Chapter leaders of Girl Develop It, a national tech education nonprofit, in Wilmington, Boston, Seattle, Denver, Atlanta, and Oakland, among other cities, have stepped down because of diversity and inclusion negligence.
The latest: Philadelphia’s chapter leader, Susan Nieman, who
resigned with an open letter on Tuesday:
“With no substantive change, this organization will continue along the same path: harming the marginalized people that they claim to be supporting and devaluing the mission statement, which harms the entire community. I cannot continue to support or promote an organization that fails to address issues of institutional racism with the sense of urgency that these matters deserve.”
Girls Develop It has
apologized for the incidents. And, Corinne Warnshuis, the executive director, who is white, said the organization founded to help marginalized people still does so.
The board’s chair and co-founder, Vanessa Hurst, resigned in December in light of the controversy, as the board released this statement:
“There have clearly been some misses with how GDI has handled issues regarding race and racism. As Board members, we are ultimately responsible for how everyone is treated in the GDI community, and in that capacity, we would like to issue a sincere apology to anyone who was harmed or hurt by racism they experienced while involved with Girl Develop It.”
Women and people of color are still the most
shunned populations in STEM careers, especially in Silicon Valley.
Girl Develop It was supposed to be fighting for change.
An incident heard around the organization in Minneapolis about three Black women being disrespected and ignored when they asked for better inclusion practices, has shaken its membership and leadership structure.
Shanise Barona, an Afro-Latina Philadelphia-based former staffer of the nonprofit’s national staff, went on
the podcast #causeascene last month to talk about diversity in tech, and said she felt “degraded” speaking up about issues she saw in the organization. She cited the Minneapolis example when saying the organization was doing nothing about diversity concerns.
Following her podcast, over 150 current and former chapter leaders, students, and volunteers signed an online
open letter condemning leadership:
“You now have a choice: you can show your community (and the world) how leadership can empower women through actions and demonstrate what it looks like when true leadership embraces all of its community,” the letter states. “Or you can ignore your community and continue down a path to an untrustworthy and uncertain future.”
Warnshius apologized back then, and she’s still apologizing now.
Forty-two percent of its chapter leaders are women of color. One of them, Jocelyn Harper, resigned this past fall from the chapter she led in Wilmington and
openly criticized the nonprofit’s response in late September to the Minneapolis situation.
“I’m glad that GDI is being called out and being held accountable,” she said.
But she thinks that the Black women who spoke up, herself included, were “collateral” for the nonprofit’s recent lessons:
“It always seems that change has to come at a cost to the marginalized in one way or another.”
Many in the organization have continued to post their disgust on social media:
On another note, I was the chapter leader that
@shanisebarona mentioned in @KimCrayton1 podcast. This happened in August, and since then I have literally learned of *at least* 1-2 new offensive things EVERY MONTH that @girldevelopit has done to POC involved.
December 5, 2018
They have done a terrible job of being inclusive, being involved with the community, and providing a safe space for POC.
Lanice Sims (@LaniceSims) August 19, 2018
Recent events have broken our team’s trust in @girldevelopit leadership. For these reasons, we are putting the Oakland chapter on hiatus for the foreseeable future.
These events are as follows (thread):
Formerly GDI Oakland (@GDIOak) December 9, 2018