Just as Rivian is delivering its first vehicles to customers and is days away from an initial public stock offering that could be worth upward of $50 billion, a high-ranking executive disclosed she was fired and is suing the company.
In a blog post headlined “Life Outside the Boys Club: Why I Spoke Up About Rivian’s Toxic Bro Culture (and Got Fired),” and posted on Medium.com Thursday, industry veteran Laura Schwab claims Rivian’s “toxic bro culture” made it impossible for her to do her job.
In a separate post on LinkedIn, Schwab said she has filed a lawsuit against the company “for gender discrimination and retaliation.” The 14-page suit was filed Thursday in California Superior Court in Orange County by San Francisco law firm Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe.
Rivian late Thursday confirmed with Automotive News that Schwab is no longer with the company, but would not comment further. The company is in a “quiet period” as part of preparations for an initial public stock offering.
Schwab, 48, formerly president of Aston Martin’s Americans operations, joined Rivian as its first vice president of sales and marketing less than a year ago. “Laura’s such an exciting addition to our Rivian team,” the company said at the time. “Her experience in deploying rich and truly personal sales and ownership experiences for customers is a key asset for Rivian as we prepare to deliver our vehicles next summer.”
According to the blog post, not long after Schwab started, male executives began excluding her from meeting about operations in which she was responsible.
“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,” the blog post says.
“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.”
“The culture at Rivian was carefully cultivated, but not in the manner it was advertised,” she wrote in the blog. “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.”
Before Aston Martin, Schwab was marketing director for Jaguar Land Rover. She was recruited by Aston Martin, where one of her last jobs was the successful launch of the DBX performance SUV. She was among a number of senior managers with experience at automakers and elsewhere recruited by Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe last year as the company prepared to launch its first electric vehicle, the R1T pickup.
Schwab has been outspoken on women joining the auto industry, and while at Aston, Schwab helped bolster the automaker’s ranks of female employees. In 2020, Schwab was named one of Automotive News’ 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry. She has more than 23 years experience in automotive.
The blog post paints a negative picture of Rivian’s corporate culture: “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,” Schwab wrote. “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.”
Meanwhile, former Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer came to Schwab’s defense late Thursday in a tweet.
“Laura is one of the most professional Sales & Marketing Execs I’ve had the pleasure to work with,” the tweet said. “I’ve no idea why you’d hire someone of this quality and then not listen to them!”
Laura @lauraschwab1 is one of the most professional Sales & Marketing Execs I’ve had the pleasure to work with. I’ve no idea why you’d hire someone of this quality and then not listen to them! https://t.co/hrdyeo8MPE
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