Ada Initiative

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Ada Initiative
Founded 2011
Founder Valerie Aurora
Mary Gardiner
Dissolved October 2015
Type 501(c)(3)
Focus Women's rights, FOSS, free-software community
Slogan "Supporting women in open technology and culture."

The Ada Initiative was a non-profit organization that sought to increase women's participation in the free culture movement, open source technology and open culture. The organization was founded in 2011 by Linux kernel developer and open source advocate Valerie Aurora and open source developer and advocate Mary Gardiner (the founder of AussieChix, the largest organization for women in open source in Australia[1]). It is named for Ada Lovelace, the "world's first computer programmer," in honor of whom the Ada programming language is named.[2] In August 2015, the Ada Initiative board announced that the organization would shut down in mid-October, 2015. According to the announcement, the Initiative's executive leadership were looking to move on and the organization was unable to find acceptable replacement leaders.[3]


Ada Lovelace, a woodcut graphic by Colin Adams based on the original watercolor by Alfred Edward Chalon

Valerie Aurora, already an activist for women in open source, joined Mary Gardiner and members of Geek Feminism to develop anti-harassment policies for conferences[2][4] after Noirin Shirley was sexually assaulted at ApacheCon 2010.[2] Aurora quit her job as a Linux kernel developer at Red Hat and, with Gardiner, founded the Ada Initiative in February 2011.[5]

In 2014, Valerie Aurora announced her intent to step down as executive director of the Ada Initiative, and an executive search committee was formed to find her replacement. Mary Gardiner, deputy executive director, chose not to be a candidate. The committee, headed by Sumana Harihareswara and Mary Gardiner, announced in March 2015 that the Ada Initiative had hired Crystal Huff as the new executive director. [6] Huff, formerly of Luminoso in Boston, continued to work from Massachusetts in her new role.

In August 2015, the Ada Initiative announced that the organization would close in mid-October, 2015. The announcement described the leadership challenge facing the Initiative: neither co-founder intended to continue as Executive Director. According to the post on the Ada Initiative website:

"We felt the likelihood of finding a new ED who could effectively fit into Valerie’s shoes was low. We also considered several other options for continuing the organization, including changing its programs, or becoming volunteer-only. After much deliberation, the board decided to do an orderly shutdown of the Ada Initiative, in which the organization would open source all of our remaining knowledge and expertise in freely reusable and modifiable form. We don’t feel like non-profits need to exist forever. The Ada Initiative did a lot of great work, and we are happy about it."[3]

The previous hire of Crystal Huff, announced several months earlier, was not discussed other than to note "that hire didn't work out."[3]


All services provided by the Ada Initiative are pro bono, and the organization is supported by member donations. In the summer of 2011, the Ada Initiative launched a campaign to raise start-up funds with a goal of contributions from 100 funders. The campaign wrapped up six days before its planned deadline. The organization's first major sponsor was Linux Australia,[7] who provided support alongside Puppet Labs, DreamHost, The Mail Archive and Google.[8] Aurora and Gardiner are the only staff members, serving full-time roles in the organization.[4]

Board and advisory board[edit]

The Ada Initiative is governed by a six-person board of directors, who oversee its management. The current board includes co-founder Mary Gardiner, Sue Gardner, Amelia Greenhall, Alicia Gibb, Andrea Horbinski and Marina Zhurakhinskaya.[9] An advisory board of 22 members provides input about ideas and projects.[10]


One of the Ada Initiative's first programs was developing anti-harassment policies for conferences. The Ada Initiative works with open source conference organizers to create and communicate policies to make conferences safer and more inviting for all attendees, particularly women. Conferences such as Ubuntu Developer Summits and all Linux Foundation events, including LinuxCon, have adopted policies based on the Ada Initiative's work.[4]

The Ada Initiative is developing policy framework for creating a Women in Open Source Scholarship and programming guides for outreach projects and events. The organization also hosts workshops and training. These workshops and programs consist of Allies Workshops for male and institutional supporters and "First Patch Week" programs, which encourages women's participation in Free and open source software (FOSS) through mentoring. The workshop framework is freely available,[11] although the Ada Initiative also offers facilitators to conduct the workshops in person.[12]

By encouraging women's participation in open source culture, the Ada Initiative encourages women to engage in open source professionally and full-time, not just as volunteers. The organization also researches women's roles and experiences in open source, focusing on bringing research up to date; the last survey done of the gender balance in open source was completed in 2006.[13] Research methodology and a new survey were produced in 2011.[14] A repeat of the survey will take place at the end of two years, with hopes to provide a standard resource for the industry.[15] The initial survey invited participants of any gender and inquired about subjects regarding open source and free software, hardware, open mapping, and other related open source areas, as well as free culture such as Creative Commons, online activism, mashup, maker, hacker spaces and related communities.[14]

The Ada Initiative is the organizer of AdaCamp, an unconference that brings together invited attendees to "build community, discuss issues women have in common across open technology and culture fields, and find ways to address them".[16] To date, AdaCamp has been held in January 2012 in Melbourne[17][18] in July 2012 in Washington D.C.[19] and in June 2013 in San Francisco.

Violet Blue's security presentation[edit]

In February 2013, the organizers of the Security B-Sides San Francisco conference canceled speaker Violet Blue's talk, sex +/- drugs: known vulns and exploits.[20] due to concerns raised by the Ada Initiative that it contained rape triggers, as well as the Ada Initiative's consideration of the subject as off-topic for a security conference.[21] The abrupt cancellation provoked intense discussion in the information security industry.[22] Since the event at B-Sides SF, lead organizer Ian Fung has outlined his account of the interactions between Blue, Aurora, and the Ada Initiative on the B-Sides SF front page, contradicting some of the claims made by both the Ada Initiative and Blue.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About Us". About Us. Ada Initiative. 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c Quart, Alissa (May 17, 2013). "When Geeks Attack". Marie Claire. 
  3. ^ a b c Announcing the shutdown of the Ada Initiative August 2015
  4. ^ a b c Alex Bayley (2011). "Please donate to the Ada Initiative’s "Seed 100" campaign". Culture/Tech. Infotropism. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  5. ^ Valerie Aurora (2011). "The Ada Initiative launch announcement". The Ada Initiative. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  6. ^ Welcoming Crystal Huff as the new Executive Director of the Ada Initiative March 2015, Ada Initiative,
  7. ^ Varghese, Sam (February 9, 2011). "Project launched to promote women in FOSS". ITWire. 
  8. ^ "Sponsors and supporters". Sponsors and supporters. Ada Initiative. 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  9. ^ List of directors, August 2015
  10. ^ "Advisors". About Us. Ada Initiative. 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-08. 
  11. ^ "Allies training". Geek Feminism Wiki. 2012. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  12. ^ Valerie Aurora (2012). "Allies workshop - snappy comebacks for men who want to stop sexism". The Ada Initiative. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  13. ^ "FLOSSPOLS Gender: Integrated Report of Findings" (PDF). University of Cambridge. 2006. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  14. ^ a b "Ada Initiative kicks off census to research women's status in open technology and culture". Press release. LinuxPR. 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  15. ^ Bruce Byfield (2011). "Ada Initiative Supports Women in Open Source, Counters Sexism". Open Source. Datamation. Retrieved 8 November 2011. 
  16. ^ "AdaCamp Washington DC". Ada Initiative. 2012. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 
  17. ^ Pearce, Rohan (2011-11-04). "Melbourne AdaCamp to address open technology's gender issues". Techworld Australia. Retrieved 2013-05-08. 
  18. ^ Pearce, Rohan (2012-01-13). "AdaCamp aims to boost women's participation in open tech". Techworld Australia. Retrieved 2013-05-08. 
  19. ^ "Advocate for women in open source to keynote 2012 Wikimania". 2012-03-28. Retrieved 2013-05-08. 
  20. ^ a b Security B-SidesSF / FrontPage
  21. ^ Keeping it on-topic: the problem with discussing sex at technical conferences | The Ada Initiative
  22. ^ RSA/BSidesSF: The other side of the Violet Blue controversy | CSO Blogs

External links[edit]