Monday 20 February 2017 10:06 am

Uber's facing some serious allegations of sexism, harassment and a toxic work culture

Uber is facing serious allegations of sexism in the workplace after explosive revelations from a former engineer at the billion-dollar startup.

Chief executive Travis Kalanick labelled the behaviour "abhorrent" and "against everything we believe in", promising an investigation, after former engineer Susan Fowler published details of her experience at the company.

In the blog post, she describes being propositioned by a male manager, something she immediately reported to human resources, however, no action was taken despite being told it was sexual harassment other than a warning as it was a first offence, it's claimed.

Fowler was then given the option of moving to a different team or remaining in the same position but claims HR warned that she should expect a poor performance review if she stayed and that there was nothing that could be done about it. 

Read more: Here's how much less women in tech get paid compared with men

After moving teams, she says she discovered other female engineers had similar experiences, some of them with the same manager.

She goes on to detail her experience with HR, which continually failed to address the situation as female engineers departed the company or transferred, it's alleged, while she was told she did not have "an upward career trajectory" when requesting her own transfer. 

Fowler, who now works at payments startup Stripe, also details an alleged toxic management culture of senior executives undermining each other while painting a picture of an organisation that willfully ignored complaints and failed to rebuke those whose behaviour was considered unacceptable because they were considered "high performers".

In a series of tweets, Kalanick responded to the allegations, saying: "What's described here is abhorrent & against everything we believe in. Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired."

"I've instructed our CHRO [chief human resources officer] Liane [Hornsey] to conduct an urgent investigation. There can be absolutely no place for this kind of behaviour at Uber."

High profile Uber board member Arianna Huffington, the only woman on the startup's board, said that she would work with Hornsey to "conduct a full independent investigation" immediately.

Uber does not publish diversity data, unlike several high-profile tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft. According to Fowler, the percentage of women in the organisation within Uber she worked for dropped to six per cent from 25 per cent within her time there. The numbers are not known, however.

Read more: Hire more women or risk funding, sporting bodies told

The allegations are the latest controversy to hit the startup, which is valued at just shy of $70bn, the most highly valued private technology company in the world.

The company faced a backlash over Kalanick's membership of Donald Trump's economic advisory board after the President's executive order banning travel from certain countries, which he later decided to leave after pressure from users and the spread of the #DeleteUber hashtag.

The hashtag resurfaced on Twitter in light of Fowler's blog post. 

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