Uber CEO Launches An ‘Urgent Investigation’ Into Workplace Harassment Following Female Engineer’s Blog Post

Susan Fowler recounted a 'slightly horrifying' experience

Travis Kalanick, Uber's CEO, has launched an investigation into Susan Fowler's allegations.
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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has instructed chief human resources officer Liane Hornsey to conduct an “urgent investigation” after reading a former engineer’s account of harassment during her time at the ride share company.

In a post on her personal site, onetime Uber SRE (site reliability engineer) Susan Fowler detailed alleged incidents of sexual harassment and issues with the company’s human resources team when she tried to report the treatment, as well as other supposed incidents of gender bias at the company.

UPDATE:  On Monday, Kalanick sent a note to Uber employees detailing how the company would handle the investigation. Below appears the note, which was provided to Adweek by Uber’s media 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 U.S. 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 workplace 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 [percent] of employees are women and this has not changed substantively in the last year. As points of reference, Facebook is at 17 [percent], Google at 18 [percent] and Twitter is at 10 [percent]. 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 organization, where we live our values and fight for and support those who experience injustice. 

That memo came on the heels of an embarrassing weekend for Uber. On Sunday, Kalanick in a statement provided to Adweek, said, “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.”

Kalanick continued: “We seek to make Uber a just workplace for everyone 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.”

“On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat,” wrote Fowler. “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.”

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