American EV start-up Rivian has hit headlines globally after ex-sales and marketing boss Laura Schwab spoke out about a “toxic bro culture” at the company, which she links to her sudden termination last week.
In a detailed blog post, Schwab – who previously served as Aston Martin’s president of the Americas and gave a keynote address at Autocar’s Great British Women awards in 2019 – outlined an abrupt dismissal from her high-ranking executive role at Rivian, which she claims is operated as a “boys club” centred around founder and CEO RJ Scaringe.
She is now suing the company over her termination with a lawsuit filed yesterday (4 November) at a California Superior Court in Orange County. She alleges that Rivian has damaged her reputation and cost her “millions of dollars in unvested equity on the eve of the company’s IPO [initial public offering]”.
Autocar has approached Rivian for comment, but the company has so far not responded publicly to the allegations, citing a “quiet period” in the run-up to its planned stock-market flotation.
Schwab joined Rivian with 20 years of automotive industry experience, having started at Jaguar Land Rover and worked her way up to become Aston Martin’s first female president.
Joining Rivian as it ramped up to put its R1S and R1T 4x4s into production, she said it was a “crushing blow” to discover a “toxic bro culture that marginalises women and contributes to the company making mistakes”.
She has alleged that, upon arrival, the company had “no organisation in place to ensure a successful launch of the promised 1000 vehicles” and that she was excluded from top-level board meetings that had a direct impact on her role vice-president of sales and marketing.
Rivian is “dominated by men at the top”, she said, and there’s “a lack of experience among the other executives”. Her concerns about vehicle pricing and manufacturing deadlines were allegedly ignored until raised by her “often less experienced” male colleagues, which she considers a case of “blatant marginalisation”.
Schwab learned that another female senior executive was also being excluded from these meetings, in a direct contradiction of the forward-thinking values that Rivian extols publicly.
Finally, Schwab outlined her perception of Rivian’s “bro culture” to her HR business partner and came away “optimistic that change would happen”. But two days later, she was fired as part of what Rivian called a larger “reorganisation”.
Schwab called the termination “bullshit” and said there was no coincidence that it came just two days after she voiced her concerns. Firing the sales and marketing boss “on the eve of an IPO” and as Rivian gears up to a full market launch, “is simply not credible”, she said.
Schwab called Rivian’s culture “toxic” and said that it has a pattern of marginalising women but “they’re not the only ones”. She said she has come forward with her story to hold the manufacturer accountable and to encourage other women to question the culture at their workplace.
Rivian has had significant investment from industry giants Ford and Amazon and is widely viewed as a credible threat to Tesla. Its IPO could take place as early as next week, with sources suggesting it will seek a valuation of $60 billion (£44.6bn).