IMs and Emails Support Allegations About the Toxic Culture at GitHub

Advocates for gender equality in the tech industry were not impressed by GitHub's internal investigation into claims of institutionalized hostility towards women and harassment in the workplace. Least of all the female engineer who brought those claims to light.

Julie Anne Horvath kept her alleged harassers anonymous when she first spoke out about the toxic culture and hostility towards women at GitHub. But now she's naming names. Or rather, more names besides cofounder Tom Preston-Werner and his wife Theresa Preston-Werner, who committed "errors of judgement," such as making every day Bring Your Wife to Work Day. After GitHub said its third-party investigators cleared Preston-Werner of legal wrongdoing, it still resigned.

I asked Horvath to elaborate about their abuse of power. Here is the email she sent in response. It alleges that Timothy Clem (Preston-Werner's "right-hand man") and Heather Baldry, GitHub's former head of HR, were complicit in pushing Horvath out of the company. On LinkedIn, Baldry's title is listed as both "Magician" and "Happiness Responsibilibuddy."

Horvath also provided emails and instant messages to support her claims. The IMs at the top of this post, about Theresa Preston-Werner "literally setting up an office on the second floor" and Tom Preston-Werner being a "total fucking liar," were between Horvath and her partner at the time, Zach Holman.

- @tnm, Ted Nyman is the engineer and ex-friend of mine who systematically bullied me out of our code base because I wouldn't fuck and/or date him.

- @timothyclem was Tom Preston-Werner's right hand man at GitHub. He used his relationship with the (former) CEO to bully people, and more specifically, women at the company on several occasions, eventually targeting me, leaking private, internal threads to the likes of the company Geeklist who formerly ostracized and attacked activist Shanley Kane for speaking out against their sexist marketing tactics. After I brought them up in an internal thread about sponsorships and exposed their former abuse of women in the community, I started receiving emails and tweets from their founder asking me to "forgive" him.

+ He was very active in tone-policing, literally sending me emails with the words "watch your tone", and chastising me both privately and publicly because of his friendship with Tom. Tim is even responsible for such gems as "do you no want to hire [a female candidate] because all of the boys [here] want to date her?" in emails to female colleagues of mine at GitHub.

- @Holman is my ex-partner. He was complicit in the actions of both Tom and Theresa Preston-Werner and even admitted to plotting with Theresa Preston-Werner to get women at the company fired. He should be let go from GitHub and I regret being kind to him in previous interviews.

- One person I alluded to in my recent tweets that I have kept private until now is Heather Baldry, who ran HR at GitHub until January of this year. The rumor I was accused of starting in the medium post from Jane Doe I have heard several times at GitHub, first when I joined GitHub and then several times after from Heather's herself. The only time I've alluded to this rumor is in the context of Theresa harassing me. Heather sat in complete and utter silence as Tom blamed and harassed me for initiating it. She was also complicit in the abuse I sustained as an employee at GitHub and conducted a witch hunt for female employees who Theresa felt threatened by at the request of Tom.

Here is the email response from Tom when I asked for another founder to be present during our conversation as well as a chat log with Heather when I asked her, the only HR employee at the time, to attend the meeting as an objective, third party.

I'd also like to include a screenshot of the conversation between myself and my partner at the time, Zach Holman, the day Theresa verbally attacked me in my office the day after her husband apologized to me for his and her behavior and told me "she will be working from home from now on."

This email shows Preston-Werner denying Horvath's request to have GitHub cofounder PJ Hyett present at her meeting:

IMs and Emails Support Allegations About the Toxic Culture at GitHub

In the conversation with Heather Baldry, the HR manager (below), Horvath is apologetic about trying to have another person present during her meeting with Preston-Werner. Baldry does not seem fazed when she refers to "the mess" or the complications of dragging another employee into it as an objective witness.

IMs and Emails Support Allegations About the Toxic Culture at GitHub

*The IMs and email do not prove anything about the harassment claims Horvath made against the Preston-Werners or the serious new allegations about the other employees in her response to Valleywag above. But they do support the characterization of GitHub as a toxic place to work, one where you have to deal with your boss' wife in your office and the fallout from speaking up about it.

As I reported previously, Horvath is not the first female employee where the Preston-Werners were an issue. A source said Melissa Severini, the company's first hire, was paid to sign a non-disagreement. Severini would not comment. These bits of IM conversations don't support gender-based hostility either, rather they paint GitHub as unhealthy place to work.

Both Preston-Werners apologized after the resignation was announced. The wife said "unnamed employees felt pressured by Tom and me to work pro-bono for my nonprofit." She did not directly address her presence in the office or how she behaved toward employees when not leaning on power dynamics for free labor:

I am so very sorry if anyone felt that I was pressuring him or her for advice, labor, or to sign up. I truly never had that intention. I was just excited about my business and thrilled to share it with anyone who would listen. Several other spouses at GitHub have drawn on the network inside of the company for their charitable endeavors, and I didn't see myself as doing anything different. I was the wife of the CEO, but that never entered my mind when I hung out with any GitHubbers.

The GitHub cofounder never made the reason he felt deeply sorry clear:

First, I want to address the serious accusations that were made against me and my family over the past month. With every decision I made at GitHub and in every interaction I had with employees, I tried to treat people better than they expected and to resolve conflict with empathy. Despite that, I've made mistakes, and I am deeply sorry to anyone who was hurt by those mistakes. It devastates me to know that I missed the mark, and I will strive to do better, every day.

In a critique of GitHub's investigation, Kickstarter product manager wrote that Horvath's perception matters to the claims she made. Probably more so when it's she said-he said-she said.

The rumor in the "Jane Doe" post on Medium alleged that Horvath spread lies that Theresa Preston-Werner was unfaithful:

The Cofounder and His Wife

Around the end of 2012, Julie started dating a close male friend of the cofounder's wife and didn't like that they were close. She asked them to stop being friends and when they would not end their relationship, Julie started telling coworkers that the wife had affairs and that the cofounder's newborn child was not his. She told this to multiple coworkers directly and also to the wife through her boyfriend.

This is where the wife reached out to her and the rest of her story starts. All of Julie's story involving the cofounder's wife occurs only after Julie was spreading vicious rumors about him to even new employees.

Horvath already denied the claims in the anonymous Medium post, telling Valleywag last week:

People reading that should wonder why any of those things are relevant to me being harassed and HR sitting idly by. Would this happen to a man in the same situation? No."

GitHub has not yet responded to Valleywag's request for comment on whether the internal investigation also looked into abuses of power by the four new employees Horvath implicated today, which includes Ted Nyman and Zach Holman.

This post has been updated to add context. To contact the author of this post, please email nitasha@gawker.com.