Susan Fowler is the former Uber engineer whose viral blog post ignited worldwide conversation on the #MeToo movement. The Financial Times named her Person of the Year, writing that her actions hold “the potential to improve the way women are treated at work permanently.” That’s Fowler’s public narrative. But her personal story—a homeschooled science nerd, a woman in STEM against huge odds—is just as fascinating. In uplifting talks, she tackles a variety of timely topics, including how regular people can spark positive change on a global scale.
“Words can change the world.” This was Susan Fowler’s famous five-word speech, delivered at the 2018 Webby Awards, where she was named Person of the Year for “opening the door wider to the better treatment and fairer employment of women within tech and the world at large.” At 26, the engineer, physicist, and writer wrote a meticulous blog post detailing the harassment—and the systemic denial of it—that she faced at Uber. Fowler’s powerful words led to a wave of change in attitudes toward workplace conduct in Silicon Valley and corporate America. It soon spread to Hollywood, politics, profesional sports, academia, and beyond; empowering countless women and men to share their stories, as well as providing the much-needed spark for companies to re-evaluate their policies, practices, and priorities.
“Susan Fowler helped expose a problem that will no longer be silenced, giving us all a chance to ask ourselves ‘How am I a part of this? And how do I fix it?’ and to not stop asking until we have solutions.”— Webby Awards, Person of the Year 2018
Named a Person of the Year by Time for being one of the Silence Breakers, Fowler’s coming forward has helped create a societal culture where, instead of denying there’s a problem, companies are embracing the solutions to it, trying to create systems that treat employees fairly, and services consumers can feel good about using. In 2018, Fowler was named Technology Editor of the New York Times’ Opinion section, where she’ll lead the Op-Ed coverage on the ways technology is shaping our culture, economy, relationships, politics, and play.
It’s not just her experience with the #MeToo movement that inform Folwer’s thoughtful talks. She grew up in rural poverty, one of seven children in an Arizona town of 600 people. Receiving virtually no formal schooling, she had to fight for everythign she wanted—especially her education. With unbelievable grit, Fowler gained admission into Arizona State University, at the age of 18, partly by providing a list of books she had read at her local library. She then earned degrees in physics and philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. “I used to think that my unconventional upbringing was a weakness,” she says. “But over the past few years I’ve learned to see it as one of my greatest strengths.” And Fowler brings more than her impressive intellect to everything she does, she also has a remarkable brand of moral purpose, clarity of mind, and tenacious courage.
In her career in STEM so far, Fowler has designed electronics that were used at CERN, worked on the search for the Higgs boson, worked at three start-ups, served as editor-in-chief at Increment (“The New Yorker of Silicon Valley”); and published her first book, on software architecture, at the age of 25.
Fowler is a member of Vanity Fair’s New Establishment List, Fortune’s 40 Under 40, and the Bloomberg 50. Fowler is also writing a memoir on her time at Uber, entitled Whistleblower (March 2020), and a movie about her life is currently in the works.