Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Launches Investigation Into Sexual Harassment Claims Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will lead an independent investigation into claims made by former employee Susan Fowler.
In response to a blog post by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler in which she detailed claims of sexual harassment, CEO Travis Kalanick sent an email to his employees regarding an investigation into what she described.
In the memo, obtained by The New York Times, Kalanick wrote that an independent review of Fowler's claims will be overseen by Eric Holder, who served as U.S. Attorney General in the Obama administration, as well as Tammy Albarran. Both are partners at the law firm Covington & Burling.
Arianna Huffington, who became Uber's first woman board member in April 2016, Liane Hornsey, who has been the company's chief human resources officer since November 2016, and Angela Padilla, Uber's associate general counsel, will all have a role in conducting the investigation. Kalanick wrote that they would be "doing smaller group and one-on-one listening sessions to get [employee] feedback directly."
Related: Uber Under Fire Once Again Following Sexism and Harassment Claims
Fowler, who worked at Uber for a year, wrote in her blog post, "When I joined Uber, the organization I was part of was over 25 percent women. … On my last day at Uber, I calculated the percentage of women who were still in the org. Out of over 150 engineers in the SRE teams, only 3 percent were women."
In his email, Kalanick addressed the issue of gender diversity at Uber "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."
He cited Facebook's 17 percent of women employees, Google's 18 percent and Twitter's 10 percent as points of reference, and he said that he and Hornsey were working toward publishing a more comprehensive diversity report over the next few months.
Kalanick closed his email with a broad statement. "What is driving me through all of 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," he wrote. "It is my number one priority that we come through this a better organization, where we live our values and and fight for and support those who experience injustice."
Related: Uber Founder Resigns From Trump Council. Read His Full Text Explanation.
While Kalanick appears to be taking Fowler's allegations seriously, some who have weighed in are questioning why it took this particular incident to spur action -- and to what extent the company's culture as described by Fowler stems from actions and expectations of the CEO and other top executives.
Hey @travisk, if your 100+ engineering team goes from 25% women to 3%, you shouldn't need Susan Fowler's post to tell you there's a problem.— Eva (@evacide) February 20, 2017
Uber CEO @travisk sends company memo promising investigation. No admission of wrongdoing and certainly no apology. pic.twitter.com/Tssr6VjkEI— Laurie Voss (@seldo) February 21, 2017
Let's be super clear: the root of the problem at Uber is @travisk - not HR, not middle mgmt— Nadia Singer (@nadsinger) February 21, 2017
@travisk Yep, the CEO who referred to his app as "boob-er" is *totally* going to clamp down on sexual harassment! https://t.co/8YvLeIHL8k— Enemy of the People (@chipgoines) February 20, 2017
@travisk So Uber, the gigantic ecosystem of data based AI, couldn't detect a shady HR and spoiled performance review culture. Strange!— gaurav (@dl9cb) February 20, 2017
Tech: we are totally data driven, we do everything based on the data— Elaine Filadelfo (@ElaineF) February 20, 2017
Also tech: it's too hard to tell if women are retained or paid equally
In a blog post on Medium, David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of Ruby on Rails and co-founder of Basecamp, urged Uber users to delete their accounts, characterizing recent events at Uber -- both Kalanick's resignation from President Trump's Strategic & Policy Forum and the handling of Fowler's claims -- as emblematic of a Silicon Valley culture that encourages growth but not accountability.
#Uber plays fast & loose with hr policies/ allow their female enployees to be harrassed is smoke for a bigger fire. @travisk #boycottuber— Nicholas abruzzo (@nickabruzzo) February 20, 2017
"Move fast and break things. Disrupt! Whatever you need to do to keep the engine of growth firing at 110 percent, just do it. You can always release a contrite press release if you get caught. The memory of consumers and voters is short, so worry not. Which is exactly the route Kalanick is choosing at the moment." Hansson wrote. "First, it was withdrawing from the Trump council after the chorus of #DeleteUber got loud enough to pose a threat to that still-unrealized billion-dollar valuation. Now it's laughably trying to distance himself from the corporate culture he embodies because former employee, Susan J. Fowler, blew the whistle on her "very, very strange year at Uber.'"