Uber, The Cult of the White Male God, and the Lack of Government Regulation in Silicon Valley
Travis Kalanick is the Donald Trump of Silicon Valley.
Like Trump, he is a person with a history of admitting who he is. Travis’ “Boob-er” is Donald Trump’s “Grab Them By The Pussy”.
Like Trump, nothing he does seems to stick because there is a group of people who feel that it is just not “bad enough”. That his merits outweigh his faults.
When this blog post was published, Travis said he was unaware of the sexual harassment which had been occurring at his local office: complaints which had been brought as high as his CTO who I would assume is a direct report and even emailed to him.
This is either a lie or it is a clear and utter statement of incompetence. If it is the latter, then how is such an individual fit to run such a highly valued private company?
I would like to tell the world something — as someone who is a minority, as someone who has dealt with abusers in my own life, and as someone who has worked as a counselor for those who have been abused both sexually and physically:
IT IS COMMON FOR AN ABUSER TO SAY WHEN CAUGHT THAT THEY WILL CHANGE IMMEDIATELY AND THAT WHAT HAPPENED IS THE PAST — THAT THE FUTURE WILL IMMEDIATELY BE DIFFERENT.
Cue Travis Kalanick’s immediate response: “It’s been a tough 24 hours. I know the company is hurting…I expect them to conduct this review in short order…there have been many questions about the gender diversity of Uber’s technology teams…I believe in creating a workplace where a deep sense of justice underpins everything we do…It is my number one priority that we come through this a better organization, where we live our values and fight for and support those who experience injustice.”
I have seen this pattern over and over again without fail. The abusive husband, the molester, the racially motivated abuser, the workplace abuser.
What you get without fail is the immediate 360 degree turn — the “I will make this instantly better”. Without fail, this is a falsehood.
How does one immediately acquire a sense of morality one was previously oblivious to?
Has it been a tough 24 hours for you? That languages marginalizes the depth of the experience endured by the original blog post author and all others who have been victimized. Travis is so out of touch with what being sexually harassed really means in the workplace: it is something which will affect those harassed and assaulted for years going forward and now always be a consideration in their professional and personal relationships.
Why make this discussion a about gender diversity? Someone was discriminated against. Women were specifically discriminated against in your organization and you are suggesting that your solution is to bring in more of them immediately? Again, the abuser has a fix. He will make it instantly better. It is simply a “fact” or a “percentage” that he needs to improve upon and that he can do immediately even though he has not done it before.
That communication strategy, where the topic is shifted to deflect away from the real issue, is a common pattern among abusers and is outlined well here in this video discussing Kelly Ann Conway’s communication as the face of Trump’s campaign. The original blog post author DID mention workplace diversity so I can pick on that and run with it…Travis figures.
And then, instantly, equality in the workplace and justice for all is Travis’ number one priority. It is something he has cared about so little in his organization up to this point that there is mass moment of revelation at the company where employees can see he truly “cares” about people being hurt — note: immediately after it is publicly reveled that people are being hurt.
To understand how fundamentally the behavior of Travis Kalanick has created a vicious ethos of disregard in his company, take a look at how the pain of the those who have been discriminated against and harassed is abstracted away into the pain of the company by stating that “Everyone at Uber is deeply hurting” to users who chose to delete their account while referencing the issue.
Abusers utilize a strategy in which they try and abstract away a victim’s pain: you don’t know how tough it was for me, those were some of the darkest times of my life, seeing you cry hurt me too…
There’s no difference here. People in the company at large read a disconcerting article accounting experiences. The writer and others had a directly damaging experience. There is a distinct difference. Do not abstract away from it.
Others such as Mitch & Freada Kapor and Paul Bradley Carr here have pointed out the circularity of having an investigation where people associated with or having a financial interest in the company are the ones to conduct an investigation. I would urge that the world looks at the immediacy with which each of those parties declared that suddenly there would an absolute turn around at a company which they previous oversaw and were directly affiliated with but yet were so distant from that they did not truly understand how it was governed.
Again, as with Travis, they are either lying or incompetent.
Beyond that, let us look at Arianna Huffington’s involvement. She is described as an “author, syndicated columnist, occasional actress, and businesswoman.” Arianna Huffington is not a counselor. From my understanding, she has no professional training in dealing with or listening to the concerns relating to the issues at hand. Why is she sitting down and having discussions with employees?
Is this because she is a prominent woman and a woman was the one discriminated against?
This is completely and absolutely wrong. It sends the wrong message and is utilizing celebrity to suggest knowledge, familiarity and understanding of a truly complex dynamic which involved direct discrimination, harassment, and victimization. This is not a place for celebrity. It is a place for accreditation and expertise.
When Arianna Huffington suggests that “Change doesn’t usually happen without a catalyst.” She is wrong. This is not about “change” — it is about a company that built a culture where breaking established regulations about workplace behavior was considered acceptable.
State and federal laws were broken here. This is a violation of regulations which many people have fought for in the courts to even have the right to stand up and say: what you are doing is wrong.
From the outside looking in, one wonders how such a culture continues in an area which presents to the rest of the country as being highly progressive. In fact, how does an author such as Sarah Lacy for example post repeatedly about such issues to the community itself yet no progress is made?
I call this The Cult Of The While Male God. Step outside Silicon Valley for a second and I will tell you what you see: you see a place where White Men are allowed to simply CREATE laws. Travis Kalanick can create and decide how people are treated within his organization. As long as there is growth and the value keeps increasing, he can keep creating those laws and other White Male Gods who serve him can keep enforcing them.
Let me tell you: this is no different that the patterns of abuse I have seen numerous times. The Male God Of The Household is allowed to create laws and others live to suffer and be punished under these laws without justice. People in the community know about what is happening, relatives are aware, but this culture of abusive deification continues.
Because there is the flash of venture capital and self-driving cars, the patten is no different.
Travis Kalanick has created a culture of abuse. This is no different from Donald Trump, who know creates laws as he pleases regardless of those it harms.
You will not be surprised to find out that other White Males such as jason immediately “trust” that management will take swift action and resolve the problem.
You see it again here: harassment and discrimination can immediately be solved by the very people who allowed it to be perpetuated. jason then continues to speak about his opposition to Donald Trump.
Interestingly, he does continue to speak out against the Donald Trump of Silicon Valley in whom it turns out he has a significant financial interest.
Those in Silicon Valley who perpetuate The Cult Of The While Male God should ask themselves one question: where is the place in America that sends a clear message — sexism is wrong, harassment is wrong, and discrimination based on race or gender is wrong. Significantly, these actions are also all illegal in the current context.
And this is where we come to my final point, these actions are ILLEGAL. They are not just wrong — they are also illegal. While Males in Silicon Valley can not simply create a culture with their own laws.
Travis Kalanick — the rules by which you govern your company exist within the rules of a state, a country, and a government.
What Silicon Valley is creating is a culture where rules and regulations are re-written. This for many years has been called disruption. But now what has happened is what you could call disruption creep. It’s like future creep but the difference is that this disruption involves the disruption of rules and regulations put in place to protect people and their basic rights.
It is wonderful when disruption of laws involved circumventing taxi cab regulation and that created value for shareholders, but what happens when it turns into circumventing the equal and respectful treatment of people in the workplace?
This is when it has gone too far and when the government needs to take a look at what Silicon Valley has truly become where discrimination and harassment are concerned.
Overall, this cannot be what Silicon Valley presents as the beacon of its value and capitalization. Most importantly, it cannot be what Silicon Valley presents as the archetype of its modern morality.
How many future innovators are now reading articles such as this by Megan Rose Dickey or the writings of Tracy Chou and asking whether something is really being done when even at the organization of a service they see used at such a scale, this is occurring?
You have to really consider the underprivileged early student out there for whom it would take ten years of work to even get to their first real Silicon Valley job interview and in now experiencing this being played out. THAT COULD BE A PERSON WHO WILL CHANGE THE WORLD WITH THEIR INNOVATION. We cannot have a culture like this which has the possibility of redirecting them away from that.
We cannot suggest that good does not prevail under our watch.
History will either remember this as a time when Silicon Valley killed The Cult Of The White Male God or as time when it elected its own Donald Trump, Travis Kalanick, as its leader.
The choice is yours. All you have to do is take a look around you and see what happens when you do nothing — when you figure that good will just win because it has to.
Think of your children and the legacy you want to leave for them: think of that girl in a math lab right now reading about this while trying to solve her first stats problem. Do the right thing by her. Show her that there is a place in America where people said no: where people made a difference — where she mattered.