A week ago, Uber board member Arianna Huffington was on TV saying the ride-hailing company doesn't have a "systemic problem" treating women employees equitably. By the end of the week, CEO Travis Kalanick's ex-girlfriend had stepped forward to talk about the time her then-boyfriend took her and several Uber managers to a brothel where women were identified by the numbers they wore.
That's pretty much how it's been for Uber--not just recently, since whistleblower Susan Fowler painted a portrait of rampant harassment and discrimination, but for a while now. It may only be eight years old, but in its short life, the company has faced questions regarding its treatment of women on numerous occasions.
In fact, there have been so many incidents, we needed to make a timeline to keep them all straight.
"These incidents that aren't even real in the first place"--September 16, 2013
As Uber's popularity took off in 2013, so did complaints about male drivers allegedly assaulting female passengers. Following one such episode, where a driver allegedly grabbed his passenger by her throat, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick responded by directing his public relations team to communicate that Uber was not liable for these issues. He also denied they had occurred.
"I think our statement goes most of the way there, but for whatever reason, these writers are starting to think that we are somehow liable for these incidents that aren't even real in the first place," Kalanick wrote in an email to his team which was also sent to a reporter.
"Boob-er"--February 27, 2014
In one of his first high-profile magazine features, Kalanick spoke about his company and lifestyle with GQ. Asked about his increasing ability to score women, Kalanick responded with, "Yeah, we call that Boob-er."
Uber's French marketing campaign--October 21, 2014
In its early days, Uber was known for giving its regional managers free rein to do what they deemed necessary to establish the company in new markets. This approach backfired in Lyon, France, where the team there decided to roll out an "Avions de chasse" campaign.
"'Avions de chasse' is the French term for 'fighter jets,' but also the colloquial term to designate an incredibly hot chick. Lucky you! the world's most beautiful 'Avions' are waiting for you on this app. Seat back [sic], relax and let them take you on cloud 9!" an English version of the website promoting the #UberAvions campaign said.
The company began deleting the marketing material after receiving an inquiry from a reporter, but the screenshots live on.
Uber versus Sarah Lacy--November 17, 2014
Following the discovery of the "Avions de chasse" blitz, Pando editor in chief Sarah Lacy wrote a scathing post summarizing Uber's treatment of women. She concluded by saying she did not feel safe using Uber and was deleting the app as a result.
Several weeks later, at a private dinner with journalists and Uber's leadership, senior vice president Emil Michael suggested that Uber spend a million dollars to hire top opposition researchers and journalists to dig up information on reporters that could be used to fight back against the press.
Michael specifically focused his comments on Lacy, following her post alleging a culture of misogyny a month earlier. After someone suggested that this type of plan could become a problem for Uber, Michael said "Nobody would know it was us."
After Buzzfeed editor in chief Ben Smith reported his remarks, Michael apologized.
Uber's background checks fail to prevent a rape--December 5, 2014
Criticism of Uber's safety measures and background checks hit a fever pitch at the close of 2014, after a woman in New Delhi alleged that she was raped by her Uber driver. The company, which often brags that its fingerprint-less background checks are more comprehensive than those of taxi companies, was embarrassed after it became known that the driver in the incident had been accused of raping another female passenger of his three years earlier.
Uber tries to suppress leaks of rape and sex assault data--March 6, 2016
After an Uber customer service representative provided a reporter with screenshots showing just how many reports the company gets from users who file complaints of "rape," "assault," and "sexual assault," the company responded with a hunt to find the leaker.
Uber rejected the accuracy of the data in the screenshots that were reported, and provided new data that showed far fewer such complaints.
Susan Fowler speaks up--February 19, 2017
After leaving Uber after just one year, software engineer Susan Fowler published an account of her time at the company. The post, which alleged multiple instances of sexism and sexual assault at the company, went viral. Her account includes allegations of her manager approaching her for sex on her first day on his team as well as multiple instances of Uber's human resources department lying to women who worked at the company.
Uber responded to the allegations within hours, committing to conducting an "urgent investigation" into the matter led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
An Uber engineer says she is not surprised by Fowler's allegations--February 20, 2017
Following Fowler's blog post, Uber software engineer Aimee Lucido weighed in on the subject, saying she was not surprised by the account and calling it a wake-up call. Lucido said the incident showed that sexism is a systemic problem in the world, in the tech industry, and at Uber.
"If the world, and Uber specifically, takes one thing away from this, it should be that this is not an isolated incident," Lucido wrote.
Following her post, Lucido was contacted by this reporter for an interview. Although Lucido said that she would "definitely be interested" in conducting the interview, Uber denied the request.
Women of Uber call out Travis Kalanick--February 23, 2017
After calling for an investigation to determine whether the issues raised by Fowler were a systemic problem for Uber, Kalanick held a meeting with more than 100 of his female employees. That meeting was recorded, and in the audio, you can hear a woman confront Kalanick and ask him to acknowledge that these issues are systemic and that the company does not need a formal investigation to determine that.
"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?" a female Uber employee asked. "I do not think that we need [Eric Holder's] help in admitting to ourselves as a company and a family that we have a systemic problem," she said.
A female passenger sues Uber for failing to protect her from a driver with a record of sexual crime--February 23, 2017
Uber is often sued by drivers and passengers, but a lawsuit in February was noteworthy due to its timing and accusations. In it, a woman alleged that an Uber driver had tried to rape her. She claimed there were "systemic deficiencies in Uber's employment and supervision of its drivers" that put her in danger.
The driver had "a record of moving violations" and "he also had a prior criminal record of a sexual crime against another woman, which would have been revealed by a detailed fingerprint-based background check of the type conducted regularly within the taxi industry," according to the lawsuit.
"Uber has placed profits over safety by deliberately lowering the bar for drivers in order to rapidly expand its network of drivers and thus its profits," the lawsuit reads. "This is a calculated decision by senior executives to allow Uber to dominate the emerging rideshare market at the expense of public safety."
An anonymous Uber data analyst shares her Uber story--February 24, 2017
A few days after Fowler's account was published, a second former Uber employee shared an account of her time at the company. The anonymous account alleges that she faced sexual harassment and sexism by an employee in upper management.
This man suggested she wear heels to emphasize her buttocks and later called her "a whiny little bitch" in front of colleagues when she disagreed with one of his ideas, the woman said. The man had been personally interviewed for his job by Kalanick, the former employee added.
An Uber Executive with a history of sexual harassment allegations resigns--February 27, 2017
In an episode only indirectly connected to the Fowler account, Uber senior vice president of engineering Amit Singhal resigned from his post after being asked to by Kalanick. The resignation came after Uber was alerted to Singhal's history of sexual harassment allegations by a reporter.
At his job with Google prior to joining Uber, Singhal had been investigated for a complaint from an employee that was found to be credible. Singhal denied the allegations.
Another female former Uber employee speaks out--March 3, 2017
Security engineer Keala Lusk joined the ranks of former Uber employees speaking out when she shared an account of her time at the company. Lusk's post was unique in that it alleged sexism from a female manager. In her account, Lusk includes a summary of her email that was sent to Uber's human resources department.
Among her complaints, Lusk says her female manager criticized how she dressed and cited Lusk's dress style as the reason her career was failing to progress. "Try wearing longer sleeve shirts for a few months and see how that goes," the manager allegedly said.
Arianna Huffington denies sexual harassment is a systemic problem at Uber--March 23, 2017
When Kalanick announced the Holder investigation, he made clear that Uber board member Arianna Huffington would be a part of it. Since then, Uber has clarified Huffington's role, saying that she is not a part of the investigation itself but rather part of a subcommittee that will oversee the implementation of the investigation's recommendations.
Whatever her role may be, Huffington caused a stir when she weighed in on Uber's workplace matters, saying that sexual harassment is not a systemic issue at the company, a month before the investigation is set to be concluded.
"Yes, there were some bad apples, unquestionably. But this is not a systemic problem," Huffington said. "What is important is that the structures that were not in place are now being put in place to make sure that women, minorities, everyone, feels completely comfortable at Uber."
The comments drew criticism from Uber employees who reportedly questioned whether she was fit for the role.
An Uber recruiter brushes off the systemic sexism problem--March 24, 2017
As Uber's leadership deal with the public relations mess that has resulted since Fowler's account, its employees must try to go about their business. That includes the company's recruiters.
After a job candidate said she was not interested in working for Uber due to its issues of sexism, a company recruiter responded, "I just want to say that sexism is systemic in tech and other industries," according to a screenshot of the exchange posted on Twitter.
An Uber executive tries to cover up a visit to a Seoul escort bar--March 24, 2017
As Uber worked to repair the image of how it treats women, Uber executive Emil Michael allegedly called Gabi Holzwarth, Kalanick's former girlfriend, asking her to lie about a group outing to an escort-karaoke bar in Seoul in 2014, according to a report. Holzwarth said she chose to speak out about the incident only after Michael's attempt to silence her.
In her account, Holzwarth said the group that visited the bar included herself, Kalanick, Michael, other male employees, and one female employee. The male employees picked out women sitting in a circle who were identified by numbered tags. Holzwarth and Kalanick left the bar about an hour later. A year later, the female employee notified Uber's head of human resources that the event had made her uncomfortable.