Girl Develop It issues public response to open letter from its base - Delaware


Dec. 14, 2018 12:50 pm

Girl Develop It issues public response to open letter from its base

In a Medium post, the nonprofit's board of directors laid out a series of internal actions. Here's what we know.

Girl Develop It organizes web dev classes for women.

(Courtesy photo)

An open letter addressed to Girl Develop It’s Board of Directors – undersigned by close to 200 current and former chapter leaders, volunteers, students and the like who demanded for changes in leadership  – has now been publicly responded by way of a Medium post published Wednesday.

As reported by Roberto Torres of Philly, the response to a similar statement sent earlier this week to chapter leaders has been tepid.

As of this writing, of the 45 Girl Develop It chapters that have been active in the last 18 months, 21 have either gone on hiatus or have announced plans to, nine have parted ways with the GDI brand (together known as chapters participating in a “GDI Strike”), three have stated their intention to continue operations and 12 have unknown intentions.

(These numbers are constantly changing. A running tally can be seen here).

GDI’s private response letter to chapter leaders was signed by board members Brenda Jin, Erica Baker and Janelle Jolley. Jolley was elected as Treasurer of the GDI board in May, at the same time Shanice Barona, (who told her story of dealing with racism working at GDI Headquarters on an episode of the #causeascene podcast, leading to the open letter), was elected as Secretary. The board was scheduled for re-election in September, during the organization’s Leadership Summit.


If you’ve been following the timeline, this was the same weekend former Minneapolis chapter leader Amy Gebhardt published the article “Reflecting on my time as a GDI Minneapolis Chapter Leader” on Medium, which shook up the summit, as former Wilmington Chapter Leader Jocelyn Harper told Delaware in October.

We have not been able to confirm if those re-elections happened, but Barona told Philly that the board’s terms ended in September.

Executive Director Corinne Warnshuis, who was mentioned in Barona’s podcast episode, did not sign the response, and was not mentioned in the document.

Thus far, there’s only been one leadership change at the organization: cofounder and GDI board president Vanessa Hurst stepped down from her board chair position, a move that was announced in an internal Slack message in tandem with the response to the open letter.

Harper, who has no current relation to the organization, claims the two are unrelated. “[Hurst] definitely did not step down because of the open letter,” she said. “She was going to step down because of family issues and her term had been up.”

The GDI board did not immediately respond to a request for clarification, but an unnamed source with ties to the organization did, agreeing that the two things are unrelated.

“Vanessa’s departure was communicated over Slack as the GDI team shared the open letter,” the source said. “But her departure was not part of the response to the open letter, and leadership never implied it was (they just shared the news in addition to the open letter response).”

The letter itself is apologetic and lays out an action plan for dealing with racial misconduct moving forward, as well as a to-do list of policies it plans to revisit in 2019, including childcare, scholarship limits and transportation.

The letter, which was provided to Delaware by the same source, makes no mention of any leadership stepping down:

We heard your concerns about GDI HQ leadership and are evaluating the fitness and performance of the GDI HQ leadership team, as well as overseeing an investigation of complaints. As part of that, we are reviewing documentation and soliciting more information. If you have any further details to contribute to our investigation, please use the incidents reporting form to document any violations of the Code of Conduct that you have experienced. Upon the conclusion of this investigation, we will share an update to chapter leaders about our findings and actions that we will take.

The cities on hiatus include Philadelphia, New York, Richmond, Rochester, Buffalo, Austin, Dayton, Cincinnati, Raleigh-Durham, Fargo, Ann Arbor, Portland, Boston, Chicago, Boulder/Denver, San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle.

The Wilmington chapter has been inactive since Harper’s departure in early October.

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