Uber has had many scandals thrown its way this year, Susan Fowler’s blog post on her year at the company was a harrowing account of upper management ignoring sexism and harassment at the workplace. Its problems caught up to it though. CEO, Travis Kalanick, resigned in June this year not only because of this but for scandals involving “Greyball” and stealing technology from Google. Eric Alexander, an Uber executive was fired on June 7th for mishandling a medical report from a woman who was raped in 2014 by an Uber employee in India. Ariana Huffington, who is also on the board for Uber, told CNN in an interview that harassment isn’t a systematic problem at the company but the allegations made by Fowler show that the problem is just that. Jeff Jones quit as Uber’s president after only six short months there because he had concerns about the firm’s management culture. But is Uber the only company to come under fire for sexism and harassment?
On April 7th in a court hearing, America’s Department of Labor (DOL) accused Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company of hiding the fact that it pays its male employees more than their female counterparts. Although Alphabet does have several women who hold important positions in the company such as Ruth Porat (Chief Financial Officer) and Susan Wojcicki (CEO of YouTube), what about the rest? The suit was filed by the Department of Labor in January when Google repeatedly refused to give them the data they wanted, claiming that it was in violation of employee privacy. The DOL, however, holds its position that women are grossly underpaid compared to the men. Women have had to band together to try and make equal pay a possibility. The U.S women’s soccer team recently got a new contract, they were being underpaid compared to the men’s team – the women will now receive raises in base pay and bonuses along with better provisions for travel and accommodation as well as increased per diems. This a result of a group of players that filed a complaint about wage discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, they maintained that the women did comparable work but were paid significantly less.
WAGE GAPS BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN, HARASSMENT AND RAMPANT SEXISM IS IN THE SPOTLIGHT MORE THAN EVER IN TECH COMPANIES ACROSS THE BOARD
Tesla has also been described as a hostile environment for women, AJ Vandermeyden filed a lawsuit in February against the company and was fired in May in what she states was an act of retaliation. Vandermeyden has accused Tesla of paying their women employees less when she joined in 2013 and being the only woman among 40 to 50 men – which she states is replicated at every management level in the company.
Justin Caldbeck, co-founder of the venture capital firm, Binary Capital, also resigned this year after he was accused of inappropriate advances made during business dealings by six women. Caldbeck initially denied the allegations but later admitted to them. Jonathan Teo, co-founder had described his behavior as predatory and deplorable but later admitted to being aware of his ‘bad behavior’ and taking no action, also resigned. Investors started to pull funds out of the firm shortly after.
Chris Sacca, co-founder at Lowercase Capital, admitted that his behavior was not the best example in how to treat women in tech. In a Medium post earlier this year he said, “By stupidly perpetuating a culture rife with busting chops, teasing and peer pressure to go out drinking, I made some women feel self-conscious, anxious and fear they might not be taken seriously.” Sacca who helped fund companies like Twitter and Uber has announced has retirement in April this year from investing in startups and his company would cease to make any new investments. He also appeared on two seasons of ABC’s Shark Tank but is also stepping away from the show. “In the earlier years of my career, I made my own attempts to fit in and be accepted as a part of the tribe of the Sand Hill Road guys,” added Sacca. “In social settings, under the guise of joking, being collegial, flirting, or having a good time, I undoubtedly caused some women to question themselves, retreat, feel alone, and worry they can’t be their authentic selves.”
IS UBER THE ONLY COMPANY TO COME UNDER FIRE FOR SEXISM AND HARASSMENT?
A diversity study conducted by the FundersClub shows that U.S technology companies that have at least one female founder tend to employ teams that are on average 48% female, however, when no female founders are involved that number is halved. Companies that have at least one female founder tend to have 38% women in the executive leadership team and engineering teams have on average 23% women which is 2.4 times and 2.3 times respectively higher than the average percentage for a startup with no female founders.