Uber has been under fire recently for its mistreatment of female employees. Reports have surfaced from several employees criticizing the company due to their experience with sexual harassment and the company’s pervasive “bro” culture. As is widely known by now, former Uber engineer, Susan Fowler, bravely stood up and shared her troubling experience .
Fowler asserts that during her time with the company, she encountered sexual assault from her boss. In an attempt to resolve the issue, she reported the incident to HR. However, although one may think the human resources department of such a large company would address the issue directly, they instead informed Fowler “he [the perpetrator] could not be disciplined because he was too valued by the company.”
According to Liane Hornsey, the new SVP & CHRO at Uber, she received “several hundred private emails and met one-on-one with 50 employees” about sexual harassment cases around the workplace. Uber has noticed the contrast in their men to women employee ratio, so they “offer its 12,000 global employees, 36% of whom are women, access to an anonymous hotline.” Hornsey has found these cases to be a concerning revelation, so she conducted more than 200 separate “listening tour” sessions since February to get a handle on the company’s biggest HR problem.
Although Uber has been under fire, adjustments have been made in the company’s HR department and it claims to have a better outlook on gender issues within the company.
Former CEO Travis Kalanick apparently teared up at the all-hands meeting when he read Fowler’s article and claims the events that took place are “abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in.” Months earlier, Kalanick was caught on a dash cam video abusing an Uber driver. He has reiterated since then that he must “fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.”
Uber investors Mitch and Freada Kapor wrote an open letter on Medium after Fowler’s post. Below is an excerpt from their post following the incident:
“Uber has been here many times before, responding to public exposure of bad behavior by holding an all-hands meeting, apologizing and vowing to change, only to quickly return to aggressive business as usual.”
In what may be a difficult period for Uber, there is a renewed expectation that proper treatment of abuse claims will become standard protocol. While there is an obvious need for change through the technology industry and in other industries, Uber serves as a cautionary tale of what not to do in such situations. Change, however, may very well need to begin with a complete and thorough overhaul of its HR department.
Mohammad Sultani for TechFunnel.com