This past weekend Susan Fowler, a former engineer at Uber, published her blog describing repeated gender discrimination by her department’s leadership and Uber’s HR department. Susan’s blog can be found here. As she put it, her “situation was escalated as far up the chain as it could be escalated, and still nothing was done”. This is unacceptable.
As a champion of healthy, gender-balanced workplace cultures, I feel compelled to comment on this story as it develops. When will this stop? How could female HR representatives act like this? How could this be happening at a modern tech company comprised of people from a younger generation who have seen the impacts of harassment and harsh treatment?
Our community needs to wake up. The lack of women in cybersecurity is a matter of national security. The disrespectful treatment of women in cybersecurity is causing them to leave the field. In a recent NCWIT study, it was found that 56% of women leave their jobs in tech in under 10 years, “a higher rate than both science and engineering, and about twice as high as the attrition rate for men”. The industry is short one million cybersecurity professionals—we do not have time for leaders to not lead!
In addition, Uber’s response really misses the mark (you can read it here).
I do not want to read the statistics around Uber having more female employees than Apple or other tech companies. This conversation is not about how many women are employed at Uber; this is about sexual harassment and a lack of equal treatment. And to call out having 2% more women employed than in other tech companies is no great accomplishment. I would expect Uber to respond with statements like, “we take this matter very seriously,” “we will take serious action against anyone who acts in this harassing manner,” and “we will be investing X dollars into programs that ensure all managers are trained on leadership qualities (i.e., equality-based management behaviors and recognizing behaviors towards employees that are deemed grounds for termination – including sexually harassing emails!),” among other statements. One act of sexual harassment, be it via email or in-person, puts women in a horrible place and forever creates a cloud of discrimination within an organization. It must never be tolerated.
To Uber: I have switched to Lyft. The involvement of your HR department in this behavior is appalling. Get it together, show our community you really care, and then I will be happy to return as a customer.
In closing, I would like to thank Susan Fowler for speaking up. Thank you for having the courage to tell your story! Through sharing and speaking out, we can stop this behavior. There are many amazing men and women in tech who will always stand beside you. Ladies: please speak up and know that you are not alone. This behavior must stop now — not tomorrow. I am calling out to all leaders in technology to stand before your teams and demand behaviors of integrity, respect and equality for women at work.