Women In Comms

Uber Engineering SVP Out as Probe Continues

Uber has taken its first action in its investigation into its culture and allegations of sexual harassment -- letting its new Senior Vice President of Engineering Amit Singhal go after learning he failed to disclose that he left his previous employer, Google, after "credible" allegations of sexual harassment.

Singhal was asked to resign after Recode brought the situation to the attention of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who was apparently unaware of the conditions around Singhal's departure from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) a year earlier. Singhal denies the allegations, but still left the search giant after 15 years, joining Uber on Jan. 20.

His departure from Uber was necessary, too, in light of the imbroglio that the ride-hailing company has found itself in following a damning blog post by its former engineer Susan Fowler, who left the company after a year spent grappling with sexual harassment, discrimination and an inept HR department. (See Uber's HR Nightmare: Company Investigates Sexual Harassment Claims.)

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Uber responded swiftly to her post, noting that it would launch an internal investigation into the specific issues that Fowler cited, as well as the larger culture problems apparent in the multi-billion dollar company. Since then, the situation at Uber -- which many have pointed out is not unique among tech companies -- has given more fuel to the flames of discussion around the unacceptable culture of tech companies. (See A Vast Valley: Tech's Inexcusable Gender Gap.)

Since the post went live on February 19, Uber has promised to create a better company culture, but it's also been criticized for appointing a team of insiders with a stake in the company doing well to "investigate" its problems. Early investors Freada and Mitch Kapor called the company out in an open letter admonishing it for still not being open, direct and transparent and encouraging it to really make a change this time, even after the uproar has died down.

Fowler has also been subjected to people calling her friends in an attempt to learn personal information. Uber denied being behind these calls.

More reports of an exclusionary "bro culture" at Uber and similar companies have also arisen, as well as women across the industry echoing the sentiment that they're saddened, but certainly not surprised. This is just the latest in a string of problems for Uber, and it remains to be seen if it will be the straw that broke the camel's back or just another event they can publicly bemoan before going about business as usual shortly thereafter. (See Tales From the Valley: Bias, Sexism & Worse.)

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Director, Women in Comms

Michelle 3/2/2017 | 2:42:47 PM
Re: Tesla too? @Sarah I saw the headline for that one. I agree this could shed light on some very dark practices. I hope the fear of being publically outed for bad behavior will be enough to prevent at least some companies from repeating these terrible mistakes.
Sarah Thomas 3/1/2017 | 10:27:46 AM
Re: Tesla too? The NYT has a good piece today about why what happens at Uber could be a watershed moment for women in tech, if handled appropriately, genuinely and transparently. I hope that is the case. It's about time, after all: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/01/technology/uber-case-could-be-a-watershed-for-women-in-tech.html?_r=0
Michelle 2/28/2017 | 10:03:00 PM
Re: Tesla too? Wow! Not a great time in tech...
Sarah Thomas 2/28/2017 | 3:38:50 PM
Tesla too? The hits keep coming! Now Tesla is being sued by one of its engineers for a sexist, discriminatory culture: https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/28/tesla-engineer-sues-over-sexist-workplace-culture/
Sarah Thomas 2/28/2017 | 3:35:29 PM
Singhal's response Singhal provided Recode with this statement: "Harassment is unacceptable in any setting. I certainly want everyone to know that I do not condone and have not committed such behavior. In my 20-year career, I've never been accused of anything like this before and the decision to leave Google was my own."

Whether its true or not, there is no way Uber could've kept him on board given what the accusations against it and its desire to look genuine in its attempt to change its culture. I wonder if they were truly unaware of the circumstances surrounding his departure from Google. The accuser did not want to go public, so it's reasonable, but his leaving the company was suspect on a number of levels, and I'm sure there were rumors. He also said he wanted to "give back" after he left, but then immediately joined Uber.
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