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Former Uber employee opens up about sexual harassment in workplace, CEO promises “urgent investigation”

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Silicon Valley is deeply plagued with the problem of sexism and harassment towards female employees, which only makes its way out through a blog post (or lawsuit) like today. A former Uber employee penned a lengthy blog post to talk about her year long experience at the biggest ride-hailing giant across the globe. And you’d be amazed to know that she calls her experiences a “strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story.”

The said blog post from Susan Fowler, a former site reliability engineer at Uber and current engineer at payments company Stripe, is the grave representation of misogyny against women in the workplace.

Fowler claims that on her first day out of training she was out to conquer her area of expertise at Uber but was instead made aware and solicited for sex from her manager on an internal chat portal. She immediately screen-grabbed the string of messages and reported the same to the HR department. The blog post talks about the same as under:

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.

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.

And one would expect a company like Uber to take instant measures to resolve such cases of harassment but Fowler was told that it was the manager’s first offense and the upper management wouldn’t like punishing him for this innocent mistake as he “was a high performer”. With regards to the same, she further adds that internal politics and sexism continued and she was given the choice to remain on the team, accept a “poor performance review” or shift to another team. To define this, she writes:

I 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.

After trying to fight to stay in her position — which she says was genuinely in the company’s best interest, she finally decided to change teams. Now, Fowler writes that she was settling well in her role and she was doing some amazing book writing-worthy work. But, then started hearing chatter about similar sexual harassment and negligence of HR stories from other female employees — and you guessed it right — about the same manager. Thus, she yet again tried confronting the human resources department was blatantly lying to all the female employees about the acts being a first-time offense.

Further, she also cites examples of heavy Game of Thrones-like political warfare within the company — which involved every manager fighting to grab their direct supervisor’s job. Also, there was persistent sexism across the company. She remembers the incident of an employee who refused to order jackets in women’s sizing because they cost more. And yes, she still tried seeking help from Uber’s HR department but in vain. She was instead threatened and intimidated to stop reporting her petty issues to them. And finally, she had an offer from Stripe a week later and rest is history.

Post Fowler opening up about her experiences on Sunday, the allegations have made their way across to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick as well. He claims that he was unaware of the said allegations made by the former Uber employee. But, he’s now assured that a thorough investigation will be conducted with regards to her claims (something which should have been done long ago). In a statement sent to Axios, Kalanick continues to add,

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.

Further, Kalanick has also said the same in a string of tweets. And it has been picked up by Uber board member Ariana Huffington, who now plans to closely work with Liane to get to the bottom of this open letter from the former employee. She has even made her email address public for those willing to come forward and report similar internal instances (or provide evidence) of these actions.

There is currently no word on how things will pan out for those “high-performance” mangers at Uber. But, this brings to light a serious sexism and misogyny problem in Silicon Valley, which has been spreading like an epidemic over the decades.

A hands-on guy fascinated by new apps, technologies and enterprise products.

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