Board Member’s Sexist Joke Shows Just How Deep Uber’s Culture Problems Go
Yesterday, the move that many had been anticipating finally happened: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced that he’s taking an indefinite leave of absence.
The company also released the recommendations of the internal investigation into its cultural problems. For anyone who has been following the saga, it’s worth a reading the full document, though my colleague Polina Marinova has a helpful list of key takeaways. Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer whose blog post prompted the inquiry, referred to it as “all optics.”
Reading the recommendations, I was struck by how basic they are—adopt a zero-tolerance policy on harassment, train leaders and managers on unconscious bias, interview diverse candidates… In other words, adopt and enforce standard HR practices and follow the law.
Then came that news that, in yesterday’s all-hands company meeting to discuss those recommendations, board member Arianna Huffington brought up research that shows that having one female board member increases the odds of attracting a second. David Bonderman, who also sits on the board, responded with a pathetic joke playing on the stereotype of motormouth women: “Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.”
Bonderman paid for his quip quickly—he resigned last night. But when a leader casually makes such a sexist remark at a meeting focused on rooting out that exact type of behavior, we get a chilling of glimpse of just how deep the problem runs.