If Susan Fowler’s episode with Uber is the quintessential example of how female engineers can be mistreated at their Valley jobs, the story of a very important Google-led project asking a guy to leave is the total opposite.
Last week, the group made the controversial decision to eject a man from the group for violation of its Code of Conduct policies, reports TC Currie at The New Stack.
But the interesting thing is, his alleged violations didn’t take place inside the group, but outside of it, before he even joined. The group who booted him was the Kubernetes Community.
This guy was accused of harassing well-known female developer Jessie Frazelle when she worked at a $US1 billion-valued startup called Docker.
Docker helped create a new market for a new technology called “containers,” a way for developers to more easily write apps that will live in the cloud.
Frazelle loved her work, she often said publicly, and travelled around giving talks on how to use the new container tech that she was helping to build. S
he was known as “THE face of Docker engineering to the community.”
But there was a dark side of her job. Just because she was a woman in tech, Frazelle had been subject to brutal harassment including sex, rape, and death threats.
Her employer had known about this for a while because she had grown so fed up with it that way back in July 2015, she wrote about these experiences in a post that went viral.
About a year ago, the situation culminated for her. A tweet from another female engineer claimed that Frazelle was “harassed out” of Docker. People close to her tell us that there was one particular man who was harassing her so badly that she gave her company an ultimatum: him or me. And she was the one who ultimately left.
Word of her leaving Docker also went viral, as did the reason. So much so that Docker’s CEO at the time, Ben Golub, responded with a long post about how the company had “hired private investigators, involving law enforcement, changing internal systems insisting” to try and protect her.
He also declared, “She did not at any time claim harassment from people inside Docker. We parted ways on good terms.”
Business Insider has seen no evidence that someone inside Docker did actually harass her. Frazelle politely declined comment and Docker did not respond to our request for comment.
However people familiar with the situation have told us that many people in that close-knit container community knew the details of Frazelle’s accusations, knew who the man was at the center of it and told us that the parties involved had signed non-disclosure agreements. Docker just hired a new CEO.
And then last week, Frazelle tweeted that this same guy had followed her. He had joined the same Kubernetes Community project where Frazelle was making a name for herself.
This isn’t surprising in some ways. Kubernetes is a very popular open source technology created and run by Google for managing containers. If you are someone working in the container market, then your path would naturally cross with Kubernetes.
Still, in a series of tweets that ranged from panic to outrage, Frazelle raised questions as to why he had joined her particular area of Kubernetes.
She feared he would allegedly continue to attack her. Her tweets gained a lot of attention.
People also told us that they brought the situation up with Sarah Novotny, Google’s program manager for the Kubernetes community.
One person told us Novotny was between a rock and a hard place, since it was the man’s job to work on Kubernetes and that Frazelle’s complaints about him were, in this case, more about a professional run-in than about any violation of the group’s code of conduct at this time.
But Novotny and the rest of the board shocked the community by promising to investigate. In a post on a forum, she wrote:
“Regarding the concern of specific new members to our community who may have exhibited behaviours not in accordance with our Code of Conduct in other communities, please know we take enforcement of our code of conduct seriously. Reports by our community members of current and prior bad behaviours will be weighed as part of our action, if any.”
The next day she announced that the person will not be joining Kubernetes at all.
“We have mutually agreed with this person that they won’t participate in the Kubernetes community at this time. This includes resources of the community, including but not limited to, Slack, mailing lists, SIGs, and GitHub organisations. In the event that this person wants to participate in the Kubernetes Community at some later date, they are welcome to reach out to the Code of Conduct Committee which will perform further investigation. We appreciate everyone who shared reports with us relevant to this incident and they will be considered in any further investigation by the committee.”
People familiar with the situation told us the man was asked to leave rather than bowing out gracefully. Novotny has not yet responded to our request for comment.
In any case, it was a rare instance where the Valley culture stood up for the woman who had, for years, been fighting against harassment. And lots of people involved in this group approve.
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Given the variables and sensitive nature of this issue, I think the maintainers acted swiftly.
— colonel panic (@alicegoldfuss) May 3, 2017