Lighten Up: A follow up

26 March 2012

The Numbers

In 48 hours, Lighten Up got over 62k views. 

It stayed on HackerNews's front page for two days. It generated almost 800 comments.

It was syndicated by Buzzfeed, and quoted by The Guardian, TechCrunch, and IT World

Jaqui Chang and Jeff Atwood mentioned the post, as well as one of the people from Mojang, and Phil Haacked.

There were so many comments on the post, it broke my commenting module and I had to close comments.

It was mentioned in over 1500 tweets.

The Reactions

There were people who blew off the post, but I expected that. After all, the post is about being blown off.

There were heart wrenching posts by men and women detailing how it had happened to them, or to someone they loved.

There were people who admitted that things like this caused them to leave the industry.

Some admitted that they were discouraging their daughters from careers in development due to the culture.

The most powerful posts were from men who realized that they did this, and that they needed to stop.

Leaders of tech groups reached out to me, asking how they could attract more women to their groups.

Owners of companies reached out to me, offering me work.

I was stunned.

Some clarifications

While I left the tech industrry for some time, I've returned to it, and am determined to stay. I was out of it completely for five years, though, and was only drawn back in when I realized that coding was what made me happy. 

I'm stronger now at 31 than I was at 21. This time, I'll make a stand.

I'm very happy with my current job, and haven't had a whiff of what happened to me at other places happen here, at Cox. They're an awesome bunch of people, and proof that you can joke and have fun without having a hostile work environment.

And finally...

The reactions were a powerful indication that, even though our community has its issues, there are people that are willing to work through them and make this a better place for everyone.

Thank you.


Related tags: women


1 Eric says...

Hi Katie,

Thank you for making this post in the first place, and for sharing this followup as well. Your post has inspired me to think about whether there is something specific everyone could do to address the issue of sexism in tech-related fields, in a way that might lead to significant change quickly.

I think there are three commitments that people in technical fields need to make:

  • Commit to treating women as professionals in your field.
  • Commit to calling out situations in which women in your field are being treated unprofessionally.
  • Make your commitment visible somehow.

I think it's this last part that is most challenging, but has the most potential to make widespread change happen quickly. If we can find a way to make it visible who has committed to being supportive, we can change the professional environment significantly for women in technical fields.

I wrote a bit more about this in a post called A Simple Commitment ( I'd be curious to know if you or anyone else following your posts think this could work, and have meaningful impact. There has been a lot of discussion on the issue lately. I think if we can harness the positive energy in the right way, we can take a big step forward in addressing this issue.

I write this as a teacher who wants to encourage girls to go into the technical fields they are interested in. I write this as someone who has watched many friends and colleagues deal with these issues. I write this as a new father, who wants my son to be able to collaborate with professional colleagues who don't have to deal with these issues. Thank you again for sharing your experiences.

  • Eric

Posted at 2:56 p.m. on March 26, 2012

2 Eric says...

Sorry for the bad formatting in that comment. The preview button did not work for me in chrome on linux.

Posted at 3:02 p.m. on March 26, 2012

3 Katie Cunningham says...

Hi Eric!

Sorry about the broken preview. It's broken for everyone, I assure you. I fixed your formatting, as best I could!

I love the post. Thank you for writing it!

Posted at 3:08 p.m. on March 26, 2012

4 Tess says...

It's so great that this went viral -- it was such a perfect post, and it's nice to see that it had a massive audience that hopefully had a chance to learn something from it.

I'm glad you're back in tech and that this time you're enjoying it a lot more. Best wishes!

Posted at 1:23 a.m. on March 27, 2012

5 Michaeljwjr says...

Wait, you posted Lighten up 6 days ago. So in that six days you've gone back to the industry, or this was what you had to deal with 10 years ago (when I was 21).

You wrote a rant blog post about something that happened to you 10 years ago?

Posted at 3:46 a.m. on March 27, 2012

6 Bruce says...

@Michael: Her previous post was in response to questions asked about why she left coding for five years.

Posted at 4:35 a.m. on March 27, 2012

7 anon says...

As a 50-something who's been in the industry for 35+ years, I find is sadly depressing that the crap you describe is still going on. My friends and colleagues, female and male, in the 1970 and 1980 were much more enlightened, I think. What's happened in in the last 10-15 years to start us on a retrograde path?

Posted at 4:39 a.m. on March 27, 2012

8 RainbowCoder says...

This is still soooo relevant... just the other day I had to deal with a barrage of sexism lasting weeks, that started out in my office due to a change of staff. I felt scared and alone whilst bringing it to the attention of management. I was also sent to quarantine for a few days for making a complaint, and had to complain again about that before the problem got ironed out. Geeeez... Soooo tiring. I'm considering leaving the industry, but don't want to as I've been coding since 1982. I'm still getting nowhere due to constant rejection from applying for better positions. It's such a male dominated world that it's scarey at times.

Posted at 2:23 p.m. on April 2, 2012

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