Uber preps first diversity report following harassment allegations

Brittany A. Roston - Feb 20, 2017
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Uber preps first diversity report following harassment allegations

Diversity reports have become popular among tech companies in the face of growing public criticism over low-diversity workforces and potential discrimination. Some companies have been issuing such reports for years now while others are just getting started, and one such notable company is Uber. The ridesharing company is said to be preparing its first ever diversity report following allegations that its didn’t adequately handle alleged sexual harassment within the company.

The issue began when a now-former Uber site reliability engineer named Susan Fowler published a long blog post in which she detailed sexual harassment from her then-manager at Uber. He reportedly shared intimate details about the nature of he and his wife’s sexual relationship, and then allegedly proceeded to proposition her over company chat.

Fowler states she took screenshots of the inappropriate messages and contacted HR about them. “I had pretty standard expectations of how they would handle situations like this,” she wrote. “I expected that I would report him to HR, they would handle the situation appropriately, and then life would go on – unfortunately, things played out quite a bit differently.”

This manager was reportedly given only a slap on the wrist, and Fowler says she was informed that she could choose to leave the team or stay on it, but that staying on it would likely result in the manager giving her a poor performance review over which the company could do ‘nothing.’

“One HR rep even explicitly told me that it wouldn’t be retaliation if I received a negative review later because I had been ‘given an option,'” Fowler wrote. Later on, after leaving that team and working elsewhere in the company, Fowler states she began talking to other women in the company and learned that others had allegedly reported the same manager over ‘inappropriate interactions,’ this despite Uber HR personnel allegedly claiming that the manager hadn’t previously committed any such offenses.

Fowler states:

It became obvious that both HR and management had been lying about this being “his first offense”, and it certainly wasn’t his last. Within a few months, he was reported once again for inappropriate behavior, and those who reported him were told it was still his “first offense”. The situation was escalated as far up the chain as it could be escalated, and still nothing was done.

The blog post continues on from there, and can be read in its entirely here. Following its publication, company CEO Travis Kalanick posted a series of tweets saying, among other things, that the things described in the blog post are ‘abhorrent & against everything we believe in. Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.’ He also said that he ordered an urgent investigation into the matter.

Following this, VentureBeat has published an email Kalanick reportedly sent to Uber employees, saying that former US Attorney General Eric Holder will be conducting an independent review of issues raised in the blog post, as well as partner Tammy Albarran. He went on to state in the email:

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 18% and Twitter is at 10%. Liane and I will be working to publish a broader diversity report for the company in the coming months.


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