Laura Schwab Went to Rivian and Hit a Glass Ceiling, Doors, and Walls
Laura Schwab seemed to have it all, career-wise: She was president of Aston Martin The Americas, the first female president in the company’s history after a successful career in marketing at Jaguar Land Rover, she was living the life in Southern California, and she was driving a DB11 through the sunny streets of Orange and San Diego Counties. Then she took at job offer at electric truck and SUV maker Rivian, at least partly because she liked what Rivian stood for: environmentally clean transportation, revolutionary design, and high tech.
Turns out, according to Schwab, Rivian is run by an elite clique of good old boys that didn’t care to hear what she thought about almost anything.
“Rivian publicly boasts about its culture, so it was a crushing blow when I joined the company and almost immediately experienced a toxic bro culture that marginalizes women and contributes to the company making mistakes,” Schwab said in a post on the website medium.com. “I raised concerns to HR about the gender discrimination from my manager, the ‘boys club’ culture, and the impact it was having on me, my team, and the company. Two days later, my boss fired me.”
We reached out to Rivian for comment but they’re not able to comment.
“Our mandated pre-IPO quiet period prohibits us from commenting on this suit,” said a spokesperson.
Rivian is one of the most well-funded companies in the history of corporate startups. In 2019 it got a $700 million investment from Amazon and a half-billion dollar investment from Ford. That was followed by $350 million from Cox Automotive, $1.3 billion from T. Rowe Price, and, in July, a $2.5 billion funding round. In August Rivian announced it was working on a proposed public offering of its common stock that could presumably raise still more money. The trade publication Automotive News said the public offering could raise a whopping $50 billion.
The Rivian media website, meanwhile, boasted about several environmental collaborations, with the Nature Conservancy “to keep adventure wild” and to “preserve biodiversity,” and with rock climber Alex Honnold and his Honnold Foundation “to support energy independence and adoption of renewable power generation” through the use of second-life batteries.
So the company seemed at least somewhat sensitive to causes. One might have assumed gender equality would be among them.
“The culture at Rivian was carefully cultivated, but not in the manner it was advertised,” Schwab said. “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 club wasn’t taking new members, according to Schwab.
“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 Growth Officer (internally called Chief Commercial Officer) would respond. Never in my years in the auto industry had I experienced such blatant marginalization.”
She says she took that matter to HR, a department headed by a woman. Two days later she met with her boss, the “Chief Growth Officer.”
“Just two days later, my boss, the Chief Growth Officer, who had not had a one-on-one meeting with me in months called me into the office for a meeting. As I entered the room, he was sitting there with the same HR business partner to whom I had reported the gender discrimination I was experiencing. My boss told me that I was fired. He assured me that I was a well-respected, high performer. The reason he gave for the termination? This was part of a larger ‘reorganization,’ but I was the only person ‘reorganized.’ My Response? “Bullshit.”
Schwab filed a lawsuit against Rivian for gender discrimination and retaliation.
Said Schwab on a LinkedIn post announcing the lawsuit, “I will not be silent any longer.”
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