My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber

eBook - 2020
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"The unbelievable true story of the young woman who faced down one of the most valuable startups in Silicon Valley history--and what came after In 2017, twenty-five-year-old Susan Fowler published a blog post detailing the sexual harassment and retaliation she'd experienced as an entry-level engineer at Uber. The post went viral, leading not only to the ouster of Uber's CEO and twenty other employees, but 'starting a bonfire on creepy sexual behavior in Silicon Valley that . . . spread to Hollywood and engulfed Harvey Weinstein' (Maureen Dowd, The New York Times). When Susan decided to share her story, she was fully aware of the consequences most women faced for speaking out about harassment prior to the #MeToo era. But, as her inspiring memoir, Whistleblower, reveals, this courageous act was entirely consistent with Susan's young life so far: a life characterized by extraordinary determination, a refusal to accept things as they are, and the desire to do what is good and right. Growing up in poverty in rural Arizona, she was denied a formal education--yet went on to obtain an Ivy League degree. When she was told, after discovering the pervasive culture of sexism, harassment, racism, and abuse at Uber, that she was the problem, she banded together with other women to try to make change. When that didn't work, she went public. She could never have anticipated the lengths to which Uber would go in its efforts to intimidate and discredit her, the impact her words would have on Silicon Valley--and the world--or how they would set her on a course toward finally achieving her dreams. The moving story of a woman's lifelong fight to do what she loves--despite repeatedly being told no or treated as less-than--Whistleblower is both a riveting read and a source of inspiration for anyone seeking to stand up against inequality in their own workplace"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: [New York] : Viking, [2020]
ISBN: 9780525560135
Characteristics: 1 online resource


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Oct 16, 2020

Susan J. Fowler had grown up in poverty. Homeschooled and later unschooled, she nevertheless strove for academic excellence. After realizing that ASU’s policies prevented her from pursuing a Physics degree, she transferred to Penn, where she worked towards a Physics and Philosophy double major as well as a Masters degree in Philosophy.⁣

But just as Fowler thought that she was finally achieving her dream of becoming a physicist, a suicidal peer entered her life and toppled her entire academic career. Her ambitions soured, Fowler was forced to enter another profession as a data scientist in Silicon Valley, but its misogyny and blatant sexual harassments quickly affected her mental health. ⁣

Fowler spent the second half of the book discussing her struggles to balance the fear of damaging her career and her desire for justice. She did eventually oust Uber’s sexual harassment issues, but it was also true that when one individual stood against capitalism, it was usually the individual that suffered. ⁣

In this case, Fowler was fortunate to have prior experience dealing with the bureaucracy at Penn, and rather than succumbing to the pressure again, she confronted it. We cannot say that she “won” because of the deep scar the conflict had engraved on her life, but given the havoc Uber has wrecked on others, Fowler’s very ability to tell her story is a testimony to her empathy, courage and resourcefulness. ⁣

This book is Educated and Know My Name in one. Although it lacks the physical violence of the former and the graphic details of the latter, Fowler still tells a compelling story that is both dark and poignant.⁣

As someone in the early stages of her career, I totally understand Fowler’s hesitation to expose her firm. Lucrative industries often have little tolerance for “troublemakers,” but this only makes Fowler’s courage more inspiring. Rather than “the woman who was harassed at Uber,” we should know Fowler, as she rightly hopes, as “the woman who stood up and spoke out.”

For more book and movie reviews, visit me on Instagram @ RandomStuffIRead :)

Feb 21, 2020

Whistleblower is overblown.

Susan Fowler wrote the story of her life in this book. It's an interesting story, told well. She was born in Michigan but grew up in rural Arizona, in a tiny town an hour or two outside of Phoenix. The second of seven children, her parents were very religious but she, apparently, wasn't. They were poor but got by somehow, and she left home at 18 to study at Arizona State University, then transferred to the University of Pennsylvania. Now, nearing 30, she is married with a toddler daughter and works, among other things, as an op-ed editor for the New York Times.

But Susan Fowler's claim to fame is as one of the "Silence Breakers" that were pictured on the cover of Time magazine as a collective Person of the Year in 2017. They were the women of the MeToo movement that Susan Fowler, according to columnist Maureen Dowd, began by lighting a bonfire on creepy sexual behavior in Silicon Valley. The match that lit the bonfire was (supposedly) a blog post Susan Fowler wrote three years ago called "Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber". She had worked at Uber for a year as a software engineer.

I read the blog post at the time. It was a little hard to know how seriously to take it. The accusations in the blog post seemed (to me at least) to be blown out of proportion. Disturbing and disappointing, sure. But not that unusual in the workplace, unfortunately. People are not saints. Speaking as a long-time lawyer in Silicon Valley, there didn't seem to be enough there for a civil suit, let alone criminal charges.

Reading the book now makes me feel the same. Susan Fowler adds a lot more detail in her account in the book, and details other times when she felt she was treated poorly because of her sex. Even though we hear only her side of the story, there seems little shocking in the way she was treated. Indeed, it seems like she raised these issues to benefit herself, as unfortunately some do in what is called the grievance industry.

Whistle blowers typically blow the whistle on something shocking. Muckrakers find a pile of muck to rake. Not much muck here. Not much to blow a whistle on. Whistleblower is overblown.


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