Former Uber engineer says company ignored repeated reports of sexual harassment – TechCrunch
Susan Fowler, a formerÂ site reliability engineer for Uber and current engineer at Stripe, accused the company of rampant sexual harassment and human resources negligence in a blog post published today.Â
Fowler claims that on her first day out of training, she was solicited for sex by a superior onÂ an internal company chat thread. She then immediately captured screenshots of the messages and sent them to Uberâs human resources department. In a healthy organization, such a problem would have been quickly resolved. ButÂ Fowler alleges that the harassment only continued, preventing her from moving up within the company.
âUpper management told me that he âwas a high performerâ and they wouldnât feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part,â explained Fowler in her post
AtÂ this point,Â Fowler says in her post that she was given a choice of remaining on the team and accepting, âa poor performance review,â or moving to a different team.
âI was then told that I had to make a choice: (i) I could either go and find another team and then never have to interact with this man again, or (ii) I could stay on the team, but I would have to understand that he would most likely give me a poor performance review when review time came around, and there was nothing they could do about that,â further explained Fowler.
Though sheÂ didnât want to leave the role she felt she was best prepared to fill, she switched teams.Â Work continued, and whileÂ Fowler had settled into the new role she regularlyÂ had conversations with female employees who shared similar stories about HR negligence, even citing unacceptable experiences with the same superior that solicited her. Along with a number of her colleagues, Fowler met once again with HR to make the point that the experiences of harassment were epidemic. Fowler then says thatÂ Uber insistedÂ that the manager had only been accused of a single offense.
AmidÂ chaotic internal politics,Â Fowler attemptedÂ to transferÂ to a different department, but the company blocked her request. Citing strong performance, she couldnât understand why her request had been denied.
âI was told that âperformance problems arenât always something that has to do with work, but sometimes can be about things outside of work or your personal life,’â addedÂ Fowler in her post.
She ultimately decided to stay in the same roleÂ until her next performance review. But the frustration continued with a second reassignment rejection and a further explanation that her âreview had been changed after the fact,â and that she didnât show âsigns of an upward career trajectory.â As a result, she was shut out of a Stanford computer scienceÂ graduate program sponsored by the company for high-achievers.
Aside from these claims,Â Fowler also describes in her post a culture of pervasive sexism â telling the story of an employee that refused to order jackets in womenâs sizing because they cost more. No matter how many complaints she brought forth, HR insinuatedÂ that sheÂ was the common denominator in all of her complaints. Fowler says she wasÂ threatened andÂ intimidated in an effort Â to stop her fromÂ reporting transgressions to HR.
In response to Fowlerâs post,Â Uber CEOÂ TravisÂ Kalanick promisedÂ to investigate the claims. KalanickÂ made a point to draw a dichotomy between the accused behavior and what the CEO believes is core to the companyâs culture in the statement to Axios.
âI have just read Susan Fowlerâs blog. What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in. Itâs the first time this has come to my attention so I have instructed Liane Hornsey our new Chief Human Resources Officer to conduct an urgent investigation into these allegations. We seek to make Uber a just workplace and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber â and anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.â
Uber board member and media mogul Arianna Huffington said in a tweet tonight that she would conduct an âindependent investigationâ into the matter. Huffington even released her email address in an effort to make it easier for those with information to come forward.
Sexual harassment is rampant in Silicon Valley and the worst part is that most of it goes undocumented. If true, Uberâs actions to thwartÂ Fowlerâs efforts to report the repeated harassment paint a horrifying picture of the companyâs internal culture.
We still donât know the number of female engineers at Uber because the company hasnât been transparent about its hiring â Jesse Jackson has made it his priority to change this. But even ifÂ Kalanick werenâtÂ complicit,Â Fowlerâs experience could speak to how Uber values employee performance with respect to ethics and decency.
We have reached out to Uber and CEO TravisÂ Kalanick and will update this post when we hear back.