Announcing Distributed Denial of Women: A Strike to Protest Poor Representation, Inequality & Abuse of Women in Techon December 21st, 2016
Editor’s Note: The following is a statement from the organizing team of Distributed Denial of Women, in support of their general strike on February 23, 2017.
Women design, create, maintain, and manage the critical infrastructure and applications that power the internet. Yet we struggle to be recognized, promoted, and paid for the intellectual and emotional labor that is demanded of us.
Women in tech:
- Are paid at least 28 percent less than men with the same education, years of experience and age.
- Are employed at half the rate of men with the same qualifications.
- Have a 25% chance of being sexually harassed at work.
- Make up less than 11% of Silicon Valley executives.
- Are twice as likely as men to drop out of tech altogether citing workplace and culture issues.
- Are in an even more precarious position if they are transgender/gender non-conforming and/or women of color.
It’s no secret that the tech industry is stacked against anyone who is not a cisgender white male. The problem is that the culture of tech is openly hostile to any members of marginalized groups, in particular women. Many women who work hard to start their careers in tech end up leaving the field in short order, broken and dispirited. And despite public commitments to diversity from tech companies, representation of women at tech companies isn’t changing. We do the same work for less pay, are expected to work extra hours in supporting our managers’ half-baked diversity programs, and are penalized and ridiculed when we dare to speak up against the status quo.
Individual efforts are not enough. They lead to burnout, being blacklisted, and becoming targets of online hate mobs. What we need is direct and concerted effort to demonstrate our power and value. That’s why we’re launching The Distributed Denial of Women project on February 23, 2017. We are calling on all women and non-binary people who are able to stand in solidarity and strike, to pledge to stay home and stay offline for a single day. To come together in protest of being constantly overlooked, undervalued, underpaid, and downright attacked for daring to demand basic dignity and respect.
Distributed Denial of Women is not interested in collecting signatures. This isn’t a move to “raise awareness” that lets signatories feel good about themselves. This movement is to join together in collective action and challenge the power structures that oppress us. Although we make up only 20-30% of the workforce in tech, the role that women play is critical, and without us the industry simply cannot function. As recent distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks have shown, by combining resources and working in tandem, the infrastructure of the internet economy can be brought to a screeching halt. Women working together have the power to make this happen, too. We will create a human botnet to demonstrate that without the work that we do, the same halting effect will be felt rippling through every aspect of online life.
The Distributed Denial of Women project represents a belief in our collective power to effect change. However, we recognize that not all women have the privilege to participate in this strike; some women may risk microaggression, attack or even losing their jobs for participating in this collective action. We support women in evaluating their own safety and ability to participate, without judgement or stigma. Women who are unable to abstain from work on February 23rd but are still interested in the project are encouraged to join the social media strike if possible, or to lend support in any other way they are able to and comfortable with. This includes but isn’t limited to signal boosting, spreading the word in back-channels, providing support to participants, etc.
Want to Participate? Here’s How:
Those willing and able to join the strike are asked to follow @DenialOfWomen on Twitter and tweet about their participation using the #DDoWomen hashtag. Share the event with like-minded people to spread the word. Use social media to promote our message. Blog about your personal experiences with the toxic culture of technology. If safe and comfortable for you, email your bosses, coworkers, and friends to explain why you won’t be at work on February 23.
For Activists and Organizers
The organizers are reaching out to individuals and groups worldwide. Already several prominent social justice and women’s rights groups in Latin America have expressed solidarity with the effort, and the DDoW organizers hope to forge alliances with more organizations over the coming months. If you run a social justice or diversity-in-tech initiative and are interested in partnering, please email ddow -at- idolhands.com.
In addition to helping spread the word about DDoW, have conversations with your managers about why they should support this movement and the women in their company who want to participate. Leverage your privilege, acknowledging that such conversations may be too risky for marginalized people to have on their own.
For Tech Companies
If your company is willing to back its women and non-binary workers in this strike, we encourage you to announce your support publicly via social media and/or the press. Send an internal company memo explaining that although you are working to improve your hiring practices, increase diversity, increase retention, and foster inclusivity in your workplace culture, you recognize that inequities remain and you want to draw attention to them. Communicate to women and non-binary people in your company that they can participate without fear of reprisal, without an impact on compensation, and without using paid time off or sick days.
Who is leading this effort?
Distributed Denial of Women was founded by Coraline Ada Ehmke, an outspoken tech feminist, activist, and “notorious social justice warrior”. Her day job involves building community management and anti-harassment features for the largest open source collaboration platform on the internet. She devotes much of her free time to managing and promoting adoption of Contributor Covenant, the most popular open source code of conduct in the world. She also writes and makes time for one-on-one mentoring of marginalized people in tech.
Inspired by anarchists and labor organizers from the early 20th century, whose tireless efforts won significant rights for workers worldwide, she decided that she could do more in the fight for marginalized people in technology. DDoW is her way of channeling frustration at the tech industry’s lack of progress in addressing systemic inequalities, a concerted effort to effect change through coordinated, massive, and direct action.
You can learn more about the movement at http://distributed-denial-of-women.org.