On her first official day working with her team, Fowler wrote that her manager sent her “a string of messages over company chat,” saying he “looking for women to have sex with.” Fowler took screen shots of the chats and presented them to HR.
While HR acknowledged the sexual harassment incident, Fowler wrote they didn’t feel “comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to” because he was a high performer at the company.
Fowler also wrote that despite her perfect performance marks, her career advancement was blocked because of her gender. She was not allowed to transfer teams and work on different projects, which is important to an engineer's upward career trajectory. Fowler wrote that her manager blocked her transfer to keep his diversity numbers up.
“I overheard him boasting to the rest of the team that even though the rest of the teams were losing their women engineers left and right, he still had some on his team,” Fowler wrote.
Fowler claims that when she joined Uber, women engineers made up 25 percent of the department's workforce. When she left Uber after a year, Fowler said that number dropped to 6 percent, with women transferring out of the engineering department or leaving Uber altogether.
In his staff email, Kalanick said women make up 15 percent of Uber’s engineering, product management and scientist roles, but didn’t break out numbers for individual departments.
Many tech companies say their lack of racial and gender diversity is because there aren’t enough qualified, diverse candidates to hire. But Fowler's story illustrates that other forces are also at work, said Jo-Ellen Pozner, an associate professor of management and ethics at Santa Clara University.
“The problem might not in fact be that there are not qualified people to hire,” Pozner said. “But rather that they are so mistreated and so uncomfortable in the workplace that it’s hard to retain them.”
Fowler quit Uber and in January joined Stripe, another tech company. After Fowler posted her blog on Sunday, Kalanick responded quickly on Twitter, describing her account as “abhorrent and against everything we believe in.”