Former Uber engineer Susan Powell who wrote on Sunday about her experience of sexism at the company is not the only employee to report the problem, according to online reviews from former and current employees at the company.
At least eight anonymous reviews about working at Uber on Glassdoor, and one post on question and answer site Quora, refer to a sexist culture.
And the reviews echo Powell’s accusations that employee reports of sexism are dismissed through the ranks of the organisation by both HR and management.
One reviewer on Glassdoor said, “There have been multiple instances in which I, or other coworkers, have reported serious issues/concerns (e.g. harassment, privacy issues, among other serious workplace violations), and not once did People Ops [HR] investigate the incident(s), nor provide actionable follow-up.”
Another anonymous Glassdoor reviewer, claiming to be a senior software engineer, posted in April 2016, “There’s a culture of sexism and sexist jokes which seems to be tolerated by senior engineers and management.”
And another Glassdoor user claiming to be a senior researcher at the company posted in September 2016 that “Emotionally unintelligent male managers (all the way up to the CEO) make it hard for women to feel heard and valued. Disappointing,” in a review titled “Not great for women.”
In January, one anonymous user who did not claim a specific role at Uber posted that there “is a Bro culture [at Uber],” and said, “Women need to be prepared to be very aggressive in order to move ahead.”
Glassdoor doesn’t verify any of the anonymous reviews posted on its site by people claiming to be former or current employees. But the posts do echo Powell’s blog post from Sunday.
On Quora, an anonymous user claiming to be a former Uber employee said, “I am not surprised by Susan Fowler’s story. There are many ex-Uber employees who will testify to the ‘frat-bro’ (read: sexist) culture of Uber … Travis is well known as a callous arsehole, maybe not overtly sexist but definitely a douchey caricature of a person.”
The accusations go back to 2014
Accusations of sexism at the Uber date back to 2014, when Uber’s Lyon office put out a deal offering to pair its customers with “hot chick” drivers, promoting the deal in a blog post it titled “Who said women don’t know how to drive?”
Uber deleted the post after Buzzfeed News made an inquiry but it was picked up by PandoDaily founder and editor Sarah Lacy, who responded with an article accusing the company of extreme sexism and misogyny.
The ad “encouraged, played on, and celebrated treating women who may choose to drive cars to make extra money like hookers,” Lacy wrote and she called on Uber’s investors to stop supporting it.
In addition, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been directly criticised for making sexist comments, such as a comment he made in an interview with GQ in 2014.
The interviewer wrote, “When I tease him [Kalanick] about his skyrocketing desirability, he deflects with a wisecrack about women on demand: Yeah, we call that Boob-er.”
When Vanity Fair asked Kalanick in an interview in 2014 if he would sell Uber to a bigger company, “he compared women to businesses you can sell at any time,” as Bustle reported, in his response. “You’re asking somebody who has a wife and is really happily married, ‘So, what’s your next wife going to be like?’ And I’m like, ‘What?'”
Uber is not the only company to be accused of a sexist culture. And Kalanick is not the only CEO to be criticised for sexist remarks.
Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snapchat parent company Snap, called Picaboo — as Snapchat was originally called — “ridiculous,”described himself as a “certified bro” whose fraternity was “kicked off last quarter,” and boasted that the model they used for the photos is “very good-looking” in an email pitch of the Snapchat app in 2011.
Business Insider contacted Uber for comment and the company, which has launched an urgent internal investigation in response to Powell’s claim, responded with a memo Kalanick sent to Uber employees on Monday afternoon:
“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 Flowler, 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.
I believe in creating a workplace where a deep sense of justice underpins everything we do. Every Uber employee should be proud of the culture we have and what we will build together over time. What is driving me through all 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. It is my number one priority that we come through this a better organisation, where we live our values and fight for and support those who experience injustice.”