Disturbing allegations of SEXUAL HARRASSMENT and complicity
By Rowena Morais
SUSAN Fowler Rigetti, left Uber in December 2016, about a year after she had joined as a site reliability engineer. Rigetti’s February 2017 blog post, Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber, was her attempt to answer the many questions she started to receive about why she left. As she put it, “it’s a strange, fascinating and slightly horrifying story that deserves to be told while it is still fresh in mind …”
So what happens when these allegations are brought to light? It seems reasonable to expect an investigation. This happened except as “disappointed and frustrated” early investors, Mitch and Freada Kapor of Kapor Capital Partners expressed, the investigation could have been handled better.
In the recent Fortune.com article,
Tech Leaders Speak Out Against
Uber Following Sexual Harrassment Allegations, Polina Marinova explained that these early investors were upset about Uber’s choice of the team to conduct the internal investigations into the abuse and discrimination.
The team includes former US
Attorney General Eric Holder,
Arianna Huffington and Uber’s newly hired CHRO, Liane Horsey.
Holder had been working on behalf of Uber recently, Huffington is a
Uber board member and Hornsey reports to the executive team.
How well will they be able to generate an accurate and independent analysis of what happened as well as suggest recommendations for lasting change? Integrity, objectivity and professionalism will not only need to be present but be seen to be present throughout such investigation.
I only described a few points Rigetti raised but this story brings many more issues to the forefront presenting organisations, of all sizes, a chance to make this a learning opportunity for all within as well as reinforce their own stand on these issues with their people.
“I was lucky enough during all of this to work with some of the most amazing engineers in the Bay Area. We kept our heads down and did good (sometimes great) work despite the chaos. We loved our work, we loved the engineering challenges, we loved making this crazy Uber machine work, and together we found ways to make it through the re-orgs and the changing OKRs and the abandoned projects and the impossible deadlines. We kept each other sane, kept the gigantic Uber ecosystem running, and told ourselves that it would eventually get better.”
As we have seen time and again, people don’t often leave organisations, they leave their managers. They leave the leaders they believed in and looked up to. In this case, Rigetti and many others like her, stood it out. They made it work despite what happened. In many organisations, people do the same.
But this doesn’t last. Eventually, they realise that if the right people don’t show interest and action, don’t make the tough decisions, things will not get better. And they leave. It happened to Uber and it happens around the world.
As HR professionals, if we want things to change, does it not begin with what we do? Where do you see yourself doing things differently? How would you navigate this landscape? I would love to hear from you. You can read Rigetti’s blog post at susanjfowler.com.