A female tech entrepreneur alleges she faced character assassination and career sabotage by two “women in tech” groups over her conservative beliefs, including Google’s Women Techmakers.
Senior software engineer and co-founder of Polyglot Programming Marlene Jaeckel says that Martin Omander, Google Developer Group program manager for North America, formally banned her from the Google Developer Group and Google Women Techmakers after complaints from a feminist activist who objected to her moderate conservative positions.
According to Jaeckel , Omander “declined to provide me with any details of the complaints against me or the rules that I’d allegedly violated.”
In a Medium post published earlier this week, Jaeckel explained that the two Atlanta-based feminists who reported her to Google, local Women Who Code director Alicia Carr and Atlanta Google Women Techmakers organizer Maggie Kane, had become hostile to her after a series of disagreements over politics, and repeatedly sought to damage her career.
The publicly-stated objectives of both Women Who Code and Google Women Techmakers are, ostensibly, non-partisan. Women Who Code says their goal is to “inspire women to excel in technology careers,” while Google Women Techmakers says they merely wish for “visibility, community, and resources for women in technology.”
None of these organizations openly say that Republican or conservative women are excluded from their goals. Yet Jaeckel , a senior software engineer and co-founder of a tech company, says that is the reason why Carr and Kane sought to both exclude her from the groups and sabotage her career in tech.
According to Jaeckel ‘s account, which can be read in full at Medium, she had a falling-out with Carr over a number of issues, including her opposition to gender-segregated classes. Jaeckel says she was also banned from two other coding workshops in Atlanta because the founders “strongly objected” to her conservative political views.
Unfortunately, during the Women Who Code hackathon, it became clear to me that this event focused on marketing strategies, creativity, and the discussion of gender politics, and not on the development of technical skills. At the group presentations and award ceremony, I observed that my group of mentees were being discouraged from discussing any of the technical details of the fully-functional application they had developed in less than two days, and I expressed my frustration about it on Twitter, stating that “when you’re a mentor and your mentees don’t get the recognition they deserve, you go to bat.”
In August 2016, Alicia reached out me via email and private Slack messages. She proposed forming a class for female coders who were interested in learning iOS development and asked me to tutor these students. I told her that I’d be glad to teach if the class also included males. She refused, stating that “I need everybody and anybody to help my Women and I’m sorry there is a gender issues [sic] but right now it [sic] about my ladies.” We were unable to reach an agreement, so I declined.
In September 2016, I again crossed paths with Alicia at a monthly meeting of the Atlanta iOS Developers group. She was extremely irate over my Twitter comment and my refusal to teach women-only classes. She became loud and disruptive during the meeting and the event’s organizer had to intervene repeatedly.
Despite her hostility, I still wanted to participate in Alicia’s ConnectTech panel discussion. I spent weeks preparing to represent iOS developers and the “Apple way” of doing things. Alicia was, however, completely unprepared to moderate and many of the attendees were visibly disappointed. Shortly after the session, Alicia posted disparaging remarks about me on Twitter, implying that she had to “carry the iOS side” and that I failed to contribute anything to the panel discussion.
Following this incident, I had limited interaction with other women in technology groups in Atlanta until January 2017, when I decided to volunteer as a mentor for a RailsGirls and RailsBridge workshop. Within hours of signing up, both organizations banned me from their groups and events. They even enlisted the help of two young white male developers to replace me as a mentor. Although the organizers of both groups declined to provide me with a formal explanation and refused to explain why or how I had allegedly violated their codes of conduct, I later learned that they strongly objected to my conservative political views. In addition, they were also friends of Alicia.
Jaeckel later volunteered to assist the Atlanta chapter of Google Women Techmakers, which was then being organized by Maggie Kane, and says she worked to secure a venue and speakers for their event. However, after viewpoint diversity advocate James Damore was fired from Google, Jaeckel says her public support for him drew a backlash.
In mid-September 2017, Maggie contacted me and told me that Alicia, acting on behalf of Women Who Code, had sent her an email to lodge a written complaint against me and Polyglot Programming. She stated that Women Who Code refused to work with the Atlanta GDG, or attend or sponsor any of the group’s events because of my involvement. Then she added that Alicia had accused me of harassing and doxxing Women Who Code members by contacting their employers to get them fired.
I was absolutely dumbfounded by these ludicrous allegations. It made no sense — I’ve had almost no interaction with Women Who Code’s members beyond my exchanges with Alicia Carr. It’s simply not in my nature to harass anyone and I’ve always been strongly opposed to retaliatory actions like doxxing and no-platforming.
Maggie informed me that she had forwarded Alicia’s statements to Google and that she had also filed a written complaint with Google because I had “violated the codes of conduct”. She even felt that it might be best if I stopped attending any GDG and Google Women Techmakers events, because members might be “triggered” by my presence.
When Jaeckel later sought to attend an event organized by Google Women Techmakers, a group of which she was still a member, she was asked to leave by Kane, who said she held views that were “very harmful to gender equality.” Jaeckel also claims that Kane falsely accused her of “stalking” her, after which Jaeckel and her company were banned from a number of influential tech groups in Atlanta.
Two days later, I got an email from TechSquare Labs. Daniel had discussed the incident with Allen Nance, Paul Judge, and Rodney Sampson, the owners of the facility, and he informed me that they had collectively decided to ban me and my company from using their venue or attending any of their events because they were concerned about the “safety” of their members. I later learned from a fellow developer that Maggie had, in fact, told various people that I’d been stalking her. She also recruited a young white male developer, David Hope, to replace my partner Lance as GDG organizer and invited David to act as her co-organizer for Google Women Techmakers.
The following week, Martin Omander, GDG program manager for North America, formally banned me from the Google Developer Group and Google Women Techmakers and, again, declined to provide me with any details of the complaints against me or the rules that I’d allegedly violated.
At this point, says Jaeckel , she realized that the “women in tech” activists had become “determined to ostracize me from the tech industry and ruin the business that I’ve painstakingly built .”
Her story, in particular the intervention from Google’s Martin Omander, bears many similarities to that of James Damore, who was fired from Google after expressing a moderate critique of the company’s diversity agenda and for calling for more political tolerance. Like Damore, Jaeckel says she is now facing censure from Google and Google-backed activists over her moderate conservative politics.
Jaeckel has now taken to the legal system to fight back:
I decided that it was time to fight back. I retained renowned civil rights lawyer and GOP official Harmeet Dhillon, who sent a cease and desist letter to Women Who Code, Alicia Carr, Maggie Kane, and Google. In the letter, we demanded a full retraction of the defamatory statements about me. I also requested to have my GDG and Google Women Techmakers memberships reinstated, because I’d been unfairly banned based on false allegations and not on any actual code of conduct violations.
In a comment to Breitbart News, Maggie Kane denied the allegations made against her in Jaeckel ‘s story, calling them “untrue on many counts and defamatory towards me.”
Kane also claims she received an email from someone who “read Marlene’s article and accused me of being a criminal, which is also defamatory and untrue.”
“I hope Marlene’s legal counsel directs her to retract these defamatory statements and personal attacks towards me as they are causing unnecessary harm to our free and volunteer-run tech community groups here in Atlanta.”
Alicia Carr, Martin Omander, and Google did not return requests for comment.