“Rifé of sexism”: Blue Origin employees of Jeff Bezos describe a “toxic” work culture

Twenty-one current and former employees of Jeff Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin, released a damning essay Thursday saying the company “turns a blind eye to sexism, is not listening enough to security concerns and silences those who seek to correct wrongs ”.

Co-authored by Alexandra Abrams, former employee communications manager at Blue Origin, the essay describes several accounts of sexist and contemptuous behavior by some of the ‘one hundred percent’ male technical and program managers at the company and asserts that “professional dissent at Blue Origin is actively being stifled.

Employees accuse company CEO Bob Smith of brushing aside dissent by discouraging staff from raising issues at in-house town halls, asking a colleague to follow “troublemakers or agitators” and forcing employees to speak out on safety concerns related to Blue Origin’s New Shepard. tourist rocket. “Smith’s inner circle of loyalists makes unilateral decisions, often without buy-in from engineers, other experts, or senior leaders from various departments,” say employees.

In an interview with CBS this morning, Abrams, speaking for the first time, said she was fired by Blue Origin in 2019, citing her manager as saying “Bob and I can’t trust you anymore”, referring to to the CEO. “You can’t create a culture of safety and a culture of fear at the same time,” Abrams said in the interview. “I got far enough away from it that I wasn’t afraid enough to let them shut me up.”

In a statement to The edge, a spokesperson for Blue Origin said: “Blue Origin has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. We provide numerous opportunities for employees, including an anonymous 24/7 hotline, and will promptly investigate any new misconduct complaints. “

The spokesperson also said Abrams was fired “after repeated warnings over issues involving federal export control regulations,” a claim Abrams denied to CBS News.

The essay, posted on Lioness, a platform for whistleblowers, indicated that Blue Origin sometimes overlooked security concerns for speed, amid fierce competition with other billionaire-backed companies like SpaceX. by Elon Musk or Virgin Galactic by Richard Branson. “Competition with other billionaires – and ‘making progress for Jeff’ – seemed to take precedence over security concerns that would have slowed the schedule,” employees said.

Employees also recounted the sexism of an anonymous former executive who called employees ‘little girl’, ‘…’ It dawned on many of us that he was protected by his close personal relationship with Bezos – he he had to physically grope a subordinate for him to be finally released, “they said. Another passage included:

In addition, a former NASA astronaut and senior official at Blue Origin once asked a group of women he collaborated with, “You should ask my opinion because I’m a man. We found that many business leaders were inaccessible and manifested clear prejudices against women. Concerns about the New Shepard robbery were systematically shut down and women were humiliated for raising them. When a man was fired for poor performance, he was allowed to leave with dignity, even a leaving party. Yet when a female leader who had dramatically improved her department’s performance was fired, she was ordered to leave immediately, with security hovering until she left the building five minutes later.

Blue Origin has struggled with internal conflicts in the past.

In 2020, The edge reported that Blue Origin employees were outraged by the pressure they were under from senior management to continue working in person and traveling for a New Shepard test launch at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic , as much of the country blocked itself to curb the spread of the virus. Responding to employee concerns at a meeting, Jeff Ashby, senior director of company mission insurance and former NASA astronaut, said, “I would say you should ask yourself, as an individual. , are you acting like a toxin in the organization, stoking discontent, or are you really trying to help our senior leaders make better decisions? ”

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