Though Uber has become increasingly popular because of its convenience as an affordable ride sharing service, the company has recently been under fire for allegations concerning its treatment of its women employees.
One specific example has been that of Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer who, within her first week of employment, had to report sexual harassment by her supervisor to Uber’s HR department. What caused the blatant misstep was when HR reportedly told her they wouldn’t issue her supervisor more than a warning. This pattern continued for about a year, with Fowler eventually getting complaints from HR about her constant reports, until Fowler finally decided she couldn’t take it anymore and left her job at Uber.
Many people and companies are beginning to make the choice of whether or not to continue support for the company because of these allegations. One technical women’s group in Silicon Valley has responded to Uber’s treatment of its employees by completely cutting ties with them.
In business, there is often a thin line between what is ethical and what is profitable. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs must often choose between adhering to their own sense of what is right or trying to make a profit. The Anita Borg Institute had to make this decision, and it chose to make a huge statement against this uber-successful company – mind the pun.
The official statement of the dissolvent read that the relationship was ended because of “continuing allegations that Uber faces about the treatment of women employees as well as other business issues.” As a group focused on women and their equal involvement in tech business and communities, their choice to cut ties with Uber is especially poignant.
Further in the letter, written to Uber’s CTO Thuan Pham, the group wrote, “we believe that with Uber’s current internal focus you are unable to take full advantage of the programs and resources that ABI offers.” Though this statement may sound vague, it is no doubt referring to Uber’s lack of inclusivity regarding women and the allegations of blatant sexism and harassment present in the company. The Anita Borg Institute, dedicated to supporting women in tech companies, is taking Uber to task for their lack of inclusivity, which goes directly against everything the Anita Borg Institute stands for.
As a response to this, Uber has now chosen to conduct an internal investigation, conducted by former Attorney General Eric Holder. The results of this investigation will be given to Uber’s executive board next week and some version of this report is likely to be released to employees, and maybe the public. This will likely happen once the board is able to respond to the allegations and the results of the investigation.
The Anita Borg Institute’s actions were an impetus for serious action from Uber, which make their decision a huge step forward for women in tech industries. Though this does not necessarily mean that Uber will fix all of the problems immediately, the Anita Borg Institute brought a spotlight to the inequality they noticed and made a statement that is bringing about change.
Though gender inequality seems to be completely inculcated into our society, there is hope for a change if people continue to speak up just as the Anita Borg Institute did. Uber, as a huge and successful company, could have seemed like too big of a business to take on. However, by sticking to its beliefs the Anita Borg Institute was able to initiate some serious action.
Generating awareness and conversation is the first step to change, but inspiring this kind of action is another huge step forward thanks to the Anita Borg Institute.
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