Cher

Software, Hot Sauce, Words, & Photos

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A photo of Cher Scarlett, sitting at her desk.

Cher is a software engineer with a non-traditional background who advocates for fair labor practices, justice, and equity in tech.

Born in Walla Walla, Washington, Cher taught herself to code during a difficult childhood and adolescence in the Seattle area. In the early 1990's, Cher's first brush with advocacy followed an unfortunate event exploring Microsoft's in-progress expansion in Redmond, where she lived at the time, and seeing a baby bunny get run over on a side street that previously had little traffic. Cher, age seven at the time, wrote a letter to the city demanding the addition of "bunny crossing" signs, to warn drivers to watch for the enormous rabbit population. Many years later, Cher noticed the signs in the area and felt like it was possible to make changes in society.

Around that same time, Cher began a constant battle with herself, including a life-long battle with bulimia nervosa. After being diagnosed early on with Bipolar Disorder, and struggling with abuse in and out of her home, Cher dropped out of Juanita High School, experimented self-medicating with street drugs, danced in a number of strip clubs in Washington and Illinois, and attempted to take her own life.

Cher gave birth to her daughter, Lexi, in her hometown of Kirkland shortly after starting her first development job in Seattle building and maintaining real estate websites in the summer of 2007. She struggled in the early years of her career to find freelance work while she stayed at home with her daughter, but on the brink of homelessness with only $23 to her name, Cher landed a life-changing position as a mobile front-end developer with USA Today.

Over the course of a long career, Cher has worked on software at some of the most notable companies in the world like NASA, Blizzard Entertainment, Starbucks, and Apple. Cher has advocated for her colleauges, or herself, and spear-headed highly visible projects at nearly every company she worked at. At USA Today, she championed VR Stories with the aim of bringing empathy and re-sensitizing the world with immersive news stories and brought longform, chaptered storytelling to mobile web. At Blizzard, she pushed for better experiences in esports, and elevated esports' technology presence for the company forever. After the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit against Blizzard in July 2021, Cher used her platform to help nearly 300 of her former colleagues give testimony to the DFEH and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigators and attorneys.

Around the Holidays in 2018, Cher, along with her department's leadership, began a 5-month-long internal fight with the compensation team at Starbucks to argue that she had a wage discrepency of around 16% versus her male peers with similar roles and experience levels within the department. They were repeatedly turned down, and referred to the rhetoric that Starbucks had achieved 100% gender pay parity, as announced in March of 2018. In April 2019, following an audit by Arjuna Capital, Cher received an 8% raise due to what was found to be a gender-based wage gap. She left the company a few weeks later, and Starbucks committed to closing the wage gap they claimed did not exist. This wasn't the first time Cher advocated for herself, but it was the first time she was vindicated.

The following year, Cher landed a job at Apple as a principal engineer in the Global Security team. After about a year of solid work and starting a new hobby, making hot sauce, Cher participated in a number of concerted efforts internally, including questioning a curious hire known for his misogynistic rhetoric and work on Facebook ads, improving the inclusivity and discoverability of internal accessibility efforts — centered mainly around requesting federally protected accommodations for workers with disabiilities in the United States, advocating for her colleagues in need of more flexible remote work options after the pandemic, and ensuring the enforcement of federally protected employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

In September of 2021, Cher filed charges on behalf of herself and colleagues with the National Labor Relations Board for allegedly suppressing and enforcing unlawful rules around pay equity and discussing compensation in the United States, and began the process of amending the Revised Code of Washington 49.44.210 to include protections for whistleblowers involving any conduct believed to be illegal from being enforced in Non-Disclosure Agreements or Non-Disparagement clauses, on the heels of similar amendments made to Section 1001 of the Code of Civil Procedure and Section 12964.5 of the Government Code under California Law.