It’s been two months since GitHub publicly shared the results of an independent investigation the harassment allegations cited by prominent coder Julie Ann Horvath. Yet the startup is again making headlines in a Wall Street Journal story about Silicon Valley’s human resources problem, suggesting the incident won’t soon be forgotten. Instead, it’s becoming an object lesson for GitHub—and the many startup builders who both use its code-sharing services and look to it as a success story.
Comments within the story and Horvath’s own Twitter posts about the WSJ reporter Evelyn Rusli’s attempts to contact her over the past months illustrate how tense the situation remains.
Horvath, GitHub’s first full-time designer and developer, left the company, citing gender-based harassment, including several run-ins with the wife of co-founder and CEO Tom Preston-Werner . In the wake of the ensuing investigation, founder and CEO Tom Preston-Werner left shortly after.
An external investigation found a lack of personal and professional boundaries within GitHub, but no evidence of misogyny or proof of Horvath’s accusation that her code had been altered by a male employee after she rebuffed his romantic overture.
The WSJ’s Rusli spoke to 20 GitHub employees for the piece. None said they’d witnessed harassment at GitHub. Notably, 60% of the startup’s employees work remotely, and some “toxic” behavior Horvath described on Twitter and an interview with Tech Crunch was not necessarily overt.
Prior to the story’s publication, Horvath posted the initial email interview with Rusli on an area of GitHub’s website, the company’s software bulletin board. In it, Horvath makes clear she does not agree with the investigation’s findings. She also expands on how GitHub founder Chris Wanstrath and employee Ryan Tomayko could have handled the conflict to her satisfaction.
If they had just listened and if HR had just addressed what had happened, I would have been satisfied. They never prioritized a healthy work environment.
Horvath also shared her frustration with Rusli regarding the reporter’s pursuit for an interview on Twitter.
Rusli’s story, however, is more about the lack of adequate human resources within Silicon Valley’s startup culture than Horvath’s own experiences.
Without GitHub’s Preston-Werner to take his former role of speaking to the media, the burden was left to current Github CEO Chris Wanstrath to discuss the state of the company. The neutral tone of his statements are as politic as any CEO attempting to defuse an ongoing public relations nightmare.
“When you’re building a company, you think a lot about the future, but it’s important to learn from the mistakes you’ve made in the past and use that to become a better company,” he told the WSJ.
Wanstrath has demonstrated an effort to overcome a company culture that Horvath called “toxic,” doing away with the infamous “meritocracy rug,” and publicizing with the results of GitHub’s internal investigation.
See also: GitHub Tries Again At Transparency
After reviewing the details of the case, the WSJ ends with a quote that reveals how Horvath’s departure, which she shared in great detail on Twitter, continues to reverberate within the company.
“If you can just name anyone and call ‘harasser’ and the Internet will listen, that scares me as an employee,” Christine Brodigan, a GitHub employee, told the WSJ.
Regardless of sides GitHub’s employees and invested onlookers take, it’s clear this conversation is far from over. How this affects the company’s future remains to be seen.