(Photo by Juliana Reyes)
The last time we heard from Girl Develop It (GDI), in April, the women’s tech training organization was imploding.
Following a number of complaints about racism within the company, the nonprofit had lost a number of chapter leaders, a board chair and finally an executive director. But after a rocky start to the year, GDI’s Philly chapter seems to be once again active, with its first scheduled event since its former head declared a hiatus in January (though technically, national leaders noted at the time, “hiatus” isn’t a formal status).
The one-part course titled “What the tech? Begin your journey into tech” is an introductory class for people interested in learning about or finding a career in tech. Taught by app developer Ruthie Fields, the class is scheduled on Meetup for May 29, over four months since the chapter’s last event — which itself was a community town hall addressing the controversy surrounding the organization.
By contrast, in the previous year, the local chapter hosted as many as seven educational or social events per month and was seen as a stalwart of Philly tech meetups. According to an updated timeline of events posted with the open letter penned by former chapter leaders and others in December, only 12 meetups have been scheduled across nine chapters in May, and only three are scheduled across two for June. Previously, GDI had as many as 63 active chapters.
GDI HQ announced in mid-April that it had added two new board members and named new officers. It hasn’t put out any public statements since, and members of its national leadership team didn’t provide answers to Technical.ly’s questions about plans for the Philly chapter before publish, including whether a new chapter leader had been selected; we’ll update this story if we hear back.
Former chapter leader Suzie Nieman, who resigned in protest in January, is skeptical of the organization’s possible revival, noting the number of chapter leaders who have also stepped down in recent months.
“We have not seen any real ownership or accountability outside of vague statements, and we have seen zero organizational change, which means that GDI plans to continue as-is, guaranteeing further harm to marginalized individuals,” said Nieman, who organized the active Slack community We Evolve after leaving GDI.
The quiet departure of former Executive Director Corinne Warnshuis in April wasn’t nearly enough to earn back the trust of former supporters, Nieman said, since no other substantial policy or personnel changes have been made, no public apologies for past behavior has been issued, and the main demands of the open letter have not been addressed.
For those interested in supporting women in the tech community, Nieman suggests individuals “put their energy and money elsewhere” in women-of-color-led organizations such as Philly Tech Sistas and We Pivot.
Full disclosure: Girl Develop It Executive Director Corinne Warnshuis worked as an events coordinator for Technical.ly from 2013 to 2014. That relationship is unrelated to this report.
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