The news of Julie Ann Horvath's departure from software-development network GitHub sheds light on two very important topics in the technology and startup world. First, the struggles that women still face in the workplace, and second, how important it is that companies--no matter how small--have well-established human resources department protocols.
Horvath, formerly an engineer at the company, took to Twitter on Friday to allege that during her two years there, she was a victim of gender-based harassment. Here are a few of her tweets:
I'm incredibly happy to moving on to join a more healthy work environment, with a team who doesn't tolerate harassment of their peers.--Julie Ann Horvath (@nrrrdcore), March 14, 2014
I've been harassed by 'leadership' at GitHub for two years. And I am the first developer to quit.--Julie Ann Horvath (@nrrrdcore), March 14, 2014
Tech companies need to think less about 'being on good behavior' publicly and more about providing healthy work environments for workers.--Julie Ann Horvath (@nrrrdcore) March 14, 2014
In an interview with TechCrunch, Horvath outlined the problems she had with GitHub's culture, negative interactions with her fellow employees, and in particular her experience with one of the company's founders. Additionally, she shared an inappropriate interaction with the wife of that cofounder. She implied in the interview that the company's HR department did not help her situation.
Chris Wanstrath, GitHub's CEO and cofounder, wrote a statement on the company's blog on Sunday in response to the news surrounding Horvath's departure:
This weekend, GitHub employee Julie Horvath spoke publicly about negative experiences she had at GitHub that contributed to her resignation. I am deeply saddened by these developments and want to comment on what GitHub is doing to address them.
We know we have to take action and have begun a full investigation. While that’s ongoing, and effective immediately, the relevant founder has been put on leave, as has the referenced GitHub engineer. The founder’s wife discussed in the media reports has never had hiring or firing power at GitHub and will no longer be permitted in the office.
GitHub has grown incredibly fast over the past two years, bringing a new set of challenges. Nearly a year ago we began a search for an experienced HR Lead and that person came on board in January 2014. We still have work to do. We know that. However, making sure GitHub employees are getting the right feedback and have a safe way to voice their concerns is a primary focus of the company.
The openness of Wanstrath's statement was surprising. It is rare to find a CEO who in the midst of a scandal would make a statement that not only makes direct reference to some of the employees involved, but also that could be taken as an admission of wrongdoing.
This, however, is not the only time that GitHub has been ensnared in controversy. It has previously been reported that programmers have added racial, sexist, and homophobic slurs into code. The company, however, has made adamant statements about working to change that culture, Re/code reported.
These events should remind you of the importance of creating a healthy, safe environment for your employees. Company culture isn't something that should be taken lightly, and thus it is crucial that companies have strong HR policies in place in the event that problems do arise. Indeed, Horvath stressed the importance of this.
To companies looking to not make the same mistakes, make both hiring an HR lead and diversifying your team early-on high priorities.--Julie Ann Horvath (@nrrrdcore) March 15, 2014