I Spoke Out Against Sexual Harassment at Uber. The Aftermath Was Terrifying

In February 2017, I published a blog post about my experiences with sexual harassment and gender discrimination at Uber, where I had recently left my role as a software engineer. In it, I described a year of employment that began with a sexual proposition from my manager and only grew more demeaning and demoralizing from there. The post quickly went viral, tapping into a conversation about systemic discrimination throughout Silicon Valley.

What I wrote changed the world, some said: for the first time, a woman had spoken up about mistreatment, the world listened to her, and she walked away unscathed. And, in those early days, it really did seem that I had turned the tables, and I started to wonder if most of my fears had been unfounded. It seemed too good to be true. And it was. I was soon jolted out of my daydream, and I awakened into a nightmare.

It started with strange stories from my family, friends and acquaintances. Reporters had been contacting them from day one and asking for information about me, but now they were also being contacted by people who didn’t seem to be reporters at all, who asked questions about my personal life, questions about my past.

Initially, it was mostly my relatives and friends from Silicon Valley who were being contacted, but then they—whoever “they” were—began contacting people I hadn’t spoken to in years, like an old neighbor I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager. “Someone’s digging really deep on you, Susan,” my neighbor said, “and it’s scary how far back they’re going.” Whoever was trying to dig up dirt on me was going deep into my history, talking to people that I’d forgotten I’d even known. I didn’t know who was trying to get this information, and I didn’t know how they were able to find out so much about my past. I didn’t know what they were looking for, and I didn’t know what they were going to find. It was terrifying.

TIME Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers

For giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing all of us to stop accepting the unacceptable, the Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year.

Eventually, private investigators started reaching out to me directly. At the time, I rarely answered my phone, but one day, when I was waiting for a furniture delivery and expecting the furniture company to call me, I received a call from a number I didn’t recognize and I answered it. A woman was on the line. She gave me her name, identified herself as a private investigator, claimed that she was working on a case against Uber, and asked me to help her. I declined with a laugh, then did some detective work on my own; a quick Google search showed that the PI firm that she worked for had been hired in the past for cases in which people were trying to discredit victims of sexual misconduct.

I was being attacked on other fronts, too. My phone would “ding” whenever I received a two‐factor authentication text belonging to my email or social media accounts, which meant that someone was trying to access them. I changed my passwords frequently, and eventually got a second phone for 2FA texts, but it wasn’t enough. My Facebook account was hacked several times, as were several old email accounts I hadn’t used in years. Around the same time, my younger sister’s Facebook account was hacked. The moment she told me that someone else had gotten into her account, I logged in and looked at the messages I’d recently sent her. I watched in horror as they went from “unread” to “read.”

I started to hear rumors about myself and my motivations in writing the post—rumors that were often accompanied by phrases like “someone close to Uber,” “someone close to the board” or even “someone at Uber.” The first rumor I’d heard had come from a reporter who called me in late February to see if I could confirm something: that Lyft had paid me to write a defamatory blog post about its primary competitor. It was obviously false, and I told the reporter so. Within a few days, I heard versions of the same rumor from other reporters, from people in the tech industry and from employees at Uber, all centered on Lyft’s paying me to write the blog post.

As soon as this rumor died down, another one quickly took its place: that powerful venture capitalists in Silicon Valley had been responsible for writing the blog post and making it go viral; in some versions of this rumor, those “powerful people” were investors in Lyft, Google or my husband’s company. A reporter from Business Insider wrote in an email (which I never responded to) that she was covering a “conspiracy theory that someone related to your husband’s company encouraged you to write the post and then helped it go viral after you wrote it.”

As terrifying and infuriating as the investigations and rumors were, nothing was as scary as being followed, which started happening shortly after I published the post that February. I noticed a peculiar car parked outside my house. When I walked from my house to the BART station on my way to the office, I’d often see the same car drive past me. (Or is it really the same one? I would wonder.) Whenever I left the office, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being followed. I told myself that I was imagining it.

Then, one afternoon in early March, I left work earlier than usual. As I walked down the back steps and turned the corner toward the street, I noticed a man jump—as if in surprise—and start walking after me. I changed directions as I walked, going down side streets, and whenever I glanced back, I saw him following a short distance behind. I eventually ducked into a Whole Foods, and watched as he walked past, sighing in relief. But when I went back out into the street, the man was leaning on a tree, looking down at the sidewalk. I had to walk past him, and he followed closely behind until he moved ahead of me, stopped, turned around and looked right at me. Panic rose in my throat, and I felt my heart beating so loudly I could hear it. I looked around for the police, hoping to find someone, anyone, who could help. Then I bolted as fast as I could down the street, into the BART station and onto a train.

That was the first time I knew I was definitely being followed, and it wasn’t the last.

I didn’t know who or what I was up against. I suspected it was Uber, though at the time I had no concrete evidence to back that up. Several security researchers offered to look into it, and came back with the names of various private investigation firms that Uber had hired in the past. Its most recent PI firm, I was told, was Ergo, an opposition research company run by former CIA operatives. This terrified me even more.

I feared that Uber would send a private investigator to break into my home, either while I was there or while I was out. Another former employee, Morgan Richardson, described an intimidating incident with an investigator who entered her apartment without her permission (Uber denied that the man came inside). If they did it to her, what would stop them from doing it to me? What if, I wondered, someone had already come to my home and I just didn’t know?

A deep, aching terror fell over me as I prepared for the worst parts of my life to become public. Meanwhile, I was growing increasingly isolated—I was working from home, and there were very few people I could talk to about the things that were happening; more than once, I confided in a friend, only to have our conversation parroted back to me by a reporter a few days later.

I felt sick to my stomach every day and had trouble sleeping. I’d lie awake in the middle of the night, racking my brain for memories of every mean thing I’d ever said, every mistake I’d ever made, every wrong thing I’d ever done, every lie I’d ever told, every person I’d ever hurt. I was haunted by every fight, every angry text message, every mean word, every breakup. I went over and over in my head everything I’d said that could be misinterpreted, that could put me in a bad light and undermine the authority of my claims.

At times, the anxiety, fear and horror of it got so bad that I would curl up into a ball on the floor and cry until I felt numb. Sometimes I would stand in the shower, turn on the water, cover my mouth with my hands and scream until my voice was hoarse. Part of what felt so scary was the randomness of it all: I never knew what to expect. One morbid thought gave me comfort, however, and it’s what I told myself every time I noticed someone following me, or whenever I was warned about possible threats against my life: if anything happened to me, if I was harmed or killed, everyone would know exactly who was responsible.

Three years have passed since I published that blog post and shared the story of what I experienced at Uber. The company hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate its culture, which ultimately led to CEO Travis Kalanick’s departure—and just months later, my story became part of a watershed movement against sexual misconduct. I could never have predicted the positive impact my story had in Silicon Valley and throughout the world, nor could I have predicted the backlash and terror that my loved ones and I faced because of it. And I’ve asked myself countless times whether I would do it all over again if I truly knew just how bad the bad part of speaking out would be.

Some days, when I think about all of this, I wish I hadn’t come forward. At times I fear that if I could have seen how this decision would affect my life, I would not have gone through with it. But that would have been the wrong choice. Writing that post was the right thing to do, regardless of the consequences.

Speaking up comes at great personal cost. Being a whistleblower is not easy. It is not glamorous or fun. It will terrify you and scare you and forever change your life in ways that will be beyond your control. But, despite all of this, shining a light in the darkness is the right thing to do. In some cases, like my own, it is the only way to leave the world better than you found it.

Source: I Spoke Out Against Sexual Harassment at Uber. The Aftermath Was Terrifying

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Susan Fowler discusses her book, “Whistle Blower”, at Politics and Prose. One of the first women to speak out in what became the #MeToo movement, Fowler came to national attention in 2017 when she posted an account of the sexual harassment she’d endured as an entry-level engineer at Uber. The story went viral, led to extensive shake ups at the company, and put Fowler on the cover of Time as one of the year’s “Silence Breakers.” In this powerful memoir, Fowler, now technology op-ed editor at The New York Times, reveals additional details about her time at Uber as well as reporting on the company’s response to her charges. She also puts these recent experiences into the larger context of her life, recounting the determination that took her from an impoverished childhood in rural Arizona to an Ivy League education and on to her brave public stand. Fowler is in conversation with Liz Bruenig, New York Times opinion writer. https://www.politics-prose.com/book/9… The technology op-ed editor at The New York Times, Susan Fowler has been named a “Person of the Year” by Time, The Financial Times, and the Webby Awards, and has appeared on Fortune’s “40 under 40” list, Vanity Fair’s New Establishment List, Marie Claire’s New Guard List, the Bloomberg 50, the Upstart 50, the Recode 100, and more. She is the author of a book on computer programming that has been implemented by companies across Silicon Valley. ——————————————————-Be Sure To Click SUBSCRIBE————————————————————– Visit us online at http://www.politics-prose.com/ Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PoliticsProse Follow us on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/politicsprose Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/politicsandp… Founded by Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade in 1984, Politics and Prose Bookstore is Washington, D.C.’s premier independent bookstore and cultural hub, a gathering place for people interested in reading and discussing books. Politics and Prose offers superior service, unusual book choices, and a haven for book lovers in the store and online.

Uber’s Nightmare Has Just Begun

“Never get in cars with strangers…”

Did your parents tell you that when you were a kid?

These days, people get in cars with strangers all the time… only they use a smartphone “app” to match them with a specific stranger to drive them around.

As you may have guessed, I’m referring to Uber, the world’s biggest ride-sharing company.

It’s like a taxi company except it doesn’t own any cars. It doesn’t employ any drivers either. Instead, it runs an app that connects drivers with people who need a ride.

Since 2009, Uber has grown into a hundred-billion-dollar company. It’s become so big and popular that it’s hard to imagine the world without it.

Hardly anyone “takes a taxi” anymore. Everyone “Ubers”…

The most-hyped IPO since Facebook…

Today In: Money

After years of extraordinary growth, Uber launched an IPO on May 10.

An IPO, as you may know, is when a company first sells shares in the public markets. It marks the first time individual investors can buy the stock.

Uber’s debut on the stock market was one of the most hyped financial events since Facebook went public in 2012.

It was on every financial TV. The headlines screamed “this is the next Facebook.”

Everyone was talking about it… I even heard stories of people putting half of their savings in this single stock.

I understand, Uber is a colossal technology company that has become part of everyone’s lives.

It has changed the way we commute. It even disrupted culture.

Who would have thought we would take rides from strangers in their personal cars on a regular basis?

But while Uber is a disruptive company, it’s a terrible business… and its stock is a horrendous investment.

You don’t need a master’s degree in business to understand this…

Every business has to eventually make more money than it spends. Period.

Yes, you can sacrifice profit to win customers at the beginning… but eventually you have to make money to cover your expenses and reward investors.

The thing is, after 10 years, Uber is still highly unprofitable. Worse, its losses are growing at astronomical levels.

Last year, it lost $1.8 billion… while last quarter, it lost a whopping $5 billion.

To put this in perspective…

In its IPO, Uber raised $9 billion…

… five of which it has already burned. IN A SINGLE QUARTER.

As I wrote in May, Uber loses 25 cents on every dollar it brings in and an average of $1.20 on every ride.

It’s burning money so fast that it lost more in the nine months leading up to the IPO than Amazon did in its first seven years!

Now, here’s simple math.

If you are losing money as a business, you have two options: cut your expenses or raise prices.

Uber’s biggest expense is driver pay. It pays back to drivers about 80% of all the money it generates.

That means to turn profit, Uber has to cut driver pay… or raise its fares.

And as I’ll explain, neither is possible.

Days before Uber’s IPO, Uber drivers boycotted the company and turned off the app…

They marched the streets in protests demanding higher pay and better working conditions.

Uber drivers now earn an average of $10 to $12 an hour in the US after expenses, according to researchers.

No surprise they are unhappy. The current pay is almost on par with the federal minimum wage.

Uber has no room to cut driver pay. Its drivers would just quit or migrate to Uber’s competitors.

Now, if you are losing money and can’t cut your expenses, your only option is to raise prices.

The problem is Uber is in a stalemate position where it can’t hike its fares.

A never-ending price war with Lyft…

The US is Uber’s biggest and most profitable market. But here, it has one big challenge.

You’ve probably heard about Lyft, Uber’s biggest competitor in the US.

These two companies have battled each other in price wars for years to undercut taxi fares and steal customers from each other.

It’s estimated that they’ve lost a combined $13 billion… and both still have no roadmap to profitability.

In other words, Uber is locked in a price war with Lyft.

As I’ll explain later, the moment Uber raises fares, its customers will switch to Lyft or another competitor.

But Uber’s problems with the competition don’t end here…

Uber can’t keep up with cutthroat competition overseas…

Another way Uber could raise its profits would be to grow globally.

But here, Uber’s prospects look even grimmer.

Bolt, an Estonia-based ride-sharing company, is quickly taking over Europe. In a lot of European cities, it’s a #1 ride-hailing app already.

It’s a heavy blow to Uber’s growth potential in Europe.

For example, London has been one of the biggest, most profitable markets for Uber. For years, Uber enjoyed zero serious competition in this city. Now it has Bolt.

Elsewhere Uber has already lost the battle with local competitors:

It has exited Russia after losing the battle with Yandex.Taxi…

It has exited China after losing the battle with DiDi…

And it has exited Southeast Asia after losing the battle with Grab and Go-Jek.

Southeast Asia accounts for more than 70% of the global ride-sharing market.

And these competitors are not just a local problem. Just like Uber, they have set their sights on the global market.

Take Brazil, where Uber boasts an 80% market share. It could be a money-making machine for Uber. And yet, the company bleeds money in Brazil because it’s fighting a price-war with China’s ride-sharing giant DiDi.

It’s a race to the bottom, which forces Uber to keep prices low and marketing expenses high.

Uber customers don’t care about Uber…

Would you take a ride with Uber if it cost twice as much as Lyft? That’s how much Uber needs to raise its fares to start earning money.

Probably not…

That’s because Uber’s app is no different from its competitors. It has no customer loyalty whatsoever.

In fact, more than 34% of people in the US who use ride-hailing services use both apps, Lyft and Uber. That’s up 50%+ from two years ago, according to Vox.

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Many people switch back and forth between Uber and Lyft, choosing whichever one offers a better price at the moment.

And with its fierce competitors charging about the same or lower fares, this makes it impossible for Uber to raise prices.

Meanwhile, Uber is losing its market share not only globally but also in the US, as you can see in the above chart.

Let me say this one more time: It’s a race to the bottom.

Uber is worth no more than $20/share

Uber is currently trading for 4X sales. In short, this means Uber’s value is 4X greater than its annual sales.

For perspective, that’s more expensive than Amazon or Apple.

My research shows 3X sales is a fair price, if we are really generous.

The problem is, at 3X sales, Uber is worth no more than $20 to $22/share. And that’s currently 30% below its price.

That’s where I see the stock going in the coming years.

Get my report “The Great Disruptors: 3 Breakthrough Stocks Set to Double Your Money”. These stocks will hand you 100% gains as they disrupt whole industries. Get your free copy here.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

I’m a professional investor and the chief analyst at RiskHedge, a disruption research firm. My team and I hunt for under-the-radar “disruptive” companies that are changing the world and making investors rich in the process. Get my latest analysis at RiskHedge.com.

Source: Uber’s Nightmare Has Just Begun

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Uber To Give Drivers & Couriers Sickness & Maternity Cover

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Uber is to provide additional protection for its drivers and couriers across Europe, including 70,000 in the UK, with limited insurance against sickness and injury as well as small maternity and paternity payments.The ride-hailing service said a new insurance policy, to be provided free to its drivers, would give them “peace of mind while preserving the flexibility they value”.

The cover starts in June for drivers who have completed 150 trips in the past two months, or Uber Eats couriers who have completed at least 30 deliveries. Payouts for a baby are £1,000; sick pay for injured drivers after a week is capped at £1,125.

But James Farrar, the chair of the united private hire drivers branch of the gig economy union IWGB, said the deal was just “tinkering around the edges” instead of guaranteeing drivers’ employment rights.“It’s good to see Uber is reacting to the pressure piled on by the IWGB’s campaigns and legal action,” he said.

“Sadly, this is once again a case of tinkering around the edges for a quick PR win, rather than dealing with the issue at hand. If Uber really cares about the workers on which the business relies, it should stop fighting us in court and give the drivers the rights they are entitled to under the law.” The GMB union said Uber was starting to listen to its members’ complaints about employment rights.

Mick Rix, the national officer, said: “This is a major step in the right direction, but our successful court victories, winning workers’ rights for Uber drivers, could have all been avoided if they had sat down and talked with GMB from the start.Uber has fought claims from drivers who argue that the technology firm is their employer and should provide benefits such as paid time off, and is continuing its legal appeal after British tribunals ruled against them.

While Uber insists that most drivers prefer to be self-employed, the latest move is another step in its efforts to show itself as a “better partner”, after a string of controversies and the decision by local authorities in London and other UK cities to refuse its application for a renewed licence.Announcing the move in Paris at President Emmanuel Macron’s Tech for Good summit, Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, said drivers were “at the heart of the Uber experience”.

He said: “We’re committed to being better a partner, and that starts by being a better listener. That’s why I’m thrilled to provide this groundbreaking protection alongside a trusted insurer like AXA, giving our drivers and couriers the peace of mind they tell us they want while preserving the flexibility they value.”In a blogpost confirming the details, Uber said: “We called drivers ‘partners’ but didn’t always act like it.”

The insurance will give some protection against major costs or lost income resulting from accidents or injuries while working, as well as an element of sick or parental leave through one-off payments.A similar scheme was announced this month by Deliveroo, who gave its riders accident insurance towards medical expenses and loss of earnings.

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