NEW YORK ― Before Susan Fowler, then 25, took down the CEO of Uber with a blog post exposing the company’s toxic, sexist culture, she’d already overcome some daunting obstacles.
The daughter of an evangelical preacher, she grew up dirt poor in rural Arizona, Fowler writes in a new memoir, “Whistleblower.” She and her six siblings were homeschooled until their mother was forced to go back to work. Fowler then taught herself at night, with a curriculum she designed, while working at less-than-minimum-wage jobs during the day. She landed a full scholarship to Arizona State University and from there elbowed her way into a transfer to the Ivy League.
Yet there’s one obstacle that she hasn’t been able to get around, Fowler writes. And that’s sexism. Multiple incidents of humiliation, gaslighting and retaliation during her time in college and then at a series of Silicon Valley startups culminated with her “very strange year” at Uber.
Fowler’s 2017 blog post went viral, leading to the ouster of Uber’s co-founder Travis Kalanick as well as the firing of 20 other people inside the high-profile company. It helped drive the Me Too movement. Now, her book comes at a time when the conversation around sexual harassment seems to have lost some of that drive.
One sharp example: after years spent criticizing Donald Trump for the way he treats women, Democrats are contemplating nominating Michael Bloomberg, a presidential candidate with a history of sexist remarks and a track record of harassment and discrimination lawsuits against him and his company. The details of those claims are murky because the women who complained ended up signing non-disclosure agreements that bound them to silence.
Fowler’s experiences are a reminder of what happens when a woman is not silenced. She chose to write a blog post, knowing that if she filed suit against Uber, the company would force her into arbitration and her story would never come to light.
And she wanted to go...