so much as a ping or a comment. I even had to have a few of his commits reverted. I would work on something, go to bed, and wake up to find my work gone without any explanation."

So on top of the intimidation, another employee was literally undermining her and her work. But the straw that broke the camels back? Just the run-of-the mill bro-culture that has defined tech start-ups for way too long. Horvath describes the "ugly" situation:

Two women, one of whom I work with and adore, and a friend of hers were hula hooping to some music. I didn't have a problem with this. What I did have a problem with is the line of men sitting on one bench facing the hoopers and gawking at them. It looked like something out of a strip club. When I brought this up to male coworkers, they didn't see a problem with it. But for me it felt unsafe and to be honest, really embarrassing. That was the moment I decided to finally leave GitHub.

Again, GitHub has yet to respond to the allegations. Still, this is absolutely appalling behavior, and what's worse is that it is not entirely shocking. It's this type of sexist culture that can either deter women from pursuing tech jobs or keep the ones that do pursue them out of the office. It's absolutely unacceptable that a company can allow and promote this type of treatment towards any employee, and yet, women consistently certainly see the brunt of it.

Best of luck to Julie Ann Horvath. You can still check out Julie Ann Horvath's latest brainchild Passion Projects (a GitHub feature), wherein various women in tech discuss the projects they're working on.


Image via Julie Ann Horvath's Twitter.