More allegations of blatant sexism have hit the tech industry. Last week, news arrived of a sexual discrimination lawsuit against Magic Leap; now, ride-hailing giant Uber is facing similar accusations.
Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, who was at the company from November 2015 until she left to join Stripe last December, wrote a scathing blog post recounting her “strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying” time at the firm.
The problems began on her first day at Uber, thanks to a manager who seemed overly eager to share details of his sex life.
In my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn't. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn't help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR.
After reporting the matter, Fowler was told by HR that as it was the man’s first offense, they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything more than a warning and stern talking to. Additionally, upper management informed her that he was a high earner, and it was “probably just an innocent mistake on his part,” even though several other women had reported the same manager.
Fowler was given the option to transfer to another team or continue working with the man who harassed her – who would likely give her a bad performance review.
She says after that manager was eventually fired and she moved onto another team, her excellent performance scores were altered in her official reviews. This meant she couldn’t get a transfer and was ineligible for a Stanford University graduate program in computer science that was sponsored by Uber. Fowler claims the alterations were made to make her manager look good, as other female engineers were quickly leaving teams at Uber.
Other allegations include stories of management in-fighting, discrimination, and the HR department hinting that Fowler herself was the problem. It suggested she was a “common theme,” commented that it was unprofessional to report things via email, and stated “certain people of certain genders and ethnic backgrounds were better suited for some jobs than others.”
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said the described behavior was abhorrent and against everything Uber believes in. He promised to launch an urgent investigation. Board member Arianna Huffington added that she will work with chief HR office Liane Hornsey to carry out an “independent” investigation.
2/ I've instructed our CHRO Liane to conduct an urgent investigation. There can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber.— travis kalanick (@travisk) February 20, 2017