It seems a bit silly to be thrown into a minor pit of existential doubt by the whole dongle joke situation, but that’s how it happens sometimes. The story got me thinking about what was going through the participants’ minds at PyCon? That is, which of their personas were they acting as in each moment? Who were those guys at the moment they shared a joke at a conference? Who was the woman in the next row at the moment that she overheard the joke, and the second joke, and the last joke? Who was she when she tweeted their picture? And is it ironic that Anonymous is now involved?
The bottom line, in this instance, is that it didn’t have to happen this way. Two people, including the offended party, didn’t have to lose their jobs; the parties didn’t have to experience insults and threats; the conference organizers and the involved parties’ employers didn’t have to experience bad press and make tough decisions about whether to admonish their employees, refresh their training, or sever their employment completely.
The lesson for observers is not that sexism is rampant in tech circles, in my opinion. It’s that organizations that don’t have a well-informed and well-educated workforce, armed with a comprehensive understanding of their employers’ policies and procedures on both use of social platforms and reporting of harassment claims or any other potentially harmful situations, can expect an ugly situation sooner or later. If they’re a little bit lucky, it might not get this type of heavy coverage, but that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt.
Gartner has identified four priorities around identity and access management that CIOs must address in 2013, taking into account the growing use of social and mobile technologies, among others, and the blurring of the lines between our identities as employees and as individuals. It’s a high-level look at a simple fact: “Identities established on social media platforms are also being used for enterprise system access. Organizations that fail to get to grips with the challenges and opportunities of the nexus risk falling behind.”
Control of social media use is a moving target. Start with a policy that addresses current front-of-mind concerns and go ahead and schedule frequent updates. You’ll need them. Several policies, templates and guides are available in the IT Business Edge IT Downloads library. These may make getting started a bit quicker, but keep in mind that you will be doing a lot of rewriting to fit your organization’s practices and requirements:
Post-incident, PyCon has updated its conference code of conduct, and apparently taken a crowdsourcing approach to the task, which seems like a dev-centric thing to do, if not exactly necessary. And in the real world, most attendees won’t have the code of conduct of a conference or other short-term meeting or engagement at the front of their mind. They do, however, need to understand their employer’s compliance policies and codes. If the dongle joke story gave you any pause whatsoever about whether your people know how, when and where to make compliance or harassment reports, you have work to do. Don’t let the next tweet be the one that bites you.