Adria Richards

There’s been a lot of discussion about Adria Richards’ reaction to men’s sexual banter at a recent Tech conference. It’s interesting that the conversation so often turns to critiquing how women react to men’s sexist behavior and the effects of those reactions on men’s careers, and away from critiquing the men’s behavior and its effects on women’s careers.

Some women may not find sexual banter at work offensive, but research shows they are few and far between. Research also shows that regardless of how people feel about it, sexual banter in the workplace is harmful — especially to women, but often to men as well. Finding sexual banter offensive and being harmed by it doesn’t mean one is weak, just as finding racial banter and jokes offensive and being harmed by them does not mean one is weak.

It’s individually adaptive to go along with or try and act like members of the majority group when one is outnumbered. There are even rewards for criticizing others for not doing the same. But this individually adaptive behavior perpetuates the status quo.

Adria Richards reacted harshly. It’s usually best to give people the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to correct their behavior. Richards’ reaction may have done her more harm than the comments that inspired it, but it may have done women┬áin Tech more good than a private confrontation. If you read her blog, that seems to have been her intention.

2 thoughts on “Adria Richards

  1. Prof. Berdahl,

    As a silicon valley worker bee I can tell you that at a practical level this Donglegate/Adria Richards affair has caused a huge setback to the cause of bringing more women into the tech industry.

    Every hiring manager is going to be hypersensitive to even the tiniest feminist chip on the shoulder of an interview candidate. More feminist techies active on social media are going to be getting fewer interviews onsite, or even telephone interviews. No one wants to bring onboard a person who is going to behave even remotely like Adria Richards did. And when hiring managers and interviewers are not sure about a person's likelihood of being a liability, they ALWAYS err on the side of caution. This is the way things are in corporate America, and in no small part because of the feminist onslaught.

    Adria Richards was hired to create goodwill for SendGrid in the mostly-male developer community. Instead, she chose to feed the feminist cause and use SendGrid as a sacrificial lamb. That worked for her, once. She will probably do okay by cashing in on the sympathy from the wider feminist circles and their enablers. She might even manage to keep paying the $5500/month rent on her apartment in San Francisco.

    But SendGrid almost went under. The tech industry may be spineless, but it is not generally a sustainable place for stupidity. Managers in tech industry have learned a very valuable lesson.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you for commenting on what you see as the likely reaction of managers in tech to the Adria Richards incident. I don't agree that the managers in tech will "have learned a very valuable lesson" if they're now "going to be hypersensitive to even the tiniest feminist chip on the shoulder of an interview candidate." Rather than hiring based on merit and opening up the industry to underrepresented women, they'll be discriminating based on their own "hypersensitivity" and fears, giving more cause for women like Adria Richards to complain. If the tech industry "is not generally a sustainable place for stupidity," this reaction would not be very sustainable.

    Prof. Berdahl

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