More Ethical Questions for Uber

Uber MadridSusan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, has blasted the company for what she describes as sexual harassment, a sexist environment, and HR's failure to respond. Fowler also reports that only 3% of engineers are women at Uber, which she claims has fallen over time.

When she reported sexual harassment, she was given a choice to move to another department or stay and likely receive a poor performance review. This is a basic "don't" in HR, from my experience: you don't move the victim and put him or her at a disadvantage. According to Fowler, no further action was taken in the case, although other women received similar treatment by the same manager.

At this point, Fowler's complaints are getting attention. CEO Travis Kalanick wrote that he would look into the situation:

"I have just read Susan Fowler's blog. What she describes is abhorrent and against everything Uber stands for and believes in. It's the first time this has come to my attention so I have instructed Liane Hornsey our new Chief Human Resources Officer to conduct an urgent investigation into these allegations. We seek to make Uber a just workplace and there can be absolutely no place for this kind of behavior at Uber -- and anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired."

Ariana Huffington, an Uber board member, jumped into the conversation on Twitter:

Huffington Uber

Image source.

From interviews and messages from Uber employees, a New York Times article reports an "aggressive, unrestrained workplace culture." Kalanick further addressed the controversy in an email to employees that begins: "It's been a tough 24 hours. I know the company is hurting, and understand everyone has been waiting for more information on where things stand and what actions we are going to take."


  • Read Fowler's blog post. What persuasive strategies does she use (logical arguments, emotional appeals, and credibility)? Which parts are most and least convincing? 
  • How should the company respond? An investigation is a good start: what should this include, how should it be carried out, and what result would you expect?