Amid accusations of sexism and sexual harassment, a recording of a meeting Thursday with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and a group of more than 100 female engineers discussing the issues was revealed by BuzzFeed.
The recording of the meeting comes after a former employee at Uber, Susan Fowler, made claims about sexual harassment and lack of female workers at the company in a blog post over the weekend. Uber has hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an internal investigation over the matter. Huffington Post’s co-founder Arianna Huffington, who is on Uber’s board of directors, will join Holder in the probe.
During the meeting with Uber’s “Lady Eng” group Kalanick listened to engineers on what they say is a “systemic problem” at the ride-hailing company. The employees urged the CEO to start “listening to your own people.”
“In a situation where many women have experienced this kind of thing, the onus is on us to earn credibility,” Kalanick said. “Part of how we get to that place where there’s more optimism is by taking it and apologizing, understanding, and doing everything we can to get to the bottom of it.”
“I think that we should kind of address the elephant in the room,” said an engineer at the meeting, “which is that everyone who’s in these rooms now … believes that there is a systemic problem here. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t … I do not think that we need [Eric Holder’s] help in admitting to ourselves as a company that we have a systemic problem.”
Kalanick then replied “fair enough” and that he understood. After a silent moment, Kalanick went back to the same questions and sounded emotional and on the verge of tears.
“There are people in this room who have experienced things that are incredibly unjust,” an emotional Kalanick said. “And I understand. I don’t understand in a way that I have experienced it myself but I have had family members who have seen the kind of things that you guys have seen — here or elsewhere.”
“And I know it doesn’t end there, I know that it’s not just about when somebody is physically harmed or what have you. It’s about the notion that even talking in the ways that I think some of you have been talked to that feels like that is part of the overall problem. So I just want to make it clear that I understand, I understand that this is bigger than the Susan situation.”
“And I want you to know that I’m all about rooting this out. And being very aggressive about that. While also being supportive and empathic and trying to build that support and empathy through the organization.”
He then apologized for cutting the person who was speaking before and said “It’s a little bit emotional for me and I’m sorry, I’m sure it’s emotional for some of you too.”
However, Kalanick’s reputation isn’t squeaky clean. In a GQ report in 2014, he referred to Uber as “Boob-er” because of how the ride-hailing company helped him attract women. His statement eventually echoed in Uber’s work environment. During the recording of the discussion, Kalanick failed to refer incidents as sexual harassment, and instead called it the “Susan situation.”
The meeting also comes after a New York Times report based on interviews with more than 30 former and current employees at Uber. The report, Inside Uber’s Aggressive, Unrestrained Workplace Culture , there were detailed instances of cocaine use, homophobic verbal abuse, sexual harassment and even an incident in which a manager threatened to beat an employee’s head with a baseball bat. Uber is also facing three lawsuits in at least two countries from former employees with claims of sexual harassment or verbal abuse actions from managers.
On top of the allegations this week, the company is also still reeling back from last month’s #DeleteUber campaign.
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