American / Book Reviews / feminism / nonfiction / The Latest

A review of Susan Fowler’s memoir “Whistle Blower”: dealing with discrimination at work

Book cover of Susan Fowler’s memoir, Whistle Blower: My Journey to Silicon Valley and Fight for Justice at Uber. The book cover shows a portrait of the author and the title is superimposed over the picture.

I picked this memoir because I wanted to read and learn more about other women’s experiences with workplace discrimination. It is something I have personally experienced, and to be honest, it took years for me to come to terms with everything that happened. In reading Susan Fowler’s memoir, I felt, for the first time, truly not alone. I recognised her descriptions of hopelessness and fear. I saw how the gaslighting played out for Fowler and couldn’t help but recognise similar practices from some of my previous employers. It almost felt like Fowler’s memoir was not just a personal reflection on her time at Uber, rather it felt in many ways like a case study of how discrimination in the workplace can manifest, as well as what companies do to avoid the truth coming out.

Fowler has had an extraordinary life and her story reminded me a lot of the J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy . She struggled to make her way in life and her education was earnt with blood, sweat, and tears. She talks about her experiences with discrimination at university and about being a woman in STEM research. The discrimination is, I believe, a major obstacle for girls and women wanting to work in the sciences still to this day.

Companies (that discriminate against employees) hold a lot of power. They have financial and legal backing that can mean your case, if you take it to court, can take years. This means you are drowned in bills before you ever get your day in court. Furthermore, companies that are large enough can have the power to almost end your career if you go public with discrimination claims. Who wants to employ the ‘difficult’ woman/POC/Queer? The power wielded with money and career trajectory are some of the main reasons why people who experience discrimination never come forward. It would be too impossible to calculate the true numbers of workplace discrimination because of the fear and forced secrecy surrounding it.

Fowler risked it all to come forward. And for that, I am grateful. I want to be hopeful, but I don’t know if there has really been any actual change in the world since Fowler came forward. I still hear of women, the world over, experiencing similar problems. And again, most of it goes unreported.

Throughout the memoir, Fowler talks about this overwhelming feeling that life was happening to her, rather than her having control over her own experiences. This really struck a chord with me. Not just in the context of discrimination, but for life in general. 2020 has been a lot! For everyone. And I have struggled to catch my breath since I moved to Australia. There are so many obstacles placed in my way, and people bigger and more power than you are often making decisions about your life that you have no control over. It can feel like you have nothing to hold on to, so you just free fall. Sometimes, there are just not enough good vibes, calls to friends, reading, self-care and love that can give you the security you need.

Fowler’s memoir is extremely important for every woman to read. Even if you haven’t experienced discrimination, Fowler’s memoir will make sure you know what to look out for.

What books are you reading at the moment? Have you dealt with workplace discrimination? What resources did you find helpful? As always, share the reading love.