Dear Travis Kalanick,
In the modern-day when women are traversing careers and leadership positions, if you think sexual harassment at workplace is acceptable then you are mistaken. It is no longer okay that you could be the boss of world’s most valuable startup ever, but your behaviour with female employees and the promotion of bro-culture in the office will not be accepted. Today, whatever you are do sitting in your plush office in San Francisco is making headlines in Brunei. Women in the whole world are not going to neglect your misconduct or rather ignorance of it.
There are a host of Susan Fowler out there and your former employee is giving serious power to a lot of them. One is our homegrown Indian_Fowler who caused disruption for the same issue here, again with a rapidly growing startup called The Viral Fever.
The array of mishaps that have clouded the company for at least the past three years while the company itself is founded not so long ago in 2009. A person like Kalanick is inherently misplaced about what women want, who they are and what standing they have in the world today. He is ignorant. What a pity that the founder of the world’s largest startup, progressive and built on futuristic ideas is actually embedded in the past.
In that incident, Uber came under scanner for having absolutely no background check as the drive already had a criminal record. The same month another bad news came with another Uber driver killing a 6-year-old girl in a crash in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve. It became an add-on as this driver also had a criminal record for reckless driving. Uber faced its first wrongful death suit with this awful incident.
First, nobody says it in the current times, especially not in developed countries and is certainly not expected of a new-age start-up in a culture where start-ups are only thriving because of their progressive mindset.
These initial incidents should have been dealt with immediate action with double background checks for the existing drivers and a complete restoration of the company’s policies in synchronisation with its customer. But you did nothing of that sort, in fact, you went on to say that the female passenger who alleged that she faced molestation by an Uber driver was lying. This was the first of the vast collection of your sexist behaviours that were to take place in the coming years. And the general public was so lulled by your ‘serial entrepreneur’ image that we chose to ignore it.
Then you expanded your ride-sharing app to India in 2015 and here as well, your company was hit by the same criminal charges as elsewhere in the world –that of rape/sexual assault –due to a poor background check.
Then you went on to proceed with a sexist promotion in France, where the tag line was “Who said women don’t know how to drive?” In this promotion of the ride-sharing app in France, the models were hired to drive around men where the women were named “Hot Chick” drivers. First, nobody says it in the current times, especially not in developed countries and is certainly not expected of a new-age start-up in a culture where start-ups are only thriving because of their progressive mindset. This promotion; however, was highly regressive and precisely why it received that backlash.
While you should have taken note of the backlash and mended your ways not just outside company but within as well, you, Travis, again faltered and ignored the signs. Even UN Women broke partnership with you in 2015 in just eight days of the alliance because of your pathetic safety track record with female passengers and drivers. Did that not ring a bell, Travis? None whatsoever to have a change of heart towards women’s safety? Big claims of creating jobs for women need to have a holistic approach towards women’s requirement and respect for views, but stood way over and above it, ignoring women employees’ views all along.
It had to be an insider like Susan Fowler to bring out the Bro Culture you founded in the company that keeps a misogynistic view of its female employees. The kickass post by Fowler written in February 2017 laid bare the truth about Uber’s workplace harassment and lack of response when complained about. When I first heard you at an event in Delhi, the last time you were in India, I had no idea that the man sitting in front of me, answering people’s entrepreneurial and behavioural questions could be so vain himself.
New York Times did a stellar expose when it once reported that you pretend to be talking to your female employees, but pay no attention to their views, “We have the data, we have the anecdotes, we have it happening in our own backyard. When are we going to get together and say that there is a systemic problem here — and stop using hypotheticals?,” reported BuzzFeed News. In the meeting you had with your female employee, you went on to say that Uber has a systematic problem. Well, what? Shouldn’t this ‘systematic problem’ not have been there considering you all claim to be educated, forward-thinking adults?
You could have at least taken a hint when so many of your board members left the company on account of “lack of appetite for even more drama.” But you did not and hence your resignation was a much-requested affair.
Even as you stay on the board of the company and have a say in its major decisions, I don’t know how the company will take a 180 degree turn in controlling and eradicating the bigotry continuing for the past years. In this open letter, I have still missed out on a great number of instances of sexist behaviour by you. And no Travis –let me enlighten you –it is not a systematic problem, it is a mindset problem and you need to change it. I don’t know if you will ever answer or rather ponder on these questions, but I am deleting Uber because of your chauvinistic ways, Travis.
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