Gabi Holzwarth, the ex-girlfriend of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, has revealed even more details on the ride-sharing company’s workplace culture.
Holzwarth, a musician and business development manager who dated Kalanick for three years up until last August, said the environment surrounding Uber was misogynistic and psychologically damaging in an interview with the Huffington Post.
“You go to an event and there’s just a bunch of models they’ve flown in,” Holzwarth, 27, said, regarding her experience with the men of Silicon Valley. “That’s what they like to play with. That’s pretty much it.
“As a woman struggling with my own insecurities and body image, the best thing for me was to leave that unhealthy world of impossible standards,” Holzwarth added, though she credited Kalanick with assisting with her recovery from eating disorders.
Holzwarth’s interview with HuffPo comes after she told The Information that several Uber executives — all but one of them male — went to a karaoke bar in Seoul in 2014 and selected escorts wearing tags with numbers to join them.
Holzwarth said that she, Kalanick and the female Uber executive did not stay to see what happened, but the incident prompted the female executive to file a complaint with Uber’s human resources department.
Holzwarth said that she had no intention of speaking out until Uber senior vice president of business Emil Michael called her several weeks ago asking her to keep quiet about the 2014 incident. Michael was reportedly afraid that the story might leak with Uber in the midst of a PR meltdown over workplace discrimination.
“I don’t want to be silenced or lie for somebody else. It made me feel uncomfortable,”Holzwarth told HuffPo. “[It was a] tough three weeks of hiding their secret.”
But Michael disputed her account of the phone call in The Information’s report.
“Given the intense news cycle I thought it was the right thing to do to reach out and let her know that reporters may try to contact her directly,” Michael told the site. “I have known her for a long time, consider her a friend and did not want her to be taken by surprise. Her recollection of this conversation was different from mine and I am very sorry if the purpose of my call was misunderstood.”