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Uber Harassment Investigation: New Scapegoat for Silicon Valley Sexism?

Adam Banner - Friday, June 09, 2017

While Uber's firing of over twenty employees may not seem like a huge issue when you consider the company's wide-spread proliferation into almost every major city in the United States, the news could be indicative of a much larger problem

It was announced this week that Uber fired at east twenty employees as a result of harassment and sexual harassment allegations. An ongoing investigation is still playing out, with the final results set to come at a later time. Obviously, enough has already come to the surface to justify the termination of multiple employees.

Now, keep in mind that this isn't simply a situation in which some of Uber's drivers were fired. No, according to NPR, the firings included some "senior executives" as those counted among the casualties as well. That alone tells me that the allegations must have been an issue from the top-down, or possibly somehow related to oversight and company policy (or lack thereof). 

The firings come as a result of an investigation into approximately 200 work-place sexual harassment and related misconduct complaints. Former Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to compile a comprehensive report regarding the findings and proposed remedial measures Uber should take to rectify the issues. It will be interesting to see whether the results are tailored more towards Uber's specific situation or the more wide-spread problems that allegedly permeate the tech industry as a whole according to various sources.

The idea has been passed around that Uber is becoming somewhat of a "scapegoat" for a much larger problem in Silicon Valley. If you are a frequent reader of my blog, you'll know that I am huge fan of the television series that shares the same name as the Californian tech-hub. On a recent episode of the series, Silicon Valley addressed the issue of bias in the tech culture, and it seems that the writers were coming from a place of experience -- or at least pseudo common knowledge. 

In the television episode, one of the series' antagonists, Gavin, employees the use of a "blood boy" to help retard the bodies natural aging process. I know...just stay with me for a minute on this. The blood boy serves exactly the purpose his name implies: he shows up, sets up a transfusion with Gavin, and...thats about it.

However, in a scene following his introduction, he complains to one of the protagonists about the perception bias he must consistently try to overcome working and living in the Valley's environment. Well, he turned out to be full of it, but his argument doesn't fall on deaf ears.

To be fair, the blood boy was playing off the idea that he was too attractive and in-shape to receive any credibility in a culture that does not necessarily embrace or attempt to foster those traits. "Jocks vs. Geeks" was the motif, but the situation leads to a much more tangible aspect of many work-place environments: the inappropriate and unfair treatment of women in the work place.

Many female engineers have spoken out against the sexism and bias in Silicon Valley, and others have echoed the same sentiment. According to some, the sexism is "rampant" and at times out of control. The recent Uber developments, and the potential lawsuits and civil liability that might result, could serve as a clear indication as to just how seriously society views this problem.

 






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