News, Insights and Stories from the Australian and New Zealand tech ecosystem.

Atlassian founders publicly apologise for sexist presentation

The founders of Atlassian, a 14-year-old Australian-founded maker of enterprise software, were quick to publicly apologise after one of the company’s engineers made sexist remarks in his presentation at the AtlasCamp developer conference in Berlin, Germany.

In one slide, the engineer compared Apache Maven – an automation tool used primarily for Java projects – to his girlfriend. He said saying it “looks beautiful, complains a lot, demands my attention, interrupts me when I’m working, doesn’t play well with my other friends”.

In the public apology letter, published on Atlassian’s blog, co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar write that what was presented on the slide doesn’t reflect the company’s values and that it was an oversight on their behalf to have allowed the presentation to take a turn for the worst.

We are sorry for having allowed this offensive slide into an AtlasCamp presentation. The content does not reflect our company values – nor our personal values as co-founders and individuals. Quite simply, it’s not OK.

Sexism is a difficult issue for the tech industry, and today we didn’t make it any better.

We are going through all the events that allowed this slide to reach the public. We’ve already started immediate action. Where our organisation and process were lacking, we will add oversight. Where our culture is at fault, we will change that culture.

Kudos to the founders for taking responsibility for such a major blunder, and investigating whether the company culture has played any part in perpetuating sexist attitudes, or whether there has been an oversight. 

It does bring back to light the issue of sexism in the tech industry. How are women to feel comfortable in an industry where their male counterparts don’t respect them?

Until perceptions change, behaviour won’t.

Image source: BRW.

For more on the issue of sexism in the tech startup industry: ‘If you can’t see it, you can’t be it’: Female founders crushing stereotypes.