Code.org Videos19 Dec 2016
A year and a half ago, I got the incredible opportunity to shoot a Code.org video. A couple months later, the video was published and watched by thousands.
If you’re not familiar, Code.org is an organization that works to increase computer science education:
Code.org® is a non-profit dedicated to expanding access to computer science, and increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities. Our vision is that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science, just like biology, chemistry or algebra.
My original video described how encryption operates. Clips of me were also used for a second video promoting the Hour of Code.
Filming these videos was amazing. I’m so thankful for Code.org’s trust in me. It’s absurd to see myself along with Malala and Sheryl Sandberg (as my mother said, they look like my “gal pals”).
I got a lot of great feedback on the videos. I was also told by a stranger that I look like Eddie Murphy, but I’m trying to take it as a compliment.
The Eddie Murphy comparison wasn’t the only surprising response. Every time one of the videos was shared, I would get a new round of emails, Twitter direct messages, Instagram followers, and Facebook friend requests. All from men. That is not an exaggeration, I was contacted over a hundred times, only from men. My Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are all private, yet the same men would email me, then follow me on any social media platform they could find. Many messages asked if we could meet in person. None of the messages included a specific question or reason for contacting me, instead they described an interest in “learning more.” I really do appreciate the appeals for information and connection, and I do not believe that all or even most of these people had any malicious intentions. But the way they virtually approached me, their insistence and fervor, felt threatening.
This will not be my only post describing gender relations in computer science. I do not claim to represent all women in the industry, and others may disagree with my beliefs. But these messages demonstrated a fundamental disconnect in appropriate conduct. And these were not isolated instances, this happened often. Yet I’m sure I missed out on opportunities for collaboration, research, and friendship because the messages
came off as were menacing. I should not have to choose between professional advancement and feeling safe. I should not have to choose between professional advancement and feeling safe.
So, I present suggestions for reaching out:
- Email me or message me on LinkedIn. My other social media profiles are private.
- Tell me why you’re contacting me. Networking is a fine reason, but make clear why you want to connect with me.
- Don’t ask to meet in person.
- Limit your number of follow ups. Any more than 3 starts to concern me.