Supporting Women in WordPress

Yesterday Post Status turned out another awesome edition of it’s Who’s Hiring series. I know that series has helped companies find great people and great people find great work.

Post Status is awesome and I love that they give back to the community.

Unfortunately yesterday we saw the terrible beast of objectifying women raise it’s head in the comments.

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 7.57.19 PM

Update December 10, 2013: An emoji apology was offered by Vladimir but I’d love to see a bit more meaningful discourse.

So a ‘perk’ of working with ManageWP is the beautiful women?

Update December 10, 2013 8:04 AM: No ManageWP didn’t say beautiful women are a ‘perk’ directly. I felt it was implied since they did mention beautiful women in a job add. Seems I’m walking a fine line now since I’m told that if I don’t edit ManageWP will ‘react accordingly’ in the comment below. It’s hard to see how this could be anything but sue me and of course ManageWP has way more money than a solo freelancer like me. So I better be on my best behaviour or I’ll be sued and of course that would mean I’d be out of money and my wife and I would be on the street with our kid (and the new one in January). I’d certainly prefer not to be sued before Christmas so see the edit above.

Update December 10, 2013 8:00 AM: See Vladimir’s comment below.

Update December 10, 2013 11:39 AM: Don’t miss Vladimir’s latest comment which I think is pretty decent.

Not the smart women.

Not the strong women.

Not the best women in the WordPress community.

The beautiful women.

Beautiful Women eh?

Women have a hard time getting equality in the programming community. If you think that it’s not a big deal then you need to start followingAshe Dryden and read about the risk in speaking up. She just put out a stellar list of things to read about diversity.

I’m priviledged to get to talk with her on the Freelancer’s Show.

ManageWP

I’m sure there are a bunch of people at ManageWP that would read that comment and cringe. I am sure that not everyone spends the day looking at the pretty women.

I’d even be willing to believe that Vladimir made a poor choice in wording and thought he was being funny (or something).

But the reality is that none of us should think that comments like this are acceptable an any form.

I’m in the WordPress community because of the awesome women in the community. I had a bad experience with a community leader and 2 of the awesome women started interacting with me and showed me that the community is not full of assholes.

I’m speaking up now because I can. Because I know that people read this site and I hope that each of you will speak up for those women with which you interact and know.

Even if 90% of the people reading this site thought I was off my rocker and sent me terrible emails, I’d be happy to reach 1 person that would also stand up.

My Policy

I’ll go on record right now and say that it doesn’t matter who you are. I don’t care what your sexual orientation is. If I find someone objectifying another person I simply won’t be doing business with them.

That goes for a man going on about other men or a man going on about women or a woman about women or a woman about men. It doesn’t matter what direction it’s pointed it’s entirely unacceptable to treat another human like a piece of meat to be observed.

I won’t be doing business with ManageWP (that goes for clients who use it) until I see a positive diversity policy and apology for the plain old stupid remark.

No I don’t think that anyone should be fired. We jump to that way too quickly and one of ManageWP’s ‘things’ they want from their employees (as stated on their site) is to be able to admit when they’re wrong.

Vladimir, you were plain wrong and out of line and you lead the company.

There is an opportunity here to frame equality properly in our community.

Let’s seize it.

30 Comments

  1. lisa December 10, 2013 at 6:01 am #

    Thank you for calling attention to this issue. What I appreciate about the WordPress community members that I have encountered since I’ve been involved is the overall welcoming atmosphere. Keeping an open dialogue like you have initiated can help avoid situations like this in future. –@zigorzag

    • Curtis McHale December 10, 2013 at 6:32 am #

      You’re most welcome and I’m glad to hear that you have had great experiences in the WordPress community.

  2. carrie dils December 10, 2013 at 6:14 am #

    Thanks for sharing this Curtis. I’ve been a loud proponent of ManageWP – and why not, they provide a great service – but Vladimir’s comment is in poor taste, to say the least. It reflects a terrible lack of sensitivity and is a poor representation of what the greater WordPress community is about (or at least is striving to be about).

    Vladimir apologized emoji-style here, but I would like to see a more thoughtful discourse on what “we did get past that” means. I don’t want to blow an careless comment out of proportion, but it made me uncomfortable and Vladimir’s follow-up comment didn’t quite cover it.

    So, excuse me Curtis while I hijack your comments section, but Vladimir, I’m inviting you to respond formally online (doesn’t have to be here – I’d upvote that discussion at ManageWP.org…). Until I have a better understanding of ManageWP’s policy (and workplace culture) regarding equality , I’m pulling down my affiliate ads for ManageWP and will consider this an opportunity to try competitive services.

    Respectfully,
    Carrie Dils

    • Curtis McHale December 10, 2013 at 6:28 am #

      Thanks for your feedback Carrie. I saw the comment come through from Vladimir and I was unsure what I thought about it. It didn’t feel like it was ‘enough’ for me. Not that I want to toss anyone under the bus.

      Like I said we have opportunities to frame the conversation right and I’d love to see ManageWP/Vladimir do that.

      Obviously I wasn’t the only one to think that.

  3. Vladimir Prelovac December 10, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    I always do my very best at properly representing the company I founded, but seems in this case I clearly made a mistake. I’m deeply sorry if I hurt anybody’s feelings on account of how one might understand what I wrote and I appreciate the fact that you asked me for explanation before jumping to conclusions.

    I never said that ‘perk’ of working with ManageWP is the beautiful women. Nor did I in any way referred to women in WordPress as this post’s title suggests. This is completely misinterpreted and taken out of the context.

    I only said that “Serbia is the country of beautiful women, Mediterranean food and unrivaled hospitality”.

    This is the very kind of sentence one could easily hear on Travel Channel. In fact one does all the time when people talk about Serbia either on TV, mainstream newspapers or travel blogs:

    http://www.mavericktraveler.com/serbian-women-the-perfect-combination-of-slavic-and-mediterranean-genes/
    http://serbiathroughamericaneyes.wordpress.com/category/when-in-serbia/).

    Does this mean we’re “objectifying women”? No, not at all. We’re just being proud of our decent and Slavic beauty.

    I understand that I made a mistake by blending this “advertisement” of my country with the job description, and therefore left room for misinterpretation in a way that may have hurt somebody’s feelings. I’m deeply sorry for that. It was never my intention to lead anyone into believing that I personally, or the company I work in objectifies women. Quite the contrary – our work ethics and culture are very strong in that regard, we value and respect our engineers and colleagues regardless of their genre, age, ethnic background, race or religion.

    That being said, I kindly ask you to edit the post with this explanation in mind, especially reflecting the fact that I never mentioned “perks”, “ManageWP” and “beautiful women” in the same sentence. Otherwise, I might consider this a deliberate campaign against myself and ManageWP and react accordingly.

    Btw. I just want to give you useful feedback (but I wouldn’t write a blog post about it before understanding what you meant :)

    Every single visitor of your website is welcomed with:

    “Don’t be an Idiot: Learn to run a viable freelance business just launched”

    https://www.diigo.com/item/image/1swv/y82s

    This can be interpreted in many ways, but all of them are more harmful and rude than what I said.

    • Travis December 10, 2013 at 8:27 am #

      “I’m deeply sorry if I hurt anybody’s feelings”

      This is a classic non-apology apology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-apology_apology#The_.22if_apology.22

    • Mel Choyce December 10, 2013 at 8:59 am #

      Your statement is wrong for two big reasons:

      1. It objectifies women. Period. Even if you didn’t intend to list women as a potential job “perk”, you list it alongside traits that would make your job desirable. That is a fact. A perk of your position is living in Serbia, a land of friendly people, delicious food, and “beautiful women”. Not beautiful people, women. This is absolutely not taking your comment out of context.
      2. It excludes women. By listing “beautiful women” as a perk, you are explicitly communicating you want to hire a man, and that women need not apply for your position. (Unless, of course, you’re only trying to exclude straight women (or gay men). Correct me if I’m wrong, but that doesn’t seem to be your intention.)

      Now onto that first article you linked to:

      While the rest of the world is being infested with feminist cancer, Serbia—like the rest of Slavic countries—has simply been immune.

      …but they’re quickly going the way of their American counterparts: unfeminine, rude and bitchy.

      The good news is that the women are extremely loyal to their men, a far cry from the sluttiness of American women.

      — (dashed added by site owner to show the blockquote better)

      Seriously? This is the article you chose to cite? The fact that you don’t understand how inappropriate that is speaks volumes.

      • Mel Choyce December 10, 2013 at 9:00 am #

        Whoops, looks like blockquotes aren’t supported. There should be quotes starting from “While the rest…” and ending at “…the sluttiness of American women.”

    • carrie December 10, 2013 at 9:57 am #

      Vladimir,

      Thank you for responding and clarifying your intent. I appreciate and accept your apology and willingness to discuss.

      Carrie

    • Heather Steele December 10, 2013 at 11:23 am #

      “That being said, I kindly ask you to edit the post with this explanation in mind, especially reflecting the fact that I never mentioned “perks”, “ManageWP” and “beautiful women” in the same sentence. Otherwise, I might consider this a deliberate campaign against myself and ManageWP and react accordingly.”

      Woah wait – so either Curtis edits his opinion or you’ll what?

      I found the job ad to be offensive not so much because it objectifies women but because it makes me feel like the job posting is closed to us. It made the ad sound like it is directed to men and men only. Not cool.

      Makes me question if I want to continue using and promoting ManageWP. If this had been a sincere apology that just said “Yep, I was wrong. I’m very sorry for that” I could let it go. But the I’m sorry if you’re offended, this is just the way we advertise our country BS doesn’t work for me.

      • Curtis McHale December 10, 2013 at 11:34 am #

        Don’t forget to read his other comment on the post which seems to be pretty dang good.

        • Heather Steele December 10, 2013 at 11:37 am #

          I did – still feel the same way, but that’s ok :)

  4. Matthew December 10, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    Honestly, this was blown out of proportion big time. There is no need for a post such as this because all it does is confuse what really happened.

    The comment left spoke of Serbia as having beautiful women. It didn’t imply anything else. You and others have along with this post to further perpetuate something that was meant to be a joke.

    If you didn’t like the joke on Post Status the right thing to do would be to remove it and move on. Not pour fuel on a weak attempt at a fire.

    The only true fault I see was that someone misrepresented a business. There is no harm in calling out Serbia as having beautiful women.

    • Curtis McHale December 10, 2013 at 8:44 am #

      I obviously disagree and do feel that mentioning the beautiful women was out of line. I’m not the only one, I have over 50 emails from men and women in support of the article and tweets and the comments below.

      If there was mention of the beautiful men as well I’d have just left it alone since it was equal opportunity.

    • Marko Heijnen December 10, 2013 at 10:13 am #

      I agree with you too Matthew. If he only would have mentioned men then there never would be an issue. See how that isn’t equal. I think that Curtis will only got email from Americans. I never meet someone in Europe that will respond on something this small.

  5. Angie December 10, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    @Vladimir I don’t know WHY I’ve heard that Serbia has the most beautiful women, but I have… and so I didn’t take it any crazy -as-a-woman- offense to it, but rather I heard your cultural reference in it.

    Unfortunately… for ME, and maybe for a lot of women, and definitely for you, that doesn’t matter.

    Because I (as a woman) don’t have any way to really discern your intent when reading that. Are you making reference to something Serbians are proud of (similar to Carolina or California girls? or strong Nordic men?) OR, are you trying to build a firm of mostly men by inserting just that one line that warns us away. “I’m looking for developers who like looking at beautiful women. A small part of who this company is likes looking at beautiful women, and we’re not afraid to say so in our job posting. It’s that’s important to us.” Who knows what kind of company culture that devolves into. Or, more positively EVOLVES into – it could be one appreciative of art and beauty and loveliness and grace.

    The point is – I don’t know which one it is. It’s your job as the job poster to make your intentions clear. Not mine as a women to HOPE that you were making a cultural reference and trying to WINK WINK to all the guys out there that this is a place for men.

    You’ve given your apology and explained it what you meant. IMO, I don’t think you need to do anything else.

  6. Kate Moore December 10, 2013 at 8:53 am #

    I’m glad that you wrote about this, if for no other reason than it opens up the conversation more. My main issue with Vladimir’s original post is that, as a female developer, is that the way he phrase his post makes women seem like the outsiders. I definitely haven’t pioneered this idea (it is a common feminist thought pioneered by bell hooks, I believe, who as a non-white women explained sexism and racism as being made to feel like the “others” … always outside, looking in and never truly included). Vladimir is accidentally implying that women wouldn’t be welcome to apply for the job because he’s implying that only straight men can be developers. Even though the vast majority of developers are men, that doesn’t mean it should stay that way.

    That said, I really doubt Vladimir’s intention was to hurt anyone, but I think it’s a good learning opportunity to understand how wording can contribute to keeping humanity from moving towards equality.

    Vladimir in your follow up to Curtis’s post, instead of getting defensive, I think it would be a better approach to say “oops, didn’t mean to imply sexism or objectify women, sorry, let’s talk about this more so that it won’t happen again and can serve as a learning opportunity for everyone in the development community.” Just because Serbian tourism focuses on the beautiful women of Serbia as a sell point, doesn’t make that okay, either.

  7. Rebecca December 10, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    Thank you Curtis McHale. That is all.

  8. Matt Cromwell December 10, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    I firmly agree that women should be respected and appreciated in all workplaces. But I think this discussion is really just two cultures speaking past each other. We in the US are being bombarded with tons of media attention on how we objectify women and have (rightfully) become very sensitive to the issue. Eastern Europe doesn’t have those sensititivites. It’s really a very different culture. There’s room for constructive criticism of other cultural standards, including the US’s sense of “triumphalism”, but there’s no reason to inflate a well-meaning statement into something mischievous or underhanded.

    • Curtis McHale December 10, 2013 at 9:50 am #

      I agree that there are cultural differences that can contribute to misunderstandings and maybe this was a case of that. One thing we all need to try and be aware of is how things can be received across cultures, this is an international community.

      I think that we have an opportunity to frame the discussion properly here. I have tried which is all I can do.

      I admit that I’ve become more sensitive to it since having a daughter.

  9. Vladimir Prelovac December 10, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    @Angie Thank you. Not for a moment I thought about attracting exclusively male developers (but of course any developers), the unfortunate thing was that I wrote the ‘cultural’ phrase in use when one describes Serbia as travel destination on media. One could easily find themselves wanting to move here just as well because of the Mediterranean food or the unrivaled hospitality, as the description is of course not exclusive in any way. Are Serbian women beautiful? No doubt about it. Should that be mentioned in a job ad? I learned better now.

    @Mel I am assuring you I did not mean to objectify women. And if it sounded like it to you, I apologize. As for references, I do not represent them – I was proving a point about the perception of Serbia in travel blogs and that came out first in Google search. Perhaps I should have searched better. You can of course find articles on BBC, NYTimes or NG if you are interested in learning more about Serbia in that context from more credible sources.

    @Kate Thank you. One thing that I definitely learned through your (and of others) comments and feelings is that there definitely seems to be a problem with objectifying women, if not just in the WordPress community but in the broader development community. If my comment was to stir the discussion about the topic, then perhaps something useful and good will come as a result of it after all and I am grateful for that.

    http://www.prelovac.com/vladimir/importance-of-being-grateful

    @Carrie Thanks!

    @Matt Well said!

    @Curtis I also have a daughter, two years old, who means everything to me.

    • Curtis McHale December 10, 2013 at 11:07 am #

      Thanks for continuing to engage Vladimir. I did not mean it to be a personal attack or an attack on ManageWP (note I said it’s possible you just made a poor wording choice).

      I have skipped many discussions like this in the programming community where I’m relatively unknown. I chose to say something now in the light of WordPress because I do have a voice here and could bring attention to the issues.

      I think it’s obvious now that you made a poor choice in wording and backed up by others that know you personally.

      I’m glad we can bring it more to light and discuss the issues.

      • Vladimir Prelovac December 10, 2013 at 11:15 am #

        Thank you, I hope that you can update the article to reflect that position, as not everyone will read all these comments.

        I do agree that the root of the problem should be discussed further as it certainly seems to be open to good feedback.

  10. Nile December 10, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    Out of context. Re-read the job description. Thanks for the kerfuffle… reminds me of the stuff anime fandoms do.

    I love it when people get up in arms about the little things… not really. I’m a female and I didn’t feel objectified. And frankly, anything beautiful in a work environment is welcome. And yes, there are a lot of beautiful women in the Mediterranean.

    “Ever dreamed of moving to a country with the most beautiful women, Mediterranean food, and unrivaled hospitality?” <—- I don't see a problem with this sentence at all.

    • Marc December 10, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

      I have to say Nile and Matthew that I completely agree with you.
      This seems to me to be a sever over reaction to what I understood to be quite an innocent statement.

      I’m all for healthy discussion, but offence can’t be given, it can only be taken.
      And to take offence at what was quite clearly an innocent, if a little cheeky, comment in such a way seems a tad over sensitive to me.

      It seems clear to me that Vladimir did not mean any disrespect, nor did he objectify women, in my opinion.
      The comment was also made separately to the job ad, and did exclude anyone from applying.

      This seems like a cultural misunderstanding to me, and I think an apology is necessary on both sides for the misunderstanding.

      I bought Curtis’s book and have gained some great business and freelancing insights from it and this blog.

      Did I think that I was being called an idiot before I bought it?
      No.

      Is there the scope for someone to be offended by being called an idiot?
      Absolutely.

      Do I think Vladimir’s comment of implying he’d “react accordingly” if the original comment wasn’t modified was justified? I absolutely do.
      I think his comments were twisted to infer something that he simply did not intend. I don’t think it was a threat to sue, just to get Curtis to make some changes to what he was inferring.

      I’m glad this discussion has come to light, and I’m glad it has been handled with maturity and dignity.
      As a reader of this blog, and a user of ManageWP, I’m encouraged by any productive discussion in the wider WordPress community.

      These a just my thoughts, but I think this whole thing has been blown waaaaaay out of proportion.
      I’m glad the air has been cleared.

      • Curtis McHale December 10, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

        Thanks for your feedback on all counts.

  11. James Mowery December 10, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    Hi everyone,

    James Mowery, CEO of ManageWP’s US operations.

    I wanted to say that I, being an American, have had the pleasure of visiting the ManageWP headquarters in Belgrade, Serbia on numerous occasions. I am the utmost fan of what Vladimir and our team has been able to accomplish. Vladimir is renowned for his accomplishments in Belgrade, and the people the people of Serbia, in many respects, consider Prelovac Media (ManageWP’s parent company) the equivalent of Apple or Microsoft here in the States. He has and is continuing to inspire generations of youth in his country to strive for more, and to become independent, and to think outside of the box and to go for more.

    From my perspective, which will hopefully provide better insight here, and having traveled to Eastern Europe, I can tell you that there is a different mindset among the people and the community. In my travels there, in the capital of Serbia, I have never before seen so many fashion-oriented businesses. I made offhand remarks about all the fashion-focused sense they have in Belgrade. They celebrate the beauty of people and of things — like their architecture (even the new bridge they built in Belgrade can only be described as “beautiful” in my own words). I believe they would argue that they are one of the fashion capital of the world, and there have been publications that argue this very same thing. It’s different, of course, and it’s a sensitive issue, but if you are a well-traveled person and well cultured, you come to understand and even appreciate these differences in culture.

    http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/11/on-the-verge-belgrade-europes-latest-urban-success-story/?_r=0

    I do feel that Vladimir’s comments were taken somewhat out of context and were a misunderstanding. I know Vladimir has no malice in his heart or towards his employees or to people in general. The ManageWP team has welcomed both men and women from around the world, of all ages, to work with us. We strive to do things differently from most companies. And Vladimir, personally, has done so much good for the WordPress community at large, that I stand behind him. We have actively promoted women within our organization to give them opportunity that might not have been available otherwise.

    We try to stand up and represent the best in companies and in business, and I for one am a part of this incredible company because I know that every one of our employees believes in this. We try to do things right, and while we don’t get EVERYTHING right, I believe that our organization tries to learn from mistakes and from our errors, and push to be better. I am no different, and it is why I’m so proud to represent ManageWP.

    Looks don’t get you here nor there (or at least they shouldn’t) — it’s skill and talent and effort that does, and everyone within our organization knows this. We regularly challenge the men and women within our organization to push themselves and think independently — some even run their own startups and businesses along side — and that’s something that we value, and something that we hope the WordPress community will respect.

    If anyone here feels that we have misrepresented women in a distasteful or irresponsible manner, than I want to be the first to say that it was an honest mistake, one that language and/or cultural barriers have crossed, and one that our whole organization and myself personally take responsibility for and want to offer sincerest apologies for.

    We are very sensitive to the issues that the women in the WordPress community have brought to our attention. I know Siobhan McKeown, in particular, has been extremely vocal about standing up for the fair treatment of women — and we even hired Siobhan to help us with our documentation, not because of her looks, but because of her skill and talent, one that Automattic rightly acknowledged and hired her for as well. It’s one example of many examples within our own organization.

    It would be silly to assume that women don’t have it hard in this industry, one dominated by men, and one where, although I can’t know for sure, I imagine women feel they have to push themselves harder to find success and maintain it. We have all seen the issues play out in the media and personally, we know the meaning behind it, and we strive to promote women and intelligence and hard work within our organization, and we want everyone to know that we respect women and acknowledge the hardships that come with being a woman in the tech industry.

    We appreciate everyone, we appreciate the community, and we hope you can come to understand that this was a mere misunderstanding, one that we would never, ever, want to have negatively impact our reputation within the WordPress community.

    I will say that this is an important discussion to have, and I for one support women in the tech industry, and I appreciate the vocal community leaders who have brought this to our attention.

    But I don’t want to leave this without clearly stating that Vladimir has done more — and taken genuine action — to support women in technology than many others have attempted. He doesn’t actively promote this fact, and perhaps it isn’t as big of an issue on people’s minds where he is from — but he does this because it’s the right thing to do.

    We kindly ask for your forgiveness and understanding, and we hope that our prior reputation for standing up for women and helping them, along with all of our employees — no matter their race, religion, or sex — to grow stands out above this.

    Thank you to everyone.
    – James Mowery

    • Jami Howard Mays December 10, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

      Now there’s an apology.

      • Patrick Neve December 10, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

        Yes it was. Above and beyond in my opinion. After reading through all of the replies, it makes me happy to see that things seemed to have simmered down. This is why I love the WP community.

  12. Kim December 11, 2013 at 2:20 am #

    This is a sensitive issue, and one that is an important one to discuss. I’m glad Curtis brought it up.

    There’s a cultural context of what’s acceptable or not. I also believe Vlad had no misguided intention.

    Of course, like Vlad, women from my hometown, Montréal, have a similar reputation. It’s not taboo to talk about it, even with other girls. It just doesn’t belong in a job description.

    If your business is partly in the US, one needs not only to learn baseball expressions, but also seriously take into account gender equality.

    North Americans do take the gender issue to heart, and it’s not a joke. More countries should follow suit.

    Our generation bears the flags of the battles our mums started in the sixties. It took a lot more courage for them to fight for their rights, then it is for us to comment on this thread behind our keyboards.

    Gender equality is not a goal to reach, but a permanent struggle. Much like democracy.

    Women in tech? It’s been a patchy road. The Lean Startup Conference recently took the bull by its horns regarding the issue. Read up their newsletter, which also draws a little recap of gender dramas in our tech world:

    http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=b748e9f3f46b19e77e2ac7233&id=25460597f2&e=02f8c8a255

    I’m now left wondering if men are also beautiful in Serbia. Or are they handsome? Obviously, “the media” forgot to mention them. ;)

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