The year is 2010 and women are still being harassed at open source and other tech-related conferences. And no, geekiness is not an excuse for bad behavior.
Unfortunately, as Valerie Aurora notes, rampant harassment at tech symposiums is unlikely to end without concrete action from conference organizers.
“[So], a good first step is for conferences and communities to adopt and enforce explicit policies or codes of conduct that spell out what kind of behavior won’t be tolerated and what response it will get,” Aurora explained in an article on LWN.net.
“Much in the way that people don’t stop speeding unless they get speeding tickets, or that murder is totally unacceptable to most people but laws against it still exist, harassment at conferences may seem obviously wrong, but stopping it will require written rules and enforceable penalties.”
Aurora emphasized that individual conference attendees can also work to help stop harassment.
“You can email the organizers of conferences you like to attend asking if they have a policy for dealing with harassment. [Of course], if you are a conference organizer, you can skip the middleman and adopt the policy yourself.
“[Or], you can write a blog entry and post on your favorite short-message site about the policy. And, finally, if you see harassment happening or hear people bragging about it, you can speak up and stop it yourself.
“[Yes], some people argue that if women really want to be involved in open source (or computing, or corporate management, etc.), they will put up with being stalked, leered at, and physically assaulted at conferences.
“But many of us argue instead that putting up extra barriers to the participation of women will only harm the open source community. [Obviously], we want more people in open source, not fewer.”
Aurora’s draft anti-harassment policy for tech conferences and symposiums can be read here.