In a bombshell takedown posted on her blog Sunday, former Uber engineer Susan J. Fowler alleges a horrific workplace environment in which complaints that she was sexually harassed by a coworker were covered up and efforts to advance her career were thwarted by management.
Fowler, who now works at Stripe, described her experiences as “a strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story that deserves to be told.”
After the first couple of weeks of training, I chose to join the team that worked on my area of expertise, and this is where things started getting weird. 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.
Fowler said that although she had expected the company’s HR department to take swift action, they instead claimed it was the man’s first offense and would be given only a warning because he “was a high performer.”
Fowler claimed she later discovered that other women at the company had filed similar complaints against the same manager.
She alleged there was “a game-of-thrones political war raging within the ranks of upper management in the infrastructure engineering organization. It seemed like every manager was fighting their peers and attempting to undermine their direct supervisor so that they could have their direct supervisor’s job.”
That, Fowler said, led to this: “We all lived under fear that our teams would be dissolved, there would be another re-org, and we’d have to start on yet another new project with an impossible deadline. It was an organization in complete, unrelenting chaos.”
Just as shockingly, Fowler claimed her attempts to transfer were repeatedly blocked based on nonexistent “performance problems.”
Performance review season came around, and I received a great review with no complaints whatsoever about my performance. I waited a couple of months, and then attempted to transfer again. When I attempted to transfer, I was told that my performance review and score had been changed after the official reviews had been calibrated, and so I was no longer eligible for transfer. When I asked management why my review had been changed after the fact (and why hadn't they let me know that they'd changed it?), they said that I didn't show any signs of an upward career trajectory.
Fowler wrote that when she joined Uber in November 2015, her part of the organization was 25% women. When she left, that number had dropped to just 6%.
In an email statement to Fusion, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick responded to Fowler’s allegations by saying, “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.”
Twitter quickly rallied to support Fowler in her decision to go public: