Gender gaps are the hot topic in Silicon Valley, in large part because of the bestselling book “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook Inc. Sandberg has launched a “Lean In” movement to encourage and support women in the workplace.
On Friday, thousands of tweets, blogs and online comments swirled about the incident, some supporting Richards and the “call-out cultures,” others belittling her or asking what she might have done differently.
Telle Whitney, who heads the Anita Borg Institute, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit working to advance women in computer science and engineering roles, said Friday “that racist or sexist comments have no place in today’s work environment and are counterproductive to fostering a diverse, productive and innovative workforce.”
“Events such as these make it more difficult for our industry to attract, recruit and retain women in technology, which is extremely important given the growing global demand for technology workers,” she said.
Richards, reached Friday by The Associated Press, said she couldn’t comment. But she confirmed her blog and tweets, along with the report that she was fired.
“Have you ever had a group of men sitting right behind you making joke that caused you to feel uncomfortable? Well, that just happened this week but instead of shrinking down in my seat, I did something about it … ,” Richards wrote in her blog post about the incident.
She said she was spurred in part by a photo of a young girl on the stage at the time, and the thought that the men seated behind her would make it impossible for the girl to learn programming.
The men were not identified by name.
Richards said she also had confronted a man earlier after he told her what she thought was a sexist joke at the conference.
“There is something about crushing a little kid’s dream that gets me really angry,” Richards wrote. “Women in technology need consistent messaging from birth through retirement they are welcome, competent and valued in the industry.”
SendGrid was founded in 2009 and has developed a cloud-based email system, according to its website.