Sarah Parmenter

Speaking up.

Six months ago, something happened to me that I kept quiet. Some of my best friends in the industry knew it was happening and tried to help as much as they could. I started writing a post back then about what happened, I got halfway through and found it too much. Coming back, maybe with a stronger disposition because of what happened with my Mum, I now want to share what occurred. It’s come to my attention that there’s a lot of females in this industry suppressing stuff that is happening to them, for fear of backlash or just wanting a quiet life. It also might answer some questions about another point. I’ll come to that later.

Here’s what I started to write back in August…

It’s with great sadness I have to speak up about something. I’m not sad myself, nor am I particularly hurt – but being scared into silence is not an option. The reason I’m sad is that the person involved with what I’m about to speak up about, could be a member of our community. Infact at the moment, everything is pointing to the fact they are. They are currently feeding off the suppression of this topic, so I’m writing publicly about it.

This week – someone decided to upload fake porn pictures of me to the internet – when I say fake I don’t mean my head stuck on someone’s body, but lookalikes or in some cases, just blonde girls with blue eyes and terrible taste in underwear. I digress. This is someone with far too much time on their hands and someone with a definite grudge. I’ve taught myself over the years to take the rough with the smooth and develop a thick skin, I’ve been free of online trouble for a while and rightly or wrongly, I was kind of expecting my run of luck to end. To say it caught me off guard, would be a lie, but to see how low someone would stoop, did. However, it’s amazing how resilient and detached you can be when you know you’ve been that boring your entire life that you’ve never taken nude pictures of yourself.

The interesting thing about what this individual did was show themselves as wanting to try and damage my professional integrity with blatant trolling. It all started a week ago from the date of writing this. I started to receive emails from creepy guys that eventually traced back to a site where various pictures had been posted to. The pictures were uploaded alongside my personal email address, (old) hometown and a screenshot of my Twitter account. There was also an open forum for comments at the bottom, which I’m sure you can imagine the type of things posted there.

This is where I stopped in August, and here is where I will continue on in my words now…

The timing of everything was carefully executed, they knew I was speaking at one of our industry’s best known conferences, ‘An Event Apart’ – they started to try and spam the feed ‘A Feed Apart’ on the day of my talk – they then tried, unsuccessfully, to post to the ‘An Event Apart’ Facebook feed during my talk, they setup a fake Twitter account and tried to at-reply my employers for that conference as well as high-profile twitter users I was associated with, to ensure they knew about the pictures and their existence.

If you were at ‘An Event Apart’ in Austin last year, you might remember Jeffrey jumping up on stage and giving one of the best, off-the-cuff speeches I’ve ever heard, purely because he had only been told seconds before what was likely to happen during my talk. He said (paraphrased) “The feed is prone to trolls and spam at the best of times, at any point today, if you see anything derogatory about any of our speakers, please ignore it, do not engage with them. The conference is about everyone in this room, not outside, let’s keep it that way”. At that point, I couldn’t believe it had even gone through my head to have a stiff upper lip and try and soldier on without them knowing what was happening behind the scenes. I felt ashamed; that I was almost letting them down by being a speaker and bringing all this hassle to their conference. During my talk, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried at what the hundreds of faces, lit up by glowing laptops, were seeing or reading about me or what might have slipped the net. A feeling I would never wish on my worst enemy. Jeffrey, Eric and the team handled it with such aplomb and such care towards me as well, I’ll be forever thankful.

We never found out who did it.

This brings me to my last point. There’s many questions around why there aren’t more females speaking in this industry. I can tell you why, they are scared. Everytime I jump on stage, I get comments, either about the way I look, or the fact that I’m the female, the token, the one they have to sit through in order for the males to come back on again. One conference, I even had a guy tweet something derogatory about me, not 30 seconds into my talk, only for me to bring up the point he had berated me for not bringing up, not a minute later – which caused him to have to apologise to my face after public backlash. I’ve had one guy come up to me in a bar and say (after explaining he didn’t like my talk)… “no offence, I just don’t relate to girls speaking about the industry at all, I learn better from guys”. I could write a book on inappropriate things that have been said to me at conferences about girls in the industry, so much so, it’s become a running joke with fellow speakers. I know other girls who could also chip in a fair few chapters but, underneath the humour sometimes found in these situations, lies a very real problem.

It’s no great secret that girls are a minority in this industry, you only have to look at the queues for the toilets at any conference, however, it’s forgotten that it’s not about female speakers, it’s about finding female speakers who have enough of a thick skin to want to stand up infront of an audience of twitter-trigger-happy males and public speak. That’s an entirely different kettle of fish. Then ontop – when you finally feel comfortable with speaking, you get put into a big black pot and tarnished with the label “same old face”. This happened to me on my third ever speaking engagement, third? I was tarnished as a “same old face”. Since then it’s become water off a ducks back – I’m not going to let a label stop me from developing and growing my speaking skills, I’m by no means perfect and still have a lot to learn. We should be encouraging anyone who shows an aptitude or love for sharing their knowledge with the community.

The wheels are in motion for something I hope will address this, I will share soon and hope you will all support me in this venture.

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  1. Posted February 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I really admire you for speaking up about this Sarah, you could have easily kept quiet and just tried to forget about it but you’ve done the right thing. People need to be made aware of this stuff and in my opinion the neanderthals should be named and shamed. Unfortunately it sounds unlikely that we’ll find out who was behind this.

    Anyway, keep on doing your thing Sarah and don’t let these idiots slow you down.

    • Posted February 4, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t that the way, always hard to name the cowards as they hide.

  2. Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    And it’s not just the digital design industry where this is happening. In any modern digital, SEO or marketing industries this is happening all too often.

    For the guys, if you’re parents brought you up to respect women and I know for the majority that statement is true, we as a community can start by taking action when we see it.

    If you spot a guy doing something inappropriate report it to the event organisers or if it’s happening in a group don’t stand by and watch idly.

    Everyone should have a chance to share their knowledge & talents female or male without feeling put off, scared or anxious.

    For anyone speaking it takes balls and guts to stand up in front of an audience so please show a little respect.

  3. Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    HackerNews discussion:

    Thanks for sharing your story: if people like you weren’t brave enough to do so, the rest of us wouldn’t even know this kind of thing was going on.

  4. Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Oh God. And my 12-year old daughter wants to be in this industry. I’d have to think carefully – twice – before saying she should, with a straight face.
    Thank you for telling your story and let’s hope the times will change.

    • Iain
      Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      @Jonas Strandell:
      Why would you? Teach her to ignore those people and stand up for herself. Every industry suffers from idiots like this. Don’t let that be a reason for her not to do what she wants.

    • Mark Petereit
      Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Agreed! Jonas, if you discourage your daughter from following her passion, you’re aiding and abetting the very scum you’re trying to “defend” her from. It’s EXACTLY the response they WANT from you.

    • Nathan Hornby
      Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      My two cents:

      The discussion here today is one of sexual equality, it’s in no way unique to do with web design.

      • Nathan Hornby
        Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        Fingers got the better of me there:

        “The discussion here today is one of sexual equality, it’s in no way unique to web design.

        • Lea
          Posted February 4, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

          I was initially perplexed by your comment and wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt given the overall tone of the other comments here. But I have to say that I find your comment ( and one of your tweets) dismissive of Sarah’s experience. They’re “Yes, but…” statements. Just because “Some men are assholes… in every industry” doesn’t mean women in THIS industry should just put up with it in silence. Sarah was right to speak out. She was in no way being unfair to all males in our industry by doing so.

    • Susan
      Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      There are plenty of areas of the industry where you can avoid all of this. Academia, digital archiving, forensics, or simply large companies all provide areas without the machismo-fueled jerks. So even if she decides she doesn’t have the energy for any of this, it’s not necessarily a reason to avoid the industry.

      That is not to excuse this behavior in any way, but discouraging women from the industry that is much bigger than these conferences does both them and the industry a disservice. My father tried to discourage me for that very reason, and I am very glad I ignored him. It would have been more helpful if he’d told me *why* he didn’t think I should do it (he was ashamed of how “his people” acted towards people like me), so I’d have been prepared and known the problem was them, not that I didn’t belong here.

      I hope that you’ll be able to tell your daughter that if she ever encounters the trolls of the world there is an army people ready and willing to support her, and she will have options available to respond to them. I hope you can introduce her to some of the amazing women who are already here, so she knows people like her do this stuff every day. Maybe introduce her to feminism, so she has the tools to recognize and name the sexism she will encounter and knows that it can be successfully fought.

      Protecting her will just leave this battle to someone else’s daughter: arming her and fighting by her side can support her passions and make the world better for her daughters in turn.

  5. Mustafa
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Sarah, such things happening against you are an indicator of your success. They’ll wear off and they cannot hurt your reputation, they can only (albeit inadvertently) promote you. In other words, the joke is on them. Keep up your good work, and pay those no heed.

  6. Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    It actually makes me ashamed to be a male in the industry.

  7. Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Hi Sarah,

    when I just read this, I got here by another designer, namely miss Laura Kalbag. I hold her highly because of what she does, not whom she is. And so should everyone else, I simply do not understand why people keep on doing this! It’s as if the world has gone koo-koo at some point. Like they don’t realise what they’re doing when they say/do stuff like what you’ve been through. Anyways, there isn’t much I can do at this point besides telling you that you have my support! Keep fighting!

    PS: Have you to spoken to Aral Balkan already? I bet he would want to know about this too.


  8. Miguel Montanez
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure this was both painful and therapeutic to speak up about. Monsters like that live to ruin, and hopefully your story adds fuel to the debate–inspiring more to speak up.

    Sexism in our industry is so bad. Shit, I once got accused of being a “ladies man” for hiring two female designers in succession.

    Keep fighting the good fight.

  9. Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    You’re incredible for speaking up and not letting fear get the best of you. Our world needs to be aware of happenings like this, so we don’t automatically believe everything is happy and free. There are pains as well, and you’ve shown you’re stronger than them.

  10. Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    What is wrong with people? At what point does some think “yeah I’m gonna try and screw this person over”; why? Were they not loved as a child? Who knows! I really admire you for speaking up, these people need to learn their lesson and know that stuff like this isn’t right; they probably need some sort of mental health help too, who knows. Keep your head up and remember haters are gonna hate.

  11. Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Amazing post Sarah. This kind of thing won’t be dealt with unless people take a stand and speak out against it. Keep up the great work!

  12. Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I find it completely insane that any bloke in this industry doesn’t appreciate a creative as an entity, rather than by gender.

    It is, unfortunately, true that the creative field is still stereotyped as male-dominant environment but, in my experience, a mixed-gender dynamic challenges the design process for the better.

    As for individual who wanted to tarnish your credibility, integrity and professionalism… Well I don’t think they deserve any extra mention :)

  13. Matt Willmott
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m shocked, appalled and saddened that someone would even do something like this.

    There are some horrible people in the world but hopefully we can all remember that there are many, many more great, generous and lovely people than there are bad.

    Sarah, one thing you should never doubt is that the vast majority of this industry (because it’s impossible to please everyone) are here for you, especially when something as traumatic as this happens.

    I hope things are better now.

  14. Alfie
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Your story is sad and I have complete admiration for you in coming forward and sharing this with everyone. To go through what have and still carry on is amazing.

    I’m new to the web development world and new to twitter but watch the blogs with interest for new ideas and hints on a new exciting (career?) in the web development world.

    I have been a manual worker working in a male dominated world and I so know what these men are like. It’s awful that someone could do this to you and probably happens in other industries.

    Now, I work in a office and they are all women on higher grades and roles than me. At first it felt strange but now I’m totally comfortable in this environment and in complete ore of their skills levels, knowledge and speaking skills conferences. My partner entered the world of sales in man donated world. She is now is a very successful European sale manager and has complete from other males in her industry. It was a long hard journey but she made it in the end , I’m sure you will do the same.

    Forgive me for writing this post as I don’t even know but your story touched – and I felt I have to say something.

    Be stong.


  15. Posted February 4, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Such sexism in this industry (or indeed any other) is abhorrent. Sadly, it’s also endemic.

    It’s an awful thing that you went through this Sarah, and I’m glad that the industry is (mostly) mature enough to have rallied around and done what they could to try and determine the perpetrator.

    There are 2 very real problems highlighted by Sarah’s experience:

    1) There are (and sadly will likely always be) men who will *never* respect women, no matter how much society tries to educate them that their attitudes are offensive, outdated and simple-minded.

    2) Anonymity on the internet allows cowards and idiots to pretty much do what they want.

    It’s extremely important for all of us to do our bit to educate *everyone* that sexism in any form will not be tolerated. It is definitely beginning to change and despite this horrible incident, we *are* seeing improvements in industry attitudes. One can only hope that in the next few years, sexist attitudes towards women will have all but disappeared.

    As for the anonymity of trolls on the internet: we’ll never get rid of that. Regardless of any legal machinery that might expose anonymous trolls, if someone wants to remain truly anonymous on the internet, they can. It remains the case then that individuals who find themselves in Sarah’s situation must try to be strong to rise above the trolls. That is clearly not easy. I commend Sarah for having the strength of character to say what needs to be said and highlight this incident, even when it must clearly have been a very difficult experience.

    To also touch upon a point made by a commenter earlier, Sarah’s experience is sadly just one small incident in industry as a whole, not just the web industry. One only has to look at the sexist advertising at shows like E3 and CES where “booth babes” are dressed up to parade around and help sell the latest games and gadgets. As a society, by allowing that to continue, we’re really still saying that’s acceptable. And it’s not.

    It’s down to us as both professionals AND consumers to make it clear we’ll no longer tolerate this sort of sexist rubbish. Women deserve better than this, and as a society we *all* benefit when sexism is eradicated.

    I can’t wait for us all to live and work together as equals, free of outdated views that should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

    • Susan
      Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      Part of the problem is that trolls get positive attention for trolling. Instead of showing them how hurt I am, or ignoring them while other people tell them how awesome they are, I’ve taken to making it about them and their insecurities. I find speculation on their lonely lives and abusive parents tends to provoke the angry defensive reactions they are looking for in other people. Plus, then I feel less angry (still scared and threatened, of course, but less angry.)

      I’d also note the number of in-person incidents that have happened at conferences makes the “anonymity” argument kind of thin. It’s more about how the rest of the world reacts to this sort of behavior.

    • Posted February 5, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Thank you for speaking up, Sarah. Your testimonial is a real wakeup call for us guys to look beyond the shell, just like we do for men speakers, however big or skinny, handsome or plain; focus on sharing knowledge. A conference is not a strip bar.
      And to that troll guy: if you read me: happy you got a little noise going? Go get yourself some help, man, because you’re a maniac and obviously can’t swallow the fact that Sarah is successful and you’re probably not.
      Present yourself at the nearest jail and ask that they put you in a cell, off the internet until you’ve seen a good shrink or something. You’re way off and diserve a good public spanking. Is that kind of act what you want to be remembered for?

  16. Posted February 4, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    It’s incredibly sad to read about how we, the males in this industry, are the main roadblock for there being more gender equality here. One hears about ‘boys-club’ mentality in plenty of professions as it is, and this particular profession, being so new to the game, should have really skipped that phase.

    Thank you for sharing this, lets hope it starts changing the tide.

  17. Posted February 4, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    The world is filled with a lot of sad sexist tossers, you shouldn’t of had to go through this. I suspect that the person (or people) behind this must have a microscopic penis. Please continue doing your great work. Thanks for writing this post and sharing your story, and remember, you’re not just an inspiration to women, but a big inspiration to men too!

  18. Posted February 4, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink


    there is currently a discussion about sexism ongoing within german speaking countries. The issue came up last week after rude behaviour by a politicion became publicly known. Almost instantly, the discussions hashtag #Aufschrei trended on Twitter.

    People of all over Germany, Austria and Switzerland are posting their experience with daily-life sexism, issues are recepted within the blogosphere…

    Maybe a simiar thing should be started in english – maybe #Outcry?

    For my part I just hope that discussion doesn’t go on pre-judging people based on there sex. I’m male. I don’t discriminate. I act against sexism, whenever it comes up. But still, unfortunately, for some feminists, I’m just another male, the same as all the others. That is very frustrating. Because in the end we’re all human, and we should be kind to one another, regardless of gender.

    Best regards,

  19. Posted February 4, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m really sorry to hear you’ve had to go through something like this. Here’s hoping the attention you’re bringing to the issue goes towards erradicating it, not only our industry but society in general.

    Having listened you you speak at Hull Digital and New Adventures in previous years and also having spent 2010/2011 doing the “UK Conference Circuit”, I can honestly say that I think in both instances you definitely justified your place on those panels and were in no part a “Token”.

    Your talks were both informative, useful and relavant to me starting out and I still draw on my notes to this day.

    It’s also great to hear you’re not going to let this effect your future participation in this sort of thing.

    Consider this to be my encouragement to you to keep doing what you do as from what I’ve seen you’re one of the better conference speakers.

  20. Posted February 4, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing Sarah.
    I can’t tell you how deeply ashamed I am every time I read stories like this about men behaving like little boys in our industry, and there are a lot of examples.

    Trends such as “brogramming” scare me deeply as I would never have imagined something like that making it’s way into our culture.

    Keep on being a role model and know that there are people of the opposite sex who are ashamed over what others are doing and who are not afraid to speak up if we see abuse like this happening.

  21. Posted February 4, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing your story.
    Keep fighting, you are a great example to follow.

    Regards from Buenos Aires.

  22. Adrian Turner
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    THANK you for being so awesome and brave to share this with the community.

    I’m PRAYING for your strength and that you continue to move forward despite the actions of a few cad’s.

  23. Posted February 4, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    This cowardly bullying of women at the forefront of the IT industry happens far too often, and we should have zero-tolerance for it.

  24. Posted February 4, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Stay strong, most people have admiration for you and your work, others will always be jealous of that.

  25. Bob
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    I’d play a violin to ease your sorrows but I cannot find one small enough.

    In this community, *everyone* gets trolled. You are not special.

  26. Posted February 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your site. Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues? A number of my blog readers have complained about my blog not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Firefox. Do you have any ideas to help fix this problem?

  27. Posted February 4, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Bravely done Sarah. I feel your pain and have suffered many of the sad experiences that you have too. Although I must say, most people are well-intentioned. It’s just sad there’s a very vocal minority out there who are not fully in touch with the modern world.

    Support and strength,


  28. Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Hi Sazzy,

    I’m ashamed of our industry in the respect that there aren’t enough women joining us, or as you said, enough that have the thick skin to do so.

    Women such as yourselves, Amber Weinberg, Rachili, Laura Kalbag etc have shown and taught me so much about our industry. It’s about time other men grow some balls and realise that the other sex are just as good, if not better for our industry.

    Real men know about Grace Hopper and what she did for the world. They appreciate her efforts. So what’s wrong with bringing more women who truly have something special to bring to it?

    Again, I’m ashamed and appalled of an industry I’m so proud to work in.


  29. Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Hi Sarah,

    Really good post, couldn’t quite say I enjoyed it as the topic was obviously distressing and very personal. I felt quite uncomfortable as I read it and judging by the tone of the post, its upset you greatly.

    Unfortunately, the nature of your industry and your visibility could mean this type of vile behaviour may happen again.

    I can’t relate as a male who’s never experienced such awful disrespect, but can only liken it to the vile abuse some in media receive based on nothing more than appearance and ability to reach a wide and varied audience.

    The type of harassment you’ve experienced is reserved generally for those who are doing well. I can only draw comparisons with the fact that these idiots have targeted you because they they feel threatened.

    Anything I write probably won’t help, but I wish you the best of luck

  30. Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Sarah you are far and away one of the best speakers I have had the opportunity to see.

    It is a great shame that someone thinks that this kind of behaviour, is or has ever been acceptable.

    I hope to see you at another event in the near future.

  31. Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I am so sorry about this — I have had my share of online/tech harassment and it is not fun. It is degrading and hurtful and down right terrible. You are such an inspiring, powerful and brave woman for speaking out about this.

    Thank you for posting.

    Natalie @ntljk

  32. Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I believe that sometimes boys will be boys and in some situations we say or do stuff that would seem bad when viewed from the outside looking in.

    Things can always look bad out of context and it can be difficult to interpret what is strictly banter and what is actually sexist and comes from a place of jealously, hate or ignorance.

    However it’s obvious that such extremes as these go far beyond the usual discussions of sexism that are periodically raised and into something that is clearly abhorrent and has no place in a modern society.

    It’s gone further than a few off the cuff comments and instead is just bullying and harassment. It’s unfortunate this person thinks such actions are acceptable; if only he spent more time looking for professional help he could have a positive impact on the world around him rather than trying to bring happy and successful people down to his sordid level.

    Though it can be difficult to ignore such a personal attack remember there’s many more out there who haven’t just evolved from the caveman attitude and are happy to hear what you have to say.

    • LNNS
      Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      That “boys will be boys” sentiment is exactly the problem, though…

      • Posted February 5, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        How so? Surely in the company of like minded people we can be and say what we wish so long as it causes no harm.

        Then when our environment changes we adapt and respect that what we may say or do in one instance may no longer be appropriate and could cause offense.

        In such instances we’re not hiding our true selves but instead simply being more empathetic to those affected by our actions.

        • LB
          Posted June 10, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

          By saying “boys will be boys” you are saying that this type of sexist behavior is a natural, inherent action that all men/boys do. It’s not. It’s a learned behavior, and by saying “boys will be boys”, you are excusing them of their absolutely horrible behavior by pushing it aside as an uncontrollable, natural instinct. That’s an apologist attitude, and does nothing to help the situation – in fact, it sets us back further.

          Men should be nothing than embarrassed at this situation and should take serious offense at your comment that “boys will be boys” because it means you’re telling them that they are simply not capable of being well-behaved.

  33. Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m often dumbfounded by the active denial that surrounds this entire issue; glad more people are sharing stories like this.

  34. Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing… I was at that conference – you, among all the other speakers, were a huge inspiration to me. It was my first Event Apart and it changed my career forever. Stay strong, keep up the great work, and keep speaking! I have to think that the number of good people outweigh the shitty ones. :)

  35. Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    This situation is infuriating. I’m thankful you spoke up and enlightened the community of what’s happening. And I’m glad that you’re not going to let this beat you down and stop you from future successes. Truly inspiring to professionals of all genders.

  36. kate de moore
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I am so sorry that you had to endure this. And IT IS NOT acceptable. I cannot tell you how disappointed in our society I am that after all these years we seems to have made such little progress in the war on sexism. I thought, in my youth, that none of this would affect my daughters. I could not have been more wrong. I am saddened that they, as young women, are subjected to the same harassment, humiliation and objectification that characterized my own youth. Shame on all of us.

  37. Aaron Gustafson
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Thank you for speaking up on this Sarah. This is awful and speaking about it is the first step toward addressing behavior like this.

    Please let me know if I can help in any way.

  38. Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    I thought we all worked in an equal, friendly and encouraging industry – I am totally shocked that this kind of thing happens!

    I am glad you have spoken out to bring a greater awareness of this completely unacceptable behaviour and can only hope that the person responsible is outed and dealt with as an example to others.

  39. jackie
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing what must have been a very painful episode for you. Keep up the good fight! You are an inspiration to the rest of us.

  40. Posted February 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    @Matt: “One only has to look at the sexist advertising at shows like E3 and CES where “booth babes” are dressed up to parade around and help sell the latest games and gadgets. As a society, by allowing that to continue, we’re really still saying that’s acceptable. And it’s not.”

    I agree. This sexism against men, where you as a male implicitly is told that nobody ever would want your ugly ass face to help sell products, has got to stop. Both women AND men should be given the oppurtunity to be admired as beautiful.

    • Stump Beefgnaw
      Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      the point

      your head

      • Stump Beefgnaw
        Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        Well, that failed spectacularly. Much like Martin’s comment.

  41. Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    As a man I’m ashamed of what my gender can do. Please, keep up the good work braking the silence and exposing this sexist behavior behing the scene. I wish the field welcomed more women instead of scaring them.

  42. Patrik Larsson
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for bringing this forward. It’s horrible that you were forced to endure this!

    You’ve suffered, but also know that you have the support from hundreds if not thousands of other designers in the world that would do anything to stop this from happening again.

    Again, thank you for speaking up, it was very brave!

    You’re a source of inspiration!

  43. Dave
    Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    If you dont know who did it, how do you know it was a man?

  44. Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing your experience Sarah. The more we hear about incidents like this, the harder it is to ignore them as one-offs or freak occurrences.

    I’ve seen your post has already encouraged other women to share similar experiences, so please allow me to share mine as a male.

    I have been on the web design speaking circuit for 9 years now. In that time, you can probably guess how many times I have been personally attacked. Correct: not once. I have had my ideas challenged, but no one has ever made it personal.

    That is the privilege of my gender. Anyone who would try to discount anonymous abuse of high profile members of our industry needs to know that it is, in fact, unequal.

  45. Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Not being US based, it’s sad to see this happening all over. It’s spread on most IT communities, everywhere.

    It’s easy to see why many girls think twice before choosing an IT career.

    Here in Brazil there is even an prejudice which most man think girls don’t fit for programming. It’s true that a woman and man have different profiles and most IT woman would prefer managing or some more analytic side, but that does not mean that we can’t have great woman programming. Ada, for instance, was the first of all.

    I do feel very happy, though, to see this issue exposed and all the great positive feedback your are receiving. It means we do have a large share of people that understands that issue and are in favor of equals chances and treatment to all genders.

  46. Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Kudos, Sharon, for speaking up! I recently became aware that this sort of thing not only still exists (foolish me, for having assumed we had evolved beyond such idiocy) but is all too common. Allow me to apologize for the behavior of some of the baser members of my gender.

    It’s crucial that women who experience this sort of thing speak up about it, as so many men seem to think it’s just isolated instances. I’m seeing the contrary… it seems to be rampant, and the women that speak up about it become pariahs. As a consequence, a lot of women apparently suffer in silence.

    Which, to me, makes it even more crucial that men stand up against it. Unfortunately, it’s too easy for some people to discount what they haven’t personally seen and may perceive as an assault on their own gender. Maybe hearing it from “one of their own” will receive more attention.

    As far as I’m concerned, a man that witnesses such behavior and doesn’t step up and speak out is just as bad as the perpetrator, as he’s enabling it. I don’t attend conferences anymore, so I can only speak out online now. Shining a little light on it can only help, IMO.

  47. Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing. I hope that your experience serves as a warning to organizers of conferences and related forums that a tiny bit of moderation and expectation-setting goes a long way.

    I’m sorry this happened to you.

  48. Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I am so sorry that you had to write this post.

    I want to give you all the support I can. Not just to be nice or because its the right thing to do, but for two amazingly self serving reasons.

    1. I have a daughter and I want her to do whatever she damn well wants to do without jerks pulling her down. I also don’t want to have to go to prison because some brogrammer mouthed off and I had to smack him.

    2. The industry is better with your voice in it. You are an excellent speaker and we need more diversity on our industry to make it better.

  49. Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    I have been inspired by this lady since the first time I saw her work – even came close to working with her on a project once. Consequently, it is sad to think that someone would stoop so low as to attempt to hurt someone who does so much good for this community. You certainly have my support @sazzy.

    I look forward to seeing what you have planned next and finding out how I can help. Until then, stay strong and feel empowered knowing that there are so many people, some you don’t even know personally, behind you.

  50. Posted February 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Permalink


    Well done for speaking up. Credit to you. It’s a bit of a wake up call to realise that this kinda crap still goes on. When inappropriate behaviour like this happens, it’s best to get it out in the open.
    Let me tell you that I’d happily hunt down this troll scumbag and those like him. By getting your story out there this might actually happen. I hope so!
    He and the guys who act like him, are simply idiots. Inarticulate fools who are essentially bullies hiding behind the internet. It’s time to call them out and simply ask.. wtf are you playing at? WTF man!!! What did you hope to gain by being a dick!?
    NB : I’ve been in the IT industry for twenty years now and the best programmers and designers I’ve ever worked with are women. I’ve also heard all the male bitchy comments from “dicks” who are simply too stupid to realise that they are threatened not by those women, but by their own inadequacies.

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