Uber’s head of HR says she never met with Susan Fowler, the woman who’s blog post exposed the company

  • Uber’s HR chief Liane Hornsey says that she never met with Susan Fowler and doesn’t really feel the need to.
  • Susan Fowler had some interesting things to say about that.

Uber’s HR chief Liane Hornsey has a tough job ahead of her as she tries to rehabilitate Uber’s battered image and fix its internal practices, following allegations of rampant sexism first brought to light by former engineer Susan Fowler.

On Monday, Hornsey took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to discuss her progress fixing Uber. But she quickly ran into one very vocal critic: Susan Fowler.

Although the two have never met each other, their lives are very much intertwined around the same issue. And Fowler, who is now an engineer at Stripe, took issue with many of Hornsey’s characterizations about the situation.

Hornsey was asked about Fowler’s blog post in the WSJ interview, and whether Hornsey had met with Fowler:

“I have said, very publicly, “Thank you” to her because she raised some stuff that did lead to change. I don’t know whether there would be any benefit in meeting her. I’m seriously working for my employees today; she’s an ex-employee.”

Fowler’s reaction, via Twitter: “She really, really doesn’t like me.”

“Very difficult for this company”

Hornsey joined Uber as the new HR boss in January. This was a month after Uber Fowler left the company to work at Stripe and a month before Fowler would write the now-famous blog post detailing the sexual harassment and sexism she alleged she experienced while working at Uber. Fowler’s post also described how Uber’s HR team allegedly brushed off her formal complaints about the incidents.

Fowler’s blog post became a catalyst that sent Uber into a tailspin, complete with an internal investigation led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Uber eventually fired over 20 people and Holder submitted a long list recommendations from mandatory leadership-training sessions to the establishment of an in-house diversity advisory board.

Although Hornsey has no plans to meet Fowler, she described Fowler’s impact to the WSJ:

“The Susan Fowler blog was very difficult for this company. We did 200 listening sessions. I made it very clear that every single email from every single employee would be answered by me in 48 hours. Believe you me, I sat up until 4 a.m. every bloody morning answering thousands of bloody emails.”

Tracy Chou, another female engineer who has worked to help bring more women to tech, also wasn’t pleased.

And Fowler wasn’t buying Hornsey’s descriptions of how the company is trying to recruit more women engineers to the company.

In Hornsey ‘s defence, there’s a well documented scarcity of women in tech and establishing a relationship with 1,800 potential candidates doesn’t really sound like a bad idea.

And Hornsey also described a wide range of tactics that Uber is trying in order to change its recruiting systems. It doesn’t use the blind resumes, as recommended by the Holder report, she says because this won’t help once someone gets to an actual interview.

But she is changing interview panels to include both women and men, she says, so that female candidates aren’t being questioned only by men. She also says that all panels include a “bar raiser,” someone trained in diversity and inclusion.

Fowler seemed more concerned with potential conflating of hiring practices with behaviours that companies may do after a someone is hired.

In any case, Uber has been turned upside down since Fowler left in 2016. It ousted its founder CEO Travis Kalanick and hired a new CEO who is tasked with hiring a huge slate of new executives between those who left and those who were fired. The boardroom battles have continued to rage, but one thing’s for certain: it has not been business as usual at Uber in 2017.

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