SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Outspoken author, publisher and women’s advocate Arianna Huffington has joined a team that will be investigating sexual harassment allegations by a female tech engineer at Uber.
The San Franciso-based ride-sharing company is at the center of a scathing blog post by Susan Fowler titled, “Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber.” In it, the former employee describes being rebuffed by management when she complained about advances by her boss on her first day, because he “was a high performer.” She goes on to detail 12 months of sexist behavior and blatant favoritism.
Huffington is part of the team assembled by Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, along with former US Attorney General Eric Holder and Tammy Albarran, both partners at the law firm Covington & Burling.
On Tuesday, Huffington met with Kalanick and Liane Hornsey, Uber’s Chief Human Resources Officer at the company’s weekly meeting.
“Travis spoke very honestly about the mistakes he’s made — and about how he wants to take the events of the last 48-hours to build a better Uber,” said Huffington in a statement. “It was great to see employees holding managers accountable. I also view it as my responsibility to hold the leadership team’s feet to the fire on this issue.”
After the blog was posted Sunday, Kalanick wasted no time responding on Twitter.
“What’s described here is abhorrent & against everything we believe in,” Kalanick tweeted Monday. “Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired.”
Kalanick cited the company’s efforts toward gender diversity and says 15% of Uber’s employees are women, compared to 17% at Facebook, 19% at Google and 15% at Twitter.
Fowler’s allegations of a culture of sexual harassment come as Uber is still reeling from public calls for a boycott after the company implemented surge pricing during chaotic rollout of the Trump administration’s immigration ban. Thousands of customers deleted the app.
It is yet to be seen if Huffington’s presence will help soften the blow. The Pulitzer Prize winner, once named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people seems optimistic, though.
“Change doesn’t usually happen without a catalyst,” she said. “I hope that by taking the time to understand what’s gone wrong and fixing it we can not only make Uber better but also contribute to improvements for women across the industry.”