Twnety, a current and former employee of Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin, published a condemnatory essay on Thursday, saying the company “closes its eyes to sexism, is not adequately aligned with security concerns and silences those who seek to correct mistakes.”
Co-author of Blue Origin’s former head of employee communications Alexandra Abrams describes the essay several accounts of sexist and dismissive behavior from some of the company’s “one hundred percent” male senior technical and program managers and says “professional disagreement at Blue Origin is actively stifled.”
Employees accuse the company’s CEO Bob Smith of dispelling disagreements by discouraging staff from asking questions at internal town halls, asking a colleague to track down “troublemakers or agitators” and forcing employees to comment on safety issues related to Blue Origin’s New Shepard tourism rocket. “Smith’s inner circle of loyalists make one-sided decisions, often without the acquisition of engineers, other experts or managers across different departments,” staff say.
In an interview with CBS this morning, Abrams, speaking for the first time, said she was fired by Blue Origin in 2019, with her manager saying “Bob and I can not trust you anymore”, referring to the CEO. “You can’t create a culture of security and a culture of fear at the same time,” Abrams said in the interview. “I’ve gotten far enough away from it that I’m not scared enough to let them silence me anymore.”
Alexandra Abrams, a former head of employee communications for Blue Origin, speaks out against the company @LaurieSegall.
“You cannot create a culture of security and a culture of fear at the same time. They are incompatible. ” pic.twitter.com/JHuFY3cjcs
– CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) September 30, 2021
In a statement to The edge, said a spokesman for Blue Origin, “Blue Origin has no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. We provide several avenues to employees, including an anonymous hotline around the clock, and will immediately investigate any new allegations of misconduct. ”
The spokesman also said Abrams was fired “after repeated warnings about issues related to federal export control rules,” Abrams’ claim was denied to CBS News.
The essay, published on Lioness, a platform for whistleblowers, indicated that Blue Origin sometimes overlooked security issues to favor speed, amid fierce competition with other billionaire-backed companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX or Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. “Competing with other billionaires – and ‘making progress for Jeff’ – seemed to take precedence over security issues that would have slowed the schedule,” staff said.
Blue Origin has previously struggled with internal strife.
In 2020, The edge reported that Blue Origin employees were furious at the pressure they faced from senior management to continue personal work and travel to a New Shepard test launch at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when large parts of the country locked up to slow down the spread of viruses. Responding to staff concerns at a meeting, Jeff Ashby, the company’s senior mission security director and former NASA astronaut, said: “I would say you should ask yourself as an individual whether you act as a toxin in the organization and blow dissatisfaction, or try Do you really help our leaders make better decisions? ”