In former Uber engineer Susan Fowler's widely-circulated blog post "Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber," what was "strange" was repeated alleged sexual harassment, and what was "very" was the company's alleged failure to address that harassment and instead to punish her for bringing it up. In short, Fowler details a horrorshow of systemic failure at Uber that made it a seemingly unfair and unsafe place to work as a woman. As a result, Fowler claims that at Uber, women site reliability engineers like her dropped from 25% to 3% of the work force.
In response, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick ordered an "urgent investigation" into the allegations, calling the behavior they described as "abhorrent [and] against everything we believe in" at Uber. According to New York Times tech reporter Mike Isaac, Kalanick also sent out an email to employees in which he says that Arianna Huffington, a board member of the company, would be at an "All-Hands Meeting" at Uber in San Francisco today. Huffington will review the investigation, Kalanick says, as will former Attorney General Eric Holder, who has worked with tech companies like Airbnb on their discrimination policies.
Travis Kalanick just sent out a company wide email regarding the last 24 hours.— ಠ_ಠ (@MikeIsaac) February 20, 2017
here is Travis Kalanick's company wide email to Uber employees, sent Monday afternoon, regarding Fowler's claims and HR investigation. pic.twitter.com/39PYrKr6SR— ಠ_ಠ (@MikeIsaac) February 20, 2017
Recode also received the memo to employees, which is as follows:
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 US 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 work place 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% 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.
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.
In the past, Uber has declined to publish its diversity numbers, a practice adopted by much of its cohort of tech companies, so the company decision to do so is notable. Observers of Uber might also notice a trend in that, when Kalanick last faced internal and external pressure, to terminate a working relationship with President Trump, he did so, stepping down from his role on the President's Economic Advisory Council.