Rivian, the electric vehicle startup known for its upcoming electric truck, has found itself facing allegations of a “toxic bro culture” after Laura Schwab, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at the company, was fired after raising gender discrimination concerns to Rivian’s human resources department. Now, she’s suing them.
Schwab isn’t new to the automotive industry. She started working with Jaguar Land Rover and progressed up the ladder to becoming Aston Martin’s first-ever female president. When she left the British company, it came as a surprise — but in a new Medium post, Schwab notes that she was drawn to the eco-friendly ethos and emphasis on company culture that Rivian promised and joined in November of 2020. Helping to organize a company’s first automotive sales and deliveries seemed like a great opportunity for her to make a serious impact.
Then, she ran into problems. I’ll let Schwab put it in her own words:
The culture at Rivian was carefully cultivated, but not in the manner it was advertised. Rivian in many ways resembled other automotive companies, dominated by men at the top; however, the most striking difference between Rivian and the other companies where I had worked was a lack of automotive experience among the other executives. The company’s founder, R.J. Scaringe, was clearly and literally in the driver’s seat, and he surrounded himself with a tight knit group of men who constantly had his ear. Many of these men had worked together before or hired one another and had created their own “boys’ club”.
The bro culture affected how the most important decisions were being made at the company. Despite my 20 years of auto experience, and my position as VP of Sales and Marketing, I was excluded from crucial meetings that impacted our mission and my team. Time and time again, I raised concerns regarding vehicle pricing and manufacturing deadlines, but no one listened, even though I have extensive experience launching and pricing vehicles. It wasn’t until my (often less experienced) male colleagues raised the exact same ideas that the Chief Commercial Officer would respond. Never in my years in the auto industry had I experienced such blatant marginalization.
Schwab further alleges that she was unable to schedule a meeting with the CCO to talk about her exclusion, who would only speak to her via messenger outside of office hours. After seeking out another prominent woman in the company, Schwab learned that she wasn’t the only woman to experience a kind of systemic exclusion that made it impossible for her to effectively do her job.
That other woman was an HR officer, and two days later, Schwab was fired. She was told it was part of a larger reorganization in which she was the only person impacted.
“It is simply not credible that the company would eliminate the executive responsible for sales and marketing just as Rivian was beginning to sell vehicles and was on the eve of an IPO,” Schwab wrote in her post. “And a vastly growing company that was hiring over 200 new employees a week does not eliminate high performers without some ulterior motive. I had witnessed less qualified male colleagues be shifted around in an effort to keep them at Rivian.”
So, Schwab is suing, the Wall Street Journal reports, and filed her claim with both the California Superior Court in Orange County and the American Arbitration Association.
Rivian, set to become a publicly traded company in coming days, has declined to comment due to its mandatory quiet period.
Rivian is hoping to raise at least $8.4 billion with its IPO after planning to offer 135 million shares of the company between $57 and $62 per share. But should this lawsuit be settled in Schwab’s favor, Rivian’s culture could have dealt itself a truly serious blow.