We Can Do Better: An Apology from Sqoot

Recently, we decided to host a hack-a-thon in Boston. Our goal: to bring developers together with the community and new technologies to build amazing things. Like any good party, we wanted great music, great people, and great food. We wanted to do better than pizza and soft drinks, and truly wanted everyone involved to benefit in a big way. We didn’t want developers to leave in the same cliques they came with because of a lack of cross-pollination nor did we want sponsors to spend thousands of dollars yet still miss connecting with ideal users. We really wanted to do better.

Unfortunately, we did worse. When we put together the original event page, we used language that we now realize was reckless and hurt efforts to diversify gender in tech. We immediately and deservedly received an enormous backlash. While we aimed to call attention to the male-dominated tech world through humor and intended to be inclusive, the gravity of our wording was just the opposite. Our words completely undermined our intentions and went further to harm the world we’re trying to have a positive impact on.

We apologize unequivocally to our sponsors, customers, friends and family, and community. We’d like to thank everyone for being so outspoken. As a young startup, we learned a lot today and are better people and a better company for it.

As we decide whether to continue with the event, or reschedule for another time, we will focus efforts on making sure that our event marketing is inclusive to all. We will do better.

If you have any questions, or want to chat, don’t hesitate to reach out.


Mo, Avand, & Sqoot

76 responses to “We Can Do Better: An Apology from Sqoot”

  1. Arthur says :

    Meg, I was not surprised at all, where did I say I don’t believe you? I make it perfectly clear that I wasn’t being sarcastic when I ask you to share the experience so we know where this is happening and we can do something to make the industry less discriminatory.I personally am not surprised to run into female engineers, nor am I interested in making assumptions that a female I run into at a tech event is in PM, HR, sales, etc. I think I’ve made it pretty clear that we note the joke as inappropriate, Sqoot apologized, and we move on. The one thing I was criticizing is how in speaking of this incident, a number of you are drawing on unpleasant encounters in the past in contexts that are likely to be irrelevant. This is how things get blown out of proportion and stacked up implications become a direct accusation. Again, I did not say I don’t believe you, nor did I say I’m dismissing the fact that the jokes were inappropriate – what I said is, denounce the incident, don’t start accusing people of doing things they didn’t do.Sqoot is Sqoot, they made a mistake, point taken. They’re not the guys at the trade conferences, so stop directing past grudges at them. Focus on this incident, but don’t go overboard.>> Perhaps they’d stop using headless stock photography of women to illustrate their posts. Maybe they’d read some bell hooks (her Feminism Is For Everyone is recommended) and engage in the personal examination and growth that is so obviously necessary.and that is because? ’cause these things teach the guys something they didn’t already know? The use of the word "growth" here is quite condescending – read the replies, there are other women telling people like you to lighten up and stop unnecessarily demonizing these guys at Sqoot, and what kind of response did they receive? So try to explain to me, even after they’ve apologized and acknowledged the fact that the joke was inappropriate, you’re telling them to go read books and get re-educated ’cause there’s some "fundamental issues on their part" – now do you see what the problem is? Why are we acting like we know the Sqoot guys all so well, and positing all these assumptions about what they believe and what they are? and then saying that growth is "so obviously necessary" – I’m not sure if I agree with your tone and this holier than thou position you’re assuming."we’re sorry if anyone was stupid enough to misinterpret our joke and be offended" => did they say this?

  2. Arthur says :

    In fewer words:DO: Help them figure out how to create event ads that won’t be construed as offensive or discriminatory. DON’T: Comment and/or attack their personalities, their beliefs, their lifestyles, their backgrounds that obviously neither you nor I know enough about.REALLY DON’T: Act like you know everything about being a proper human being, and talk about how to educate or make them "grow" in one way or another. They’re not scoundrels, so help them do better. Don’t act like you are in the position to lecture them about their views (which, again, you know very little about).

  3. Lou says :

    Wow. I have just finished commenting on a post on another blog encouraging women to get proactive about securing funding and not fall pray to the victim mentality … the one that tells us time and again that less than 7% of Female founded start ups are funded. I believed- and still do, that women are perfectly capable of securing funding … and that bias and stereotypes do not exist to the extent claimed. Getting on with the job and producing excellent work on par with anyone in the industry should put women in the same position for funding as any male founded start up. Your "jokes" have single handedly wiped out any confidence I had in this belief. You have done a major disservice to both the males in this industry who play fair and the industry in general.

  4. C M says :

    Meg: Thank you for giving such a reasonable, intelligent, and level-headed response. Keep fightin the good fight. :] (but never use the non-word "irregardless" again, ack ack ack)Arthur: http://therealkatie.net/blog/2012/mar/21/lighten-up/

  5. Brandy says :

    @Arthur: The best way to write things that won’t be "construed as" offensive or discriminatory is to write things that *aren’t* offensive or discriminatory. The best way to do *that* is to not think in discriminatory ways. If they can’t currently do that without coaching, then they need some of that growth that Meg suggested and you just pooh-poohed.They have received some very useful comments that can help them avoid this in the future, including Meg’s. You seem to be attacking these comments because they suggest making changes that go beyond "avoid the following words."

  6. Arthur says :

    >> The best way to write things that won’t be "construed as" offensive or discriminatory is to write things that *aren’t* offensive or discriminatory. The best way to do *that* is to not think in discriminatory ways. If they can’t currently do that without coaching, then they need some of that growth that Meg suggested and you just pooh-poohed.I have no joke to tell, you just stole my thunder.have a great night.

  7. LukeThomasC says :

    @Meg Wait, women get PAID to be on the dance floor?! This is discrimination! How do I get that gig?

  8. hendrey says :

    I looked at Sqoot’s other blogposts–the ones that Scooter posted farther up in this thread:http://blog.sqoot.com/sqoot-goes-topless-12839http://blog.sqoot.com/sqoot-makes-you-yelpUmm… have you guys matured at all since you hit puberty? Adults don’t treat their corporate communications like an adolescent’s bedroom wall. This stuff is just embarrassing!This photo is not a "mistake" you made; it is what you view as an appropriate way to illustrate your official company blog. You believe it is appropriate and clever to use an irrelevant, overtly sexualized image of a topless woman taking off her pants and undies to illustrate topics like affiliate commission structure and corporate transparency. In fact, you try hard to come up with an excuse to post the image. The post is about transparency, which you stretch to the headline "Sqoot Goes Topless," and which you then stretch to illustrate with the entirely inappropriate image of the semi-clad, anonymous woman.If you understood the boundaries of decent corporate humor, the only kind of topless photo that you would have used–although still an irrelevant choice for the piece–would have been something like an intentionally and ironically *un-sexualized* image–like Fabio’s un-sexy opposite-guy leaping into the air in a goofy pose, with really silly swim trunks on and a big, bare chest. I know, I know; it’s so tame and you wouldn’t get to say your job pays you to search for boobies on stock photography sites. Dude, it would be so lame!Grow up! You’re not Playboy. You’re not American Apparel. You’re not Victoria’s Secret. You’re not a frat. You’re not the perpetual misnomer "gentlemen’s" club, although you give the impression of considering your workplace as just that. You are just really, really juvenile.The reason people are saying your apology "isn’t enough" is because what they also want is for you to grow up, and you haven’t yet.

  9. anon says :

    Any light-hearted expression of the fact that men are attracted to women seems to be verboten now… Guys, do yourselves a favor. Just ban women entirely. The remaining 99% of coders will still come, and you will save yourselves the angst of listening to this whiny BS. No distractions.

  10. warpaul says :

    I guess PR isn’t dead after all. I hope the tech community at large can use this as a major learning opportunity and change from it, because any man that truly loves and appreciates women should see the wrongdoing here and want to make it right — not through apology letters or feeble commentary — but through action. I challenge Avand and his co-founders to recognize the new found position they’re in and leverage it to "do better" by making the tech world suck less, beyond the stack… Your status as a very useful tool for developers can be hugely persuasive in this regard. So I hope you take this as an opportunity for improvement, build off the publicity and shine a light on the problematic issues of women in tech. Or you can put your headphones back on, forget it ever happened and continue coding, ignorant of the opportunity in front of you. Distraction? Opportunity? Your choice.

  11. jph says :

    I find it HIRALIOUS that Ms. McDowell started a company (CareerCup) whose name obviously emphasizes the fact that it is a female run business and capitalizes on most (male) nerds’ attraction to breasts.Also, direct from her profile at careercup.com: ""You can find her stalk her online at:" (The find her is struck out, obviously an attempt at (sexist) humor)This is the CEO and founder who apparently thinks it’s OK to play the sexist card when it suits her.show more

  12. jph says :

    PS – Ms. McDowell is gayle, the second responder to this blogpost

  13. C M says :

    >I find it HIRALIOUS that Ms. McDowell started a company (CareerCup) whose name obviously emphasizes the fact that it is a female run business and capitalizes on most (male) nerds’ attraction to breasts.wtffffff? you trollin’? it’s a cup of coffee, any normal person can see that from the logo. Get your head checked, sociopath.

  14. Mackenzie says :

    @jph:What? As CM said, that’s a cup of coffee, but before I saw the logo, when I only saw in giant text "Want to ace the interview? We can help" I thought of trophy cups…like the Stanley Cup (Go Pens).

  15. jph says :

    C M: Internet trolling is posting "inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages" to provoke readers to an emotional response. The first part of my post was humor. But all 4 of your posts here certainly qualify as "trolling".Sociopath, really? From the National Institute of Mental Health: "Sociopaths have little regard for the feelings of others and manipulate others in order to get what they desire. The term "sociopath" is no longer used in psychology and psychiatry" I think by throwing that word around, it shows YOUR true colors.No comment on the more relevant part of my post about her profile and obvious sexism? No surprise there. Keep picking and choosing to warp things around your myopic view. That’s a college-level word myopic, it means shortsighted or blurred.

  16. C M says :

    jph: I’m just gonna point you up to Simon’s comment with the link to "mansplaining."

  17. OneManicNinja says :

    When organizations with ONLY men in charge start to include women in the planning/production/organization of events, sexism will virtually VANISH.

  18. CynthiaSchames says :

    It would be MUCH easier to accept this contrite-sounding apology if not for the fact that blatant sexism and/or objectification of women appears to be a consistent theme within your company. Read old blog posts.

  19. Ryan Kaldari says :

    Glad to hear you guys are taking this seriously and will hopefully learn from the experience. Treating women as outsiders in the tech world is unfortunately all too common. The only way we can improve things is to be proactive and learn from our mistakes.

  20. Anon says :

    I call bullshit. I’m a woman working for a big tech company and I find this (and the apologies) entirely offensive. Not to mention some of these comments are just appalling and blatantly ignorant. Thank you everyone else who is not blinded by this fake, robotic "apology" for standing up to sexism when you see it.

  21. Stella_Omega says :

    If you wanted to draw attention to the sexism in geek culture– making sexist comments was not the way to do it. Irony doesn’t read very well in the context of the un-ironic and constant sexism women face, so it’s best to avoid subtle humor regarding this. Nobody is inclined to give a stranger the benefit of the doubt when they themselves never reap that benefit. In other words, you might be a very astute and aware man, who would welcome a female colleague and not make her life any more difficult than it already is. But untill she knows that you are NOT a self-absorbed and misogynistic man who is going to make her baselin experience a little worse, she’s going to read the clues you put out with apprehension. She will put your little jokes in the worst light, because she can’t afford not to.

  22. T says :

    @jph,You see the word "cup" — which can be used in a variety of ways but most commonly refers to a beverage holder — and immediately assume it’s a bizarre reference to her chest. Whether intentionally or not, you have identified yourself as the kind of creepy internet stalker that women with public identities on the internet are scared of. For that, "sociopath" seems like a fine synonym.Don’t want to be called a sociopath? Don’t post like one.

  23. J says :

    How about this? http://blog.sqoot.com/sqoot-goes-topless-12839 Do you think you can do better than that?

  24. Yann says :

    "But untill she knows that you are NOT a self-absorbed and misogynistic man"Unfortunately, women who stereotype men like that are part of the problem… I’ve NEVER seen a girl complain when I carry the heavy bags, pick up the check at the restaurant, or install the a/c in the window… And I dont have a problem with it either. The point is: women and men are equal, but they are not the same. For historical reasons, sexism from a man has much more serious repercussions, just like racism from a white person… But that doesn’t make it ok for women to look down upon men. Women look down upon men at least as much and as often as men look down upon women.The only way to stop the vicious circle is to start with yourself and your stereotypes.

  25. Manu says :

    Calling women as "perks" is definitely wrong. Ms Gayle’s analysis of ‘why it was wrong’ (in her blog) felt so correct. I agree with all the 4 points she mentioned.But now that they’re apologizing publicly, that too multiple times (even creating a bitly url), I think we should let this go. Analyzing their apology over and over was a bit too much. As long as they mean their apology, comprehensiveness of aspects covered in apology need not be scrutinized to the extent that any apology will invalidated.

  26. Locke says :

    Gayle and Eric and I’m sure others in here have to get their fucking tampons out of their fucking asses. Holy shit. You people are pathetic. so quick to jump up and find a reason to get offended. Shit happens, move on. Don’t try to increase your own self-worth by attaching yourself to a "controversy", you fucking rejects.

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