Ride-booking service Uber has recently come under fire over allegations of sexism. Its former engineer, Susan Fowler, has revealed that she faced harassment and discrimination while working there, prompting CEO Travis Kalanick to take action against the alleged practices.
But it seems that the sexism charges are only the tip of the iceberg.
A Grim Picture Of Working At Uber
Citing anonymous sources, a searing report published Wednesday, Feb. 22, by the New York Times detailed more things about the workplace culture of Uber, which has emerged as one of Silicon Valley’s most successful current players and valued at nearly $70 billion by private investors.
The meaty probe took off from interviews with over 30 former and present Uber employees, along with a peek into internal email communications, chat logs, and audio recordings of work meetings.
One of the more serious allegations: an Uber manager groped the breasts of female co-workers during a company outing at Las Vegas, which also supposedly involved cocaine-sniffing and a joyride in an employee-driven shuttle bus. According to the report, the unidentified manager was fired afterwards.
In separate incidents, a director allegedly hurled a homophobic slur at a subordinate during a heated argument in a meeting, while another manager was said to have threatened to hit the head of an underperforming employee with the aid of a baseball bat.
Things were mostly hush-hush until Sunday, Feb. 19, when Fowler posted a blog entry about her stay at Uber. She listed a range of discriminatory and sexual harassing incidents with managers that she said was dismissed by the company’s human resources office. The culture was fostered, Fowler added, by the company’s management.
“No attempts were made by these managers to hide what they were doing: They boasted about it in meetings, told their direct reports about it, and the like,” Fowler wrote.
Management Scrutiny And Action
Other former employees speaking to NYT confirmed that they notified Uber’s senior leadership, including Kalanick and CTO Thuan Pham of harassment happening inside. But an “A-Team” close to the CEO largely avoided HR’s scrutiny, the report continued.
"We are totally committed to healing wounds of the past and building a better workplace culture for everyone," said Liane Hornsey, chief HR officer at Uber, in a statement to Business Insider.
Kalanick has even tapped former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in overseeing an “independent review” of the allegations spurred by Fowler, who served in Uber as a site reliability engineer. Last Monday, Feb. 20, the CEO even said in the face of criticism that 15.1 percent of their engineering, product management, and scientist positions were occupied by women, and that the numbers remained practically the same over the last year.
On social media, the #DeleteUber campaign, first brought up during Uber's alleged exploitation of Trump's immigration ban as a business edge, has taken on a new context in the wake of Fowler's revelations.
Sexual harassment is considered by some an open secret in Silicon Valley. The worst part, as media reports noted, is that most complaints of this kind remain undocumented, ignored and largely kept hidden.