Uber’s women engineers grill CEO over ‘systemic problem’ of sexism

As Uber CEO Travis Kalanick continues to try to put out fires caused by explosive allegations of sexual harassment and sexism at the company, his female employees are demanding answers.

BuzzFeed News obtained an audio recording of an internal meeting where more than 100 women engineers gathered Thursday to express their concerns.

During the hour-long meeting, the women urged Kalanick to start “listening to your own people,” according to BuzzFeed, and to admit that “we have a systematic problem.”

BuzzFeed says Kalanick responded by promising he’s “all about” rooting out injustice and bad actors within the company. He said he understands that the issue is bigger than the accusations of sexual harassment that initially ignited the firestorm more than a week ago.

“It’s a little bit emotional for me,” he said, according to BuzzFeed, “and I’m sorry. I’m sure its emotional for some of you too.”

The trouble started for Uber more than a week ago when a former employee published a blog post with scathing accusations of harassment and sexism within the company — claiming, for example, that Uber had protected a manager who propositioned her for sex. Kalanick quickly jumped into crisis-management mode, hiring Eric Holder to investigate the company’s culture and calling an all-hands meeting Tuesday to address the issues.

But the company has continued to face a massive backlash over the claims. In an open letter, early Uber investors Mitch and Freada Kapor of the Kapor Center criticized the company for hiring what they called a team of insiders to conduct the investigation.

Holder in the past has advocated on behalf of Uber in fighting potential required fingerprint background checks for drivers.

“We are disappointed to see that Uber has selected a team of insiders to investigate its destructive culture and make recommendations for change,” the Kapor wrote. “To us, this decision is yet another example of Uber’s continued unwillingness to be open, transparent, and direct.”

Uber provided BuzzFeed with a statement from Eric Holder:

“I will put my personal reputation behind everything that I say. I think I’ve demonstrated throughout my career the ability to be independent, to not be afraid to express contrary views, and that’s what I’ve told everybody here at Uber. If you are going to ask me to do this, you have to be prepared for me to simply look at the facts as they are, look at the policies as they are, look at the culture as it is and make recommendations, make findings on that basis, without any regard for anything other than that.”

Photo: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick arrives at the 2014 TIME 100 Gala in New York on April 29, 2014. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)


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  • ShadrachSmith

    The war on Uber is so political, all we see are shadows on the wall.

    • Bopper

      Wow, are you naive.

      • ShadrachSmith

        This isn’t a Lyft/Urber conflict carried out by other means? How can you not see that? What am I not seeing?

        • Bopper

          I think you’re deep into the conspiracy mindset. This is plain and simply about a culture that has consistently encouraged, or at least has turned a blind eye to, sexism in the workplace. Even Kalanick recognizes and acknowledges that. Why try to turn it into something mysterious and political?

          • ShadrachSmith

            Well, if you were a Lyft flack, isn’t that exactly what you would say? I have trust issues with people who are pointing the bony finger of shame.

          • Bopper

            So, how long have you worked at Uber?

          • ShadrachSmith

            Never even ridden in either, but there you go again pointing the bony finger of shame as your central topic, thus reducing your credibility. Unforced error.

  • rex_montana

    I was going to criticize Kalanick for being stupid again, but in this case it seems that all he did was host a productive meeting where female engineers expressed how they really felt. I think that’s how meetings are supposed to work. This is only a story because it’s Uber.