Diversity in Silicon Valley and an Uber Engineer’s Suicide

Diversity in Silicon Valley and an Uber Engineer’s Suicide

Joseph Thomas signed a contract with Uber’s San Francisco headquarters that would yield him $170,000 as a software engineer, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Yet, just months after purchasing a new home and moving to San Francisco from Atlanta with his wife Zecole and two children, Thomas committed suicide.

Believing the organization was the cause of Thomas’ stress, his wife Zecole, filed a workers’ compensation claim against Uber, yet the company’s insurance policy doesn’t cover psychiatric issues until the sixth-month mark; Thomas was only there for five. Zecole’s attorney is fighting the case stating that under California law if the distress is caused by “extraordinary employment condition,” that, the policy is null and void.

There is something to be said about the work culture of Silicon Valley tech companies. With long hours and an increasing demand to outperform, who do you turn to? Thomas turned to a psychiatrist, but that wasn’t enough. After reporting extreme panic attacks and unavoidable anxiety, the 33-year-old shot himself, leaving his wife to discover his body, full of blood, in the car located in their garage.

There is insurmountable stress that goes on internally at Silicon Valley tech companies that for some reason, is being swept under the rug until we hear about the extreme. Due to rapid growth demands capped out at billion-dollar valuations, it seems that employees are taking the brunt of this stress.

On top of that, being African American within a company culture that doesn’t exactly boast diversity in technical roles, it’s very easy to believe that Uber lacked the inclusivity that Thomas needed to thrive. To put things into perspective, Uber employs a whopping 1% of African Americans when it comes to technical jobs, according to their recently released diversity report.

These high-growth tech companies are in desperate need of a solution when it comes to mental health. In a city with so much innovation, it is ironic that this story has resulted in such a tragic ending.