March 30 2017
Uber has been on a bumpy road lately with sexual harassment claims and departures of senior officials. They’re undergoing an investigation and hoping to institute policies that will change the culture of the company.
One area for change they see is diversity in ethnicity, race, and gender. If you want to expand your pool of job applicants, you need to be intentional. That appears to be Uber’s approach behind the $3 million investment with Historically Black Colleges (HBCUs) and Hispanic-serving institutions to build pipelines into the tech industry.
Hiring is just the beginning, and they also claim to be making intentional internal changes as well. In a blog post, Uber explained:
“In recruiting, we’ve updated our job descriptions to remove potentially exclusionary language, and we are running interview training to make our hiring processes more inclusive for women in tech,” the company wrote in a blogpost. “We’re also rolling out training to educate and empower employees, covering topics like “why diversity and inclusion matters,” “how to be an ally,” and “building inclusive teams.” Training is not a panacea, but educating employees on the right behaviors is an important step in the right direction.”
These announcements coincide with the release of their diversity data. Recently, under former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder, they changed course and committed to releasing publicly data on gender and race at the company. According to newly released diversity numbers, it seems they are on par – perhaps even a bit better – than their peers in the tech industry.
Some 41 percent of hires last year were women, bumping up their overall share of workers by 5 percent. Currently, about one out of three (36 percent) Uber workers and 22 percent of company leaders are women.
Uber experienced modest increases in new workers from different racial backgrounds, hiring 3 percent more black workers and 2 percent Hispanic employees. In total they comprise 15 percent of the workforce. Uber fares better than Google where 5 percent of employees are black or Hispanic and 31 percent were women.
The Hill reports Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick 180 degree change on releasing this data:
“This report is a first step in showing that diversity and inclusion is a priority at Uber,” said Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in a statement. “I know that we have been too slow in publishing our numbers—and that the best way to demonstrate our commitment to change is through transparency. And to make progress, it’s important we measure what matters.”
Kalanick originally refused to release this data after several intimidation attempts by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, including a letter he sent earlier this year. Former Obama attorney general Eric Holder is running the sexual harassment investigation and perhaps that is behind the new willingness to release data. Former Obama administration officials seem to be replacing Jesse Jackson as the new sheriff on these issues, and we can only hope they will rely on transparency rather than intimidation or coercion.
We encourage companies to look at ways to change their internal cultures, especially away from discrimination, harassment, and intimidation. No woman or man wants to work in an environment in which they won’t feel safe.
Attracting talent from diverse backgrounds is also welcome but should be expanded to consider other types of diversity as well such as philosophical perspective and socio-economic background. All without sacrificing qualified candidates. Creating pipelines to expand talent pools is one good strategy.
It’s critical though that companies like Uber do what’s best to attract the right talent for their needs. Diversity is not an end, but a means to a better and stronger company. Otherwise quotas -especially those that are government mandated- become a check-the-box exercise that can have negative unexpected results.