Last Monday I published the least open and least transparent blog post GitHub has ever written.
We failed to admit and own up to our mistakes, and for that I’m sorry. GitHub has a reputation for being transparent and taking responsibility for our actions, but last week we did neither. There’s no excuse. We can do a lot better.
I’d like to share with you as much as I can about what happened and a bit about how GitHub is changing.
When the allegations against GitHub were raised publicly we took them seriously and within days launched an investigation into what happened. We hired Rhoma Young, an independent, third-party investigator that GitHub had never worked with before. Rhoma has a long history of conducting fair and impartial investigations, with 30+ years of HR experience. She has worked with every type of organization, from Fortune 50 companies to local governments, and frequently testifies as an expert witness for both plaintiffs and defendants in depositions, arbitrations, and in litigation involving discrimination, harassment, retaliation, disability, and mitigation of damages.
Most importantly, Rhoma does not have a history of siding with companies or otherwise being a partisan, industry spokesperson. Half of her litigation witness work is on the side of employees, half for companies. Her job is to investigate situations and figure out what actually happened, even when the people who hired her don’t want to hear it.
We gave Rhoma free rein to review all the media reports, public allegations, and HR records so she could create her own investigation and interview plan. She identified three key issues that she focused her investigation on: the claims about Tom and his wife, the claims about the male engineer, and the general culture and working environment at GitHub.
Rhoma identified the employees she wanted to talk to based on an initial list we provided, the evidence she gathered, employees who asked to speak with her, people Julie asked her to speak with, and anyone else she determined was relevant, including Julie herself. Ultimately she conducted over 50 interviews during a four week period. Along with the interviews, Rhoma gathered and reviewed evidence consisting of emails, texts, transcripts, and code from the dozens of current and former GitHubbers she spoke with. She then took everything she learned and summarized her findings for GitHub’s Board of Directors.
During the investigation, Rhoma promised participants confidentiality and we need to honor that promise. Rhoma’s report includes personal stories, private thoughts, documents, and all kinds of details that were shared for the purpose of the investigation, not for public consumption. We are trying to be transparent, but I hope you understand that there are privacy concerns preventing us from sharing the report in full. That said, I do want to provide more context for the findings we shared in last week’s blog post.
Founder allegations. The investigation found Tom Preston-Werner in his capacity as GitHub’s CEO acted inappropriately, including confrontational conduct, disregard of workplace complaints, insensitivity to the impact of his spouse’s presence in the workplace, and failure to enforce an agreement that his spouse should not work in the office. There were also issues surrounding the solicitation of GitHub employees for non-GitHub business and the inappropriate handling of employee concerns regarding those solicitations.
After being presented with the results we felt Tom could no longer be an effective leader at GitHub. He offered his resignation and we accepted.
- Engineer allegations. The investigation found no information to support misconduct or opportunistic behavior by the engineer against Julie or any other female employees in the workplace. Furthermore, there was no information found to support Julie’s allegation that the engineer maliciously deleted her code. The commit history, push log, and all issues and pull requests involving Julie and the accused engineer were reviewed. The investigation considered all possible commits surrounding the accusation of passive-aggressive code removal. One instance was found where the engineer updated and broke some CSS in an internal application, which was fixed in a later commit. The investigator determined this change did not appear malicious.
- GitHub’s working environment. Rhoma spent a significant amount of time investigating Julie’s claims of sexual and gender based harassment. After interviewing over 50 employees, former employees, and reviewing evidence, Rhoma found nothing to support a sexist or discriminatory environment at GitHub, and no information to suggest retaliation against Julie for making sex/gender harassment complaints. Employees were asked about their experiences here, good and bad. Women at GitHub reported feeling supported, mentored, and protected at work, and felt they are treated equitably and are provided opportunities.
Even so, we work in a world where inequality exists by default and we have to overcome that. Bullying, intimidation, and harassment, whether illegal or not, are absolutely unacceptable at GitHub and should not be tolerated anywhere. GitHub is committed to building a safe environment for female employees and all women in our community.
Our rapid growth left the leadership team, myself included, woefully unprepared to properly handle these types of situations. We’re very aware this is a weakness, now more than ever, and it’s naive to think we won’t have these issues in the future. But learning how to properly handle conflict and building a safe working environment are two of our most important priorities.
I’m sorry to everyone we let down, including Julie. I realize this post doesn’t fix or undo anything that happened. We’re doing everything in our power to prevent it from happening again. Recently we hired an experienced head of HR and we clearly documented channels of communication that any GitHubber who needs support can use to make sure problems are dealt with effectively, but know we need to do more. In May we’ll be sharing publicly the changes and the new initiatives we’re launching. We love GitHub and we want it to be an inclusive and welcoming company worthy of the amazing people in our community and the amazing people that work here.
Thank you to all the GitHub employees, fans, and critics who gave us feedback this week. Your blog posts, tweets, and emails told us we could do better, and you were right.