More Feathers: Responding to unfounded accusations against me

Update: I have since learned that Paul J Swider was previously a Microsoft MVP but he is no longer part of the Program. None of my business and that’s all I know.

I woke up to this untrue accusation on Twitter made against me on Saturday morning.

Credit: Paul J Swider, Twitter, 6th June 2020

At first, I wasn’t going to comment because the accusations were so wild and ludicrous, that I didn’t know where to start. I then spotted that Mr Swider had deleted a series of tweets. I have removed the names of the other people mentioned so that I am not repeating the accusations because I do not agree with them. You can see the deleted tweets below, and you can see that Scott Hanselman has been sucked in. Note that Scott Hanselman has got nothing to do with this and my interactions with Scott have always been professional and good; there should be more kind people like Scott in the universe and definitely in the tech world.

However, I was approached and asked about the accusations and I realized that my reputation, which I’ve built up over years if not decades, was being besmirched. Despite Mr Swider’s attempts to backtrack and delete his accusations, the accusations were seen here in the UK. It was early UK time and I woke up to this horrendous accusation and a slew of messages letting me know that I was being accused. I feel that I can only respond here to say the following:

These public accusations made against me by Mr Swider in his tweet are simply not true.

Do I believe that Black Lives Matter? Yes, and I have the evidence to show that I have believed this for years and I have been working to this goal in the technical community. Here are some examples of the work I’ve tried to do in order to promote diversity in speakers and audiences:

  1. The last event I tried to organise was called Diversity in the Cloud, and I had arranged for local LGBT charities and I understood that Stonewall had shown an interest. However, Microsoft pulled funding from Reactor events and this had an impact on my event, which had to be cancelled five weeks before it was due to happen, because I didn’t have time to find another sponsor in time. So if I was part of some European conspiracy, why was I trying to arrange events that were specifically focused on Diversity?
  2. I have been supporting a female leadership group here in the UK. If you look at their website, it is run by women of colour and I am proud to be supporting them. They are part of my journey and I believe in what they are trying to achieve.
  3. As part of the PASS Board organisation, I ran events for Women in Technology for almost ten years. After four years, I did not put myself up for re-election since I wanted to focus on a few personal goals, such as achieving my MBA degree, and I believed that I had spent enough time – well over a decade – in setting up a good structure for other women to come after me. That absolutely includes doing my utmost best to include women, particularly those of colour, to engage and take leadership roles. One thing we did to at PASS was specifically invite women of colour to do our keynotes so that we could showcase their awesome skills. In this way, I helped thousands of people to see women of colour giving keynotes and Women in Technology in the US so I have a clear lineage of trying to do something positive. And note that every single one of these women was totally awesome and I am humbled by their experience, wisdom, and expertise.
  4. I also helped develop the Anti-Harassment Policies at PASS and I tried to develop my own open source code of conduct. That’s been on GitHub for some time and I blogged about it on Medium here.

So, back to these accusations. They are hurtful and I do not know why I have been selected for this treatment. Out of all the community members in Europe, Swider has made this comment about me which has gone out to his 10K followers, some of whom have been in touch to let me know. It is hugely hurtful and I don’t know how to start to defend myself other than to show my credentials. At no point, has Mr Swider offered to help me in any of these initiatives, which would have been a proactive effort to help achieve the objectives of greater diversity in the speaker pool AND the audience.

As a prominent woman in technology, I do want to apologise to other women for whom I’ve misled into thinking that there are no more problems for us in this space. I want to shout that there are problems, but I have been silent for too long and it is now time to speak out. I am fed up being bullied, undermined and silenced to be a ‘nice girl’. Unfortunately, this is an example of what it is like to be a woman who has tried to stand up and be counted. It can just put you in the way of fire because you have dared to put your head above the parapet, despite having over a decade’s experience in trying to help make our technical community more diverse. I have blogged previously in 2015 about efforts then to diminish me publicly and now I am suffering again at the hands of someone who thinks it is ok to publicly say something that damages me. And don’t think that this is just a problem in how men treat women; women can be just as bad. I just want us all to be kinder to one another.

So if Mr Swider or anyone has evidence to support these false statements, please send them to me at jen stirrup at datarelish dot com. Note that I will publish any email, private message, voicemail or anything else that I receive. I want to shout to the world that I am sick fed up of being treated like this and life is too short to keep sucking it up. So please do send me any more tweets that have been deleted. I’m sick of this insidious attack on my reputation.

I barely know who Paul J. Swider is. I don’t hate him. I don’t even know him. I would not recognize him if I saw him. He has assumed an importance in my life which he simply does not have. From my research, he has presented at Microsoft Ignite. I do not recall ever having met him in person. A search of my email shows that he occasionally writes emails to MVP that I am on, so he must be (or have been) a Microsoft MVP at some point. If Microsoft choose to award him, then that is up to them. I have had nothing to do with the guy. (1) I don’t know why he thinks people are discrediting him; when he tweets like that, he does a pretty good job of it himself.

To summarise, I have been treated disgustingly here. Mr Swider, it is so easy to delete your poisonous accusations on Twitter but not so easy to delete them here. You can’t just say things on Twitter, delete it and shrug your shoulders. I will not tolerate these foundless accusations. So let’s hear your answer, or your profoundest apology.

So bring your evidence to support the accusation here. I am big enough to take it and if it means that you are not targeting someone else, then that is a good thing. I have been through enough at the hands of men before, and you have a way to go before you can make me feel as bad as that.

So bring it.

(1) I have since learned that Paul J Swider was previously a Microsoft MVP but he is no longer part of the Program. None of my business and that’s all I know.

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