My trip to Silicon Valley and Fight for justice at Uber
By Susan Fowler
In December 2015, Susan Fowler took on a new job as a software engineer at technology transportation company Uber when her boss sent her a series of annoying chat messages. After Fowler's manager asked "Jake" how her job would go, he complained about inequalities in his relationship with his girlfriend. "It's an open relationship, but it's a little more open on vacation, haha," he wrote to Fowler's confusion. "She can have sex every day of the week. … I need a Herculean effort to do the same. "
Fowler realized that Jake was proposing her. She saved screenshots of the conversation and sent them to Uber's human resources department so that he could be sanctioned appropriately. Instead, they told her that Jake was a "performer" and that it was his first offense, so they "didn't feel comfortable giving him more than a strict conversation". It was Fowler's job to move to another team within the company to get away from him. Both the inappropriate comments and the company's pledge are the experiences women have inherently accepted as working in all levels of the income spectrum. Instead of tacitly tolerating it, the then 25-year-old Fowler decided to make a fuss.
What happened next was abundantly reported: in 2017, Fowler published a blog post describing the harassment she had experienced at Uber, including several cases of corporate discrimination and bullying. The post went viral and the company opened an investigation. Suddenly, Uber, one of the fastest growing and most valuable companies in Silicon Valley, was at the center of several ethical and legal scandals that led to the departure of the company's co-founder and C.E.O., Travis Kalanick.
Fowler's revelations came eight months before the New York Times and The New Yorker released explosive allegations of Harvey Weinstein's serial abuse of women and helped catalyze the #MeToo movement. Less well known is the remarkable background story that came before Fowler was at the center of these important events. "I shouldn't be a software engineer," she writes in "Whistleblower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and the Fight for Justice in Uber", her sharp and exciting memory. "I shouldn't be a writer, whistleblower, or even a college graduate. If you had told me 10 years ago that one day I would be all of these things – if you had shown me where life would lead me and which ones public role I would play in the world – I wouldn't have believed you. "