Commentary

Uber Needs Help

Mar 21, 2017

A lot of important jobs seem to be opening up at Uber these days. If you’re a turn-around expert with a strong stomach, a weapons grade bullshit detector and a vision for radical inclusivity, I say polish up your LinkedIn and give it a go.

The latest in a string of unplanned departures is president Jeff Jones, who lasted about seven months before he gave up. He gave Recode the scoop in a statement:

Jones also confirmed the departure with a blistering assessment of the company. “It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride-sharing business,” he said.

A source also told Recode that the former Target CMO doesn’t like conflict, which would put him at a disadvantage from the start. Jones began his tenure by meeting with Uber drivers, though one public session went south after drivers began flooding his Facebook page with angry commentary. From the same story: “The situation at the company has deteriorated since then, obviously, after a blog post by a former female engineer chronicled a deeply dysfunctional management led by Kalanick that favored what board member Arianna Huffington called “brilliant jerks."

Of course, there are many brilliant non-jerks who work at Uber, people with extraordinary leadership skills who could probably put together a pretty good short list of similarly qualified people to help navigate the rocky shoals ahead. There’s science to this strategy, too. Everett Harper, the CEO and co-founder of Truss, has written an exceptional manifesto on how to diversify your company by tapping the "weak tie" networks of your employees.

In that spirit, I’d ask Salle Yoo, Uber’s general counsel, to weigh in.

As a younger lawyer, she’d been rocked by a 2008 American Bar Association study that revealed that no minority women at the largest 200 law firms in the U.S. made partner over a ten-year period. "That was meaningful to me because that meant that minority women were not making it into partnership," she told Fortune in a short, inspiring video. She set her sights on achieving that goal, not just for herself but “so I could teach other women how to crack that puzzle.” That’s the kind of bias toward inclusion that Uber could learn from. Also, she’s smart, fearless and knows how to take risks.

But right now, the greatest risk of all seems to be allowing the jerks to stay in the driver’s seat. Let me know if you get an interview.

On Point

Sesame Street has a long history of trolling Donald Trump

It’s pretty vicious stuff for a kid’s show, if you’re willing to overlook all the subversive material in Bugs Bunny, of course. But “Ronald Grump" was a real estate developer Muppet who was depicted as a shady businessman who bribed the garbage-can-dwelling Oscar to move into fancier digs, tricked him into signing a bogus contract and then extorted him when he balked at the terms. Later, Joe Pesci played a thin-skinned version of Grump in the character’s final appearance, who tried to turn Sesame Street into a boutique to support a planned theme park. “Real estate tycoon Ronald Grump has announced plans to demolish Sesame Street and create a lavish new Grump Tower,” Barbara Walters “reported” in 1994. Don't mess with the Muppets.

Washington Post

White supremacists are into Jane Austen now

And this is why we can’t have nice things. Nicole Wright, a professor at the University of Colorado has uncovered a surprisingly strong fan base among the “alt-right”, who have been using the novelist's descriptions of straight-laced living and strict patriarchy as proof that a white nationalist “ethno-state” is both natural and desirable. “By comparing their movement not to the nightmare Germany of Hitler and Goebbels, but instead to the cozy England of Austen,” she writes in  The Chronicle of Higher Education, alt-right bloggers seem to hope that regular people will think “perhaps white supremacists aren’t so different from mainstream folks.” White pride and racial prejudice?

New York Times

All the African leaders invited to an Africa trade meeting were denied visas

It was literally an African trade meeting with no actual African people in attendance. The African Global Economic and Development Summit is an annual event hosted by the University of Southern California and brings together business leaders and government officials with other notables. Visa issues are common, but this was a record. "Usually we get 40% that get rejected but the others come," said the chair of the event. More than 100 people were denied entry. "This year it was 100%. Every delegation. And it was sad to see, because these people were so disheartened."

VOA News

Google apologizes after ads were run against offensive videos on YouTube

Though Google was quick to apologize yesterday for allowing ads to be served against offensive videos, the fall-out appears to be continuing. The British government was the first to pullits advertising on YouTube after some public sector ads appeared next to videos carrying homophobic and anti-semitic messages. Other major companies, such Marks & Spencer and HSBC quickly joined the protest. Britain is the largest market for Google outside of the U.S., accounting for some 9% of their global revenue. Other digital agencies are now saying they will be reviewing how they work with Google going forward.

Fortune

The Woke Leader

Eleven writers share stories about assault in the literary world

Last month, Bonnie Nadzam published a searing essay about sexually predatory men in publishing – the publishers, editors, writers and teachers who are in positions of enormous power and who prevent the advancement of women while creating an environment of fear. In solidarity, some well-known women writers put together a series of short essays on the nature of the abuse and how it is enabled by the community at large. One theme bubbles up - the men in question keep advancing because they are known quantities, and already have power. Stories of men “who proposition women at book parties and readings and conferences, who offer 'mentorship' by way of seduction, who commit a range of sexual assaults and who are rarely named publicly because everyone is, understandably, too scared of the repercussions to their careers,” writes Roxane Gay. A must read.

LitHub

What do you see when you picture a young man in a hoodie?

If he’s a young white guy, maybe it’s a Stanford engineer. But if he’s black? That was the bias that Myles Loftin was trying to combat when he created HOODED, a photo and video project that seeks to counter the negative images of young black men in the media. “[E]ven when you google ‘black boy hoodie’ you get images of criminals while the search ‘white boy hoodie’ produces cookie cutter stock photos of white teenagers smiling,” he told Milk XYZ. The photos and related short film depict young men in colorful hoodies, whose faces often resonate with a joyful goofiness that surfaces their human vulnerability in a surprisingly poignant way. The short film begins with the infamous voiceover from Hillary Clinton’s super-predator speech.

Milk XYZ

This profile of Hamdi Ulukaya will make you love yogurt and life

It's a must-read profile of Hamdi Ulukaya, the warm-hearted genius behind Chobani, a man who has changed American palettes while transforming the way we think about leadership.This is the sentence that got me: “An aimless young anticapitalist immigrates to the U.S. simply because he needs a place to go, and through grit, determination, and eerie prescience about changing American tastes somehow builds a massive brand that eventually dominates the $3.6 billion Greek yogurt industry.” He is known for two things, his laser-like focus on winning and his profoundly empathetic humanitarian streak. One in three of Chobani’s employees are also immigrants.

Fast Company

 

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