As Uber begins to fill its many, many vacant positions, the company is making some high-profile hires – a few of whom are already being hailed as the tech giant’s key to salvation. If that’s true, it appears the company’s future lies more and more in the hands of, well, women.
Since January, I’ve covered nearly every bump in Uber’s rocky ride. For the most part, I felt that Uber’s conciliatory tour was all talk. The apologies, the pledges for diversity, the promise to recruit more female employees was nice to hear, but at the end of the day, they lacked real substance. Women still didn’t hold key positions of power at the company, which meant it was unlikely it would meaningfully change.
But then Travis Kalanick, Uber’s visionary but also the driver of its aggressive culture, resigned from the CEO role. Amidst the turmoil, the company also made some high-profile female leadership hires.
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Maybe things are actually turning around.
Over the weekend, The New York Times published a profile on Bozoma Saint John, the former Apple executive who recently joined Uber as the chief brand officer. She told the Times: “To me, there’s no sense of tokenism because I know I can do the job — I’m qualified to do the job, I can do a great job. Being present as a black woman — just present — is enough to help exact some of the change that is needed and some that we’re looking for.”
According to Uber’s diversity numbers, women in leadership accounted for 22% of Uber’s employee base. For tech and engineering roles, that number dropped to 15%. When it came to race, the tech giant is predominantly white (49.8%). Globally, the Uber workforce is 30.9% Asian, 8.8% Black, 5.6% Hispanic, and 4.3% Multiracial.
As a result, Uber pledged $3 million over the next three years to support organizations working to bring women and underrepresented groups into tech. Although the pledge is a nice gesture, Saint John’s leadership at Uber will likely do more for women and minorities than those $3 million ever will.
And then there’s Frances Frei, the Harvard Business School academic who is now serving as Uber’s SVP of leadership and strategy. She told Recode that Uber’s leadership decisions are key to its future, but “I don’t believe in the savior CEO.”
This brings us to the still vacant CEO role. Obviously, it’s imperative that Uber gets this right. Although it may sound like a long shot, Arianna Huffington would make a lot of sense as Uber’s chief. As I said in June, once the sexual harassment claims came out, Huffington became increasingly involved, speaking with hundreds of women at the company, serving as the public voice, and recruiting leaders like Saint John.
She’s already acting as CEO – just without the title. Making it official would send the ultimate message: Uber’s next chapter will be written by its women.