Uber is currently in crisis-mode after yesterday’s explosive revelations of widespread sexual harassment in the company, and some fairly insidious efforts to cover it up and silence the voices of the victims.
A lengthy and extremely detailed blogpost from Susan J. Fowler, a former engineer at the company, revealed how she was not only harassed by management at the company, but that HR either remained quiet on the issue or actively worked to cover it up. Fowler’s blog post contained accounts from scores of other women at the company, all of whom left the company in droves as the representation of women at Uber plummeted as a result. Among the explosive allegations contained within the post, this one stands out:
“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.”
In response, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick ordered an immediate, top-down review investigation into the harassment, mincing very few words in his public response:
“I have just read Susan Fowler’s blog. What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in. It’s 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 — and anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.”
Today, Kalanick has detailed the what the next step for the company is in an internal email circulated to employees, and obtained by PEDESTRIAN.TV.
Firstly, Obama-era US Attorney General Eric Holder, along with leading lawyer Tammy Albarren and Uber board member Arianna Huffington will conduct the “independent” (hard to see that being totally true given Huffington’s presence, but I digress) review into Uber’s work place environment, as well as issues of diversity and representation within the Uber workforce.
Kalanick also strongly asserted that the company would learn from this, and that the culture moving forward would not permit something like this – on this, or any scale – to happen ever again.
His email, in full, reads as follows:
“Team — it’s been a tough 24 hours. I know the company is hurting, and understand everyone has been waiting for more information on where things stand and what actions we are going to take.
- First, Eric Holder, former US Attorney General under President Obama, and Tammy Albarran — both partners at the leading law firm Covington & Burling– will conduct an independent review into the specific issues relating to the work place environment raised by Susan Fowler, as well as diversity and inclusion at Uber more broadly. Joining them will be Arianna Huffington, who sits on Uber’s board, Liane Hornsey, our recently hired Chief Human Resources Officer, and Angela Padilla, our Associate General Counsel. I expect them to conduct this review in short order.
- Second, Arianna is flying out to join me and Liane at our all hands meeting tomorrow to discuss what’s happened and next steps. Arianna and Liane will also be doing smaller group and one-on-one listening sessions to get your feedback directly.
- Third, there have been many questions about the gender diversity of Uber’s technology teams. If you look across our engineering, product management, and scientist roles, 15.1% of employees are women and this has not changed substantively in the last year. As points of reference, Facebook is at 17%, Google at 19% and Twitter is at 15%. Liane and I will be working to publish a broader diversity report for the company in the coming months.
I believe in creating a workplace where a deep sense of justice underpins everything we do. Every Uber employee should be proud of the culture we have and what we will build together over time. What is driving me through all this is a determination that we take what’s happened as an opportunity to heal wounds of the past and set a new standard for justice in the workplace. It is my number one priority that we come through this a better organisation, where we live our values and fight for and support those who experience injustice.”
Fowler’s original, and very confronting, blog post can be read in full via her website.