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Australia's tech darling Atlassian in sexism row

One of Australia's pin-up technology successes, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, has been forced to apologise for an employee's presentation gone wrong.

According to engineer Jonathan Doklovic, software is like a "demanding'', ''complaining'' and ''interrupting" girlfriend. He made the remarks at the company's two-day developer conference in Berlin on Wednesday.

Atlassian's Mike Cannon-Brookes said the company doesn't fear  having good competitors, but is also determined not to ...
Atlassian's Mike Cannon-Brookes said the company doesn't fear having good competitors, but is also determined not to cede ground to Slack.  Photo: Louise Kennerley

He was refering to Maven - a program to simplify and standardise projects built using the software language Java - as his girlfriend.

The presentation provoked a social media backlash and prompted Cannon-Brookes, the co-founder of the $3.5 billion software maker who has found much success in the US, to invoke Mahatma Gandhi in a bid to quell the ensuing social media storm.

The offending presentation.
The offending presentation. Photo: Twitter

Doklovic didn't reference the original Hebrew meaning of maven as "accumulator of knowledge" or "expert" but rather that it:


- Looks beautiful
- Complains a lot
- Demands my attention
- Interrupts me when i'm working
- Doesn't play well with my other friends

"Be the change you seek," Cannon-Brooks wrote in a mea culpa blog: "On failing our values, our team, and our industry."

He apologised for the actions but didn't say whether the engineer-in-question - who he originally hired - would lose his job.

"Today, we failed as a team," Cannon-Brookes said. "We will help him learn from this, as we all must."

American media outlets were quick to jump on the remark as another example of the endemic sexual discrimination that pervades the culture of companies in Silicon Valley - where Atlassian's chief investor, Accel Venture Partners, is based.

At last year's TechCrunch start-up conference, two Australians pitched an idea for an app that "takes photos of yourself staring at tits".  "Titstare", the scandal, ensued.

Days later, Pax Dickinson, chief technology officer of news site Business Insider, was fired after he defended the actions of the two Australians.

Last month, the co-founder of GitHub, a coding website used by software developers around the world, was forced to resign after he was found to have made "errors of judgment" in relation to accusations of sexual harassment by a female engineer who resigned.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel also apologised last week after a series of offensive emails about women from his university days were leaked.

with Tom Cowie