Jacob Kaplan-Moss

Join me in supporting the Ada Initiative

I wrote this post in 2013, more than 10 years ago. It may be very out of date, partially or totally incorrect. I may even no longer agree with this, or might approach things differently if I wrote this post today. I rarely edit posts after writing them, but if I have there'll be a note at the bottom about what I changed and why. If something in this post is actively harmful or dangerous please get in touch and I'll fix it.

I believe deeply in the importance of gender equality, yet I work in open source, a community with shockingly few women. The Ada Initiative is working together with people like me to bring more women into open source - and we’re succeeding. That’s why I’m challenging the Python community to help me raise $10,000: I’ll match any donations from the Python community to the Ada Initiative up to a maximum of $5,000.

Update: I’ve hit my limit on the match (in only 27 hours!), but you should donate anyway.


I’m been working with (and on) open source software for over half my life, and open source has been incredibly good for me. The best things in my life — a career I love, the ability to live how and where I want, opportunities to travel around the world — they’ve all been a direct result of the open source communities I’ve become involved in.

But I’m far from someone who “pulled myself up by my bootstraps”: my success rests on a mountain of unearned advantages. I was born middle-class, so meant my parents had the money to buy a Mac in 1984 (and the leisure time to help me learn how to use it). I went to a small private school, so I got to learn how to program in the 5th grade. In high school I could afford to take an internship at a software company, rather than working food service like many of my less privileged peers.

I’m white, which (among many other, more subtle benefits) I’m sure helped that Atherton police officer let me off with a warning when he caught me with some pot. If my skin was darker, I might have spent the last 15 years fighting uphill against a felony conviction [1].

I’m male, so I get to take advantage of the assumed competency our industry heaps on men. I’ve bullshitted my way through all sorts of meetings, secure that assumptions about my gender are on my side. I’ve never had my ideas poached by other men, something that happens to women all the time. I’ve been paid well my whole career, receiving what amounts to a 25% bonus just for being male [2]. I’ve never been refused a job out of fears that I might get pregnant [3]. I can go to conferences without worrying I might be harassed or raped.

So, I’ve been incredibly successful making a life out of open source, but I’m playing on the lowest difficulty setting there is.

This needs to change. I want to be part of a community that’s truly accessible to anyone, not one that just pays it lip service. I want to part of a diverse, vibrant community, one that reflects my values rather than contradicts them.

Thus, I’m supporting the Ada Initiative. If you share my values, you should, too. The Ada Initiative is doing the vital, hard work of translating these values into action. They’re tearing down barriers to entry, helping transform our communities and showing us the value of doing so. And it’s working - I’m seeing more women attending and speaking at conferences, greater diversity in my job application funnels, communities opening up and being more welcoming to all.

I want to keep this trend going, and I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I hope you will, too.


[1]If you think this is hyperbolic, think again. The Atherton PD is notorious for racial profiling; see Profiling Atherton for some sobering numbers. I’m absolutely certain that being white kept me out of jail that day.
[2]That is, women in tech make about 80¢ on the dollar compared to men; flipping that around we see than men make 25% more for the same work, on average. Source: Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
[3]As one prominent commenter on Hacker News wrote: “women of child-bearing age clearly are riskier hires.” This is, sadly, considered common wisdom.