The car-hailing company has tried to move quickly to quell the outrage over a blog post, including revealing diversity numbers.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick sent a memo to his employees today, announcing a series of moves to quell the growing outrage over serious allegations of sexism and sexual harassment at the car-hailing company.
In it, he said he hired outside counsel, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, to investigate the charges by a former female engineer and also the wider cultural problems across Uber. It was already announced that board member Arianna Huffington and HR head Liane Hornsey will also be part of the investigation. Also added to the team: Associate general counsel Angela Padilla.
Huffington and Hornsey will also be conducting one-on-one “listening sessions” with staff after an all-hands meeting tomorrow.
Said Kalanick: “I believe in creating a workplace where a deep sense of justice underpins everything we do. Every Uber employee should be proud of the culture we have and what we will build together over time. What is driving me through all this is a determination that we take what’s happened as an opportunity to heal wounds of the past and set a new standard for justice in the workplace. It is my number one priority that we come through this a better organization, where we live our values and fight for and support those who experience injustice.”
That justice line might ring false to some and definitely too little too late for many, since the company has had a series of missteps — a kind way of putting it — related to women. That includes tasteless ads, rude remarks from Kalanick, bizarre threats aimed at a female reporter by a top exec and, perhaps most importantly, allegations that Uber has not taken the safety of women passengers seriously enough.
In addition, the company got in deep trouble recently around the immigration ban, from the way it reacted to a recent taxi strike to Kalanick’s service on President Donald J. Trump’s business advisory board, from which he recently resigned. The result was a massive online protest under the #deleteUber hashtag, which resulted in more than 200,000 account deletions.
Kalanick also said he would release diversity numbers, which he had declined to do in the past. He revealed that 15.1 percent of its technical staff were women, although he did not provide more specifics, compared to 17 percent of Facebook employees and 18 percent at Google. But lower numbers he cited for Twitter were inaccurate.
There will be more information to come, he promised.
Here is Kalanick’s memo in full:
It’s been a tough 24 hours. I know the company is hurting, and understand everyone has been waiting for more information on where things stand and what actions we are going to take.
First, Eric Holder, former US Attorney General under President Obama, and Tammy Albarran — both partners at the leading law firm Covington & Burling– will conduct an independent review into the specific issues relating to the work place environment raised by Susan Fowler, as well as diversity and inclusion at Uber more broadly. Joining them will be Arianna Huffington, who sits on Uber’s board, Liane Hornsey, our recently hired Chief Human Resources Officer, and Angela Padilla, our Associate General Counsel. I expect them to conduct this review in short order.
Second, Arianna is flying out to join me and Liane at our all hands meeting tomorrow to discuss what’s happened and next steps. Arianna and Liane will also be doing smaller group and one-on-one listening sessions to get your feedback directly.
Third, there have been many questions about the gender diversity of Uber’s technology teams. If you look across our engineering, product management, and scientist roles, 15.1% of employees are women and this has not changed substantively in the last year. As points of reference, Facebook is at 17%, Google at 18% and Twitter is at 10%. Liane and I will be working to publish a broader diversity report for the company in the coming months.
It is my number one priority that we come through this a better organization, where we live our values and fight for and support those who experience injustice.
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Author: Kara Swisher
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