I was recently accepted to speak at a SQL Server-related event in Europe. As I relish the opportunity to speak I was very happy and started preparing in earnest for booking the trip and polishing my session. However, when I took a look at the schedule, I found the name of another speaker that I had not expected to find anymore. This person has been tossed out of one of the most important Microsoft programs allegedly (as I don’t have personal, first-hand knowledge) due to repeatedly misbehaving in general and being sexist in particular – a behavior I have personally witnessed multiple times. As is the case with most people behaving in this way, this person has shown no regret or even understanding how this behavior could possibly be interpreted as wrong in any way. As this information has not become very public, I reached out to the organizers of this event to ask them if they knew about this person’s history and behavior, and if they really wanted someone like that speaking at their event.
While I don’t exactly know what I was expecting for an answer, I was not expecting the answer I received. The answer was basically the organizers putting their head in the sand and explaining that they treat everyone with the equal respect and expect the same back. Unless anyone is convicted of a crime they would not be kept out of speaking at their event, as they could not act on hearsay alone. They were, in my opinion, hiding behind a legal straw man that has little or nothing to do with the question at hand.
As it was abundantly clear that the organizers do not share my values when it comes to community, I was faced with the choice of either speaking at this event and implicitly accepting this individual’s behavior or withdraw to make a point. I chose the latter as I feel the need to stand up to sexism and generally deplorable behavior. I can’t change the world, but I can make a personal stand despite this costing me an important speaking opportunity.
Our community is too precious to not make a stand.
*updated with the word “allegedly” as I am not privy to Microsoft’s reasoning.*