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Whistleblower
Cover of Whistleblower
Whistleblower
My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber
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"Sharp and engrossing . . . A powerful illustration of the obstacles our society continues to throw up in the paths of ambitious young women, and the ways that institutions still protect and enable badly behaving men." The New York Times Book Review
"A very important read...frightening but also very empowering." —Gayle King, CBS This Morning

The powerful and inspiring story of the young woman who faced down one of the most valuable startups in Silicon Valley history
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2020 by Vogue, Forbes, and Cosmopolitan

Susan Fowler was just twenty-five years old when her blog post describing the sexual harassment and retaliation she'd experienced at Uber riveted the nation. Her post would eventually lead to the ousting of Uber's powerful CEO, but its ripples extended far beyond that, as her courageous choice to attach her name to the post inspired other women to speak publicly about their experiences. In the year that followed, an unprecedented number of women came forward, and Fowler was recognized by Time as one of the "Silence Breakers" who ignited the #MeToo movement.
Now, she tells her full story for the first time: a story of extraordinary determination and resilience that reveals what it takes—and what it means—to be a whistleblower. Long before she arrived at Uber, Fowler's life had been defined by her refusal to accept her circumstances. She propelled herself from an impoverished childhood with little formal education to the Ivy League, and then to a coveted position at one of the most valuable companies in the history of Silicon Valley. Each time she was mistreated, she fought back or found a way to reinvent herself; all she wanted was the opportunity to define her own dreams and work to achieve them. But when she discovered Uber's pervasive culture of sexism, racism, harassment, and abuse, and that the company would do nothing about it, she knew she had to speak out—no matter what it cost her.
Whistleblower takes us deep inside this shockingly toxic workplace and reveals new details about the aftermath of the blog post, in which Fowler was investigated and followed, hacked and threatened, to the point that she feared for her life. But even as it illuminates how the deck is stacked in favor of the status quo, Fowler's story serves as a crucial reminder that we can take our power back. Both moving personal narrative and rallying cry, Whistleblower urges us to be the heroes of our own stories, and to keep fighting for a more just and equitable world.
"Sharp and engrossing . . . A powerful illustration of the obstacles our society continues to throw up in the paths of ambitious young women, and the ways that institutions still protect and enable badly behaving men." The New York Times Book Review
"A very important read...frightening but also very empowering." —Gayle King, CBS This Morning

The powerful and inspiring story of the young woman who faced down one of the most valuable startups in Silicon Valley history
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2020 by Vogue, Forbes, and Cosmopolitan

Susan Fowler was just twenty-five years old when her blog post describing the sexual harassment and retaliation she'd experienced at Uber riveted the nation. Her post would eventually lead to the ousting of Uber's powerful CEO, but its ripples extended far beyond that, as her courageous choice to attach her name to the post inspired other women to speak publicly about their experiences. In the year that followed, an unprecedented number of women came forward, and Fowler was recognized by Time as one of the "Silence Breakers" who ignited the #MeToo movement.
Now, she tells her full story for the first time: a story of extraordinary determination and resilience that reveals what it takes—and what it means—to be a whistleblower. Long before she arrived at Uber, Fowler's life had been defined by her refusal to accept her circumstances. She propelled herself from an impoverished childhood with little formal education to the Ivy League, and then to a coveted position at one of the most valuable companies in the history of Silicon Valley. Each time she was mistreated, she fought back or found a way to reinvent herself; all she wanted was the opportunity to define her own dreams and work to achieve them. But when she discovered Uber's pervasive culture of sexism, racism, harassment, and abuse, and that the company would do nothing about it, she knew she had to speak out—no matter what it cost her.
Whistleblower takes us deep inside this shockingly toxic workplace and reveals new details about the aftermath of the blog post, in which Fowler was investigated and followed, hacked and threatened, to the point that she feared for her life. But even as it illuminates how the deck is stacked in favor of the status quo, Fowler's story serves as a crucial reminder that we can take our power back. Both moving personal narrative and rallying cry, Whistleblower urges us to be the heroes of our own stories, and to keep fighting for a more just and equitable world.
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  • From the book Prologue

    "It's important that you don't share the details of this meeting—or that this meeting even happened—until after the investigation has concluded."

    Sitting directly across from me, asking me to keep our meeting secret, was the former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder. His hands were clasped together, his elbows resting on the table, a plastic binder filled with notes open before him. To his left sat Tammy Albarrán, a partner at the corporate law firm Covington & Burling. She stopped combing through her own notes for a mo‑ ment and held her pen in her hand, staring at me over the dark rectangular frames of her glasses, awaiting my answer.

    "I understand," I said, nodding. Albarrán crisply put her pen back down to her notes.

    Two months earlier, I had written and published a blog post about my experiences as a software engineer at the ride‑sharing company Uber Technologies. In the blog post, which I had titled "Reflecting on One Very, Very Strange Year at Uber," I described being propositioned by my manager on my first official day on Uber's engineering team; the extent to which Uber's managers, executives, and HR department had ignored and covered up harassment and discrimination; and the retaliation I'd faced for reporting illegal conduct. It was a meticulously, cautiously, delib‑ erately crafted portrait of the company, one that I had constructed with almost excruciating care, every sentence backed up by writ‑ ten documentation.

    My story quickly caught the attention of the media and the public. Several hours after I'd shared a link to it on Twitter, it had been retweeted by reporters and celebrities and was a "developing story" covered by local, national, and international news outlets. Travis Kalanick, then the CEO of Uber, shared a link to my blog post on Twitter and said, "What's described here is abhorrent & against everything we believe in. Anyone who behaves this way or thinks this is OK will be fired." He then hired Eric Holder and Holder's firm, Covington & Burling, to run a thorough investiga‑ tion into the company's culture. It was clear that Kalanick wanted to send a message: he was taking this seriously—so seriously that anyone involved in what had happened, anyone responsible for the story that was now being repeated by every major news outlet across the globe, would be fired.

    Three days later, The New York Times published its own damn‑ ing account of Uber's culture. The day after that, Waymo, a sub‑ sidiary of Google that was developing self‑driving cars, sued Uber for patent infringement and trade secret theft. Less than a week later, a video leaked of Travis Kalanick berating an Uber driver. And that was only the beginning. By the time I found myself across the table from President Obama's attorney general, the public consensus was that something was very wrong with Uber, but nobody was quite sure of the extent of the problem or who should be held responsible for it. "Some people," Kalanick had shouted at the driver in the grainy dashcam video, "don't like to take responsibility for their own shit."

    As the drama unfolded in the press, I waited. I didn't know what was going to happen, and everything—including my fate, the fate of my ex‑coworkers, and the fate of Uber—seemed to be rid‑ ing on the results of the Covington & Burling investigation. I'd been reluctant to meet with Eric Holder, afraid that I would mess everything up, that I would say the wrong things, that I would somehow jeopardize the investigation. But now that I was sitting across from him, there was so...
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2019

    In 2017, after being told that she was the problem when she complained about the sexism, harassment, and racism at Uber, entry-level engineer Fowler posted a blog detailing her treatment there. The posts went viral and resulted in the ouster of Uber's CEO and 20 other employees. Meanwhile, Fowler appeared on the cover of Time as a 2017 Person of the Year. Now she's the technology op-ed editor at the New York Times.

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber
Susan Fowler
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