Uber is moving fast to try and quell backlash from a damning blog post that alleged the company suffers from rampant sexism and failed at every turn to solve the issue. According to an internal email sent to Uber employees this afternoon, CEO Travis Kalanick says his company has brought on former US Attorney General Eric Holder to oversee “an independent review” of the issues raised by former employee Susan Fowler, whose blog post on Sunday about her work experience went viral and resulted in widespread outrage.
Fowler, who began working at Uber in November 2015 as a site reliability engineer, says she was subjected to sexual harassment from her manager on her very first day. She also describes in great detail how Uber’s HR department failed at virtually every step of the way to take her complaints seriously and reprimand or fire the harasser, noting how her superiors even went so far as to suggest she would be fired if she continued complaining about abuse. The #DeleteUber hashtag, which sprung up in the aftermath of Trump’s immigration ban, has already begun trending once more in response to Fowler’s post.
Holder will work with Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post and an Uber board member, alongside Uber’s HR chief Liane Hornsey and Angela Padilla, an in-house lawyer. Uber critics are already making the obvious point that a review featuring a board member, the head of HR, and an in-house lawyer is not exactly independent.
@MikeIsaac how can an independent review into HR be joined by the head of HR, an in-house lawyer, and a board member/— ᴅᴇʀᴇᴋ ᴍᴇᴀᴅ (@derektmead) February 20, 2017
Even Holder, despite his history, is not entirely an outsider. Uber retains his law firm, Covington & Burling, for advice on safety issues. Holder even advocated for Uber last summer by sending letters to officials to drop policies mandating fingerprint-based background checks for drivers. Holder’s former chief of staff and Covington employee, Margaret Richardson, also sits on Uber’s safety advisory board.
Kalanick doesn’t seem to take note of this fact in his email to employees. He does, however, reiterate Uber’s abysmal gender diversity statistics and pledge to ferry the company through this crisis and ultimately address these issues. “I believe in creating a workplace where a deep sense of justice underpins everything we do,” Kalanick writes. “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.”
Here is Kalanick’s email in full, as obtained by Recode:
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.
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 organization, where we live our values and fight for and support those who experience injustice.