news·3 min read

Susan Fowler on Uber and being a “Whistleblower”

Feb 20, 2020

The Story
Susan Fowler wrote a memoir called "Whistleblower."

Who is Susan Fowler?
She’s a former Uber software engineer. If you don’t recognize her name, you may remember this blog post she wrote about her experiences with sexual harassment and retaliation during her year working at the company. It went viral in February of 2017.

Right. Remind me about that.
In the post, Fowler said that on her first day on her new team at Uber, her manager told her he was in an open relationship and propositioned her for sex. That when she reported him to HR, they told her it was his first offense and gave him a warning. And told her she could either stay on his team and expect a poor performance review from him, or move to another team. Fowler says she ended up speaking with other women at the company who had reported the same man for similar issues. 

That sounds bad.
Fowler decided to switch to another team, but things didn’t get better. She says her new manager often berated her in meetings until she was in tears. Also, Uber policy allowed employees to transfer to other teams based on good performance reviews. Fowler says she discovered her new manager was preventing her from transferring off of his team by retroactively changing her good performance review to a bad review, allegedly in order to keep his gender diversity numbers up. She reported all of this to HR, and says they did nothing. 

What did Uber have to say about this?
Then-CEO Travis Kalanick released a statement shortly after Fowler’s post saying the company would look into her allegations. Uber hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the law firm he worked at to investigate. Holder made 47 recommendations to improve the workplace culture described in Fowler’s blog post, including reallocating some of Kalanick’s responsibilities. Kalanick ultimately stepped down from the company in June of 2017.

Fowler’s story inspired other women to speak up about the culture in Silicon Valley, months before #MeToo took hold. Six million people read her blog post, and she was featured on the 2017 TIME Magazine Person of the Year cover with Taylor Swift, Ashley Judd, and other “Silence Breakers.” Now, she’s telling the behind the scenes story that led to her speaking out.

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