Former VP Sues Rivian Over ‘Toxic Bro Culture’ She Claims Led to Her Firing

Laura Schwab says the “boys club” environment left her without a seat at the table with other Rivian executives.

byRob Stumpf| PUBLISHED Nov 5, 2021 3:25 PM
Former VP Sues Rivian Over ‘Toxic Bro Culture’ She Claims Led to Her Firing

Amazon-backed electric vehicle startup Rivian stands accused of having a "toxic bro culture that marginalizes women," according to a former high-ranking employee of the automaker.

Rivian's ex-Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Laura Schwab, took to Medium on Thursday to announce her abrupt departure from the company after raising internal concerns over the automaker's culture. The tightly curated company feel, which Rivian boasts about publicly, was nothing more than a "boys club," according to Schwab, which she says simply masks the true gender discrimination wound within it.

via Rivian

According to Schwab's allegations, Rivian is a company dominated by male figures in the highest positions—not exactly unusual in the auto industry—though she expected different. For context, she left her position at Aston Martin, where she was the first female president in the company's century-long history, to join Rivian.

Schwab was onboarded at Rivian in November 2020 as the VP of sales and marketing. At that time, she allegedly realized that the automaker lacked formal organization and supposedly didn't even have concrete plans on successfully launching its first 1,000 vehicles. The 20-year automotive industry veteran saw this as her chance to take on the challenge of building the company from the ground up. But instead, Schwab says she was left out of critical meetings that impacted both her team and the company mission.

Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe was said to be at the center of the tight-knit "boys club." These employees reportedly had direct access to Scaringe and the potential to influence the direction of the company. To make matters more complicated, many of the employees had seemingly worked together before or hired one another, creating an even tighter-wound web that, in Schwab's words, "contributes to the company making mistakes."

Schwab felt that despite her industry experience, it was as if she hadn't earned a spot at the table. After being left out of discussions that were key to her role as VP of sales and marketing—including some regarding sales planning and volume—Schwab asked another female senior executive to be included. To her alleged surprise, the other VP was reportedly also excluded from the meetings, which were key to performing her duties as well.

Eventually, Schwab says she brought her concerns to the company's human resources department. She allegedly mentioned the various supposed instances of exclusion and marginalization from her boss, Rivian's Chief Growth Officer, who reportedly refused to schedule meetings with her, or would only communicate with her by instant messenger outside of business hours. She theorized that the company's "bro culture" was impacting female employees and even her female HR confidant expressed that the Chief Growth Officer had not been speaking to her either.

Two days after this meeting, Schwab claims to have had the first one-on-one convo with her boss in months where she was informed of her firing. It was supposedly part of a larger "reorganization"—however, Schwab claims that she was the only person being reorganized. Schwab has since published her account of the matter on Medium and announced that she filed a lawsuit against Rivian over gender discrimination on LinkedIn.

Meanwhile, Rivian is on the cusp of becoming a publicly traded company. The automaker hopes to raise around $8.4 billion via its initial public offering where it will sell 135 million shares to the public. Overall, this could potentially value the young auto manufacturer as high as $60 billion when accounting for restricted stock options. Rivian's IPO is expected to take place later this month.

In an email to The Drive, a Rivian spokesperson declined to comment, citing the mandatory quiet period ahead of the company's IPO.

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