A former Uber woman engineer has leveled serious charges of sexism and discrimination that are allegedly a feature of the work culture at the world’s most value startup.
Susan Fowler, who’d joined Uber as a Site Reliability Engineer in November 2015, said that her year-long stay at the company was fraught with instances where the company and its employees engaged in blatant sexism. The charges have come to the notice of CEO Travis Kalanick, who called the behavior abhorrent, and said that the people responsible will be fired.
1/ What's described here is abhorrent & against everything we believe in. Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired. https://t.co/6q29N7AL6E
— travis kalanick (@travisk) February 20, 2017
Fowler says that the signs began early. “On 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,” she says.
The manager apparently was let go with a warning, because HR insisted that he was a high performer and it was his first offense. Fowler says she was also put in the unenviable position of changing teams, or staying with her current team, knowing full well that her manager could give her a poor review because she’d complained against him. She chose to leave the team, but after talking with her female colleagues, realized that that manager had been reported several other times by other women employees before she’d even joined, and claims that the HR deliberately lied to her about it being his first offense.
But Fowler says that her ordeal didn’t end there. In her new team, she says she performed well, and completed all of her OKRs, but was still given a poor rating.”Performance problems aren’t always something that has to do with work, but sometimes can be about things outside of work or your personal life,” she was reportedly told. Fowler later learnt that she was given a poor rating because she’d expressed a desire to transfer to a different team, and a low rating would ensure that she would stay on in her current team. “It turned out that keeping me on the team made my manager look good, and I overheard him boasting to the rest of the team that even though the rest of the teams were losing their women engineers left and right, he still had some on his team.”
Uber does seem to have a problem with retaining women employees – Fowler says that when she’d joined the company, it had 25% women employees; the number of women employees had dropped to 3% by the time she left.
And while Fowler’s blog talks about some systemic problems the the company, some incidents venture into truly bizarre territory. She says that when her team ordered leather jackets, the men all got theirs, but the women didn’t because their team didn’t have enough women to justify making a order. The director told her that because there were so many men in the org, they had gotten a significant discount on the men’s jackets but not on the women’s jackets, and it wouldn’t be equal or fair to give the women leather jackets that cost a little more than the men’s jackets. The women were told that if they wanted leather jackets, they needed to find jackets that were the same price as the bulk-order price of the men’s jackets.
Say what you will, that’s an incredible excuse to make at a company that’s valued at 60 billion dollars.