Uber’s First Diversity Report and What it Means For Uber, Unicorns and the Tech Crowd

It seems like Uber has had an horrendous three-month run of disastrous PR, scandals and executive upheaval all in the first few months of 2017.

Whilst all these things are (and have been) common place in Silicon Valley, Uber has caught the spotlight more than most, due to their gargantuan size (they’ve raised $7b+), their overt bro-culture, and the fact they’ve rubbed everyone imaginable the wrong way.

Whilst Travis Kalanick’s All-Hands tears and sleep supremo Arianna Huffington have tried to take control of a spiralling crisis; the media, tech world and even users have revolted with #deleteUber trending on Twitter and competitor Lyft taking no time to accelerate their expansion plan with a fresh new round of funding.

A few weeks back, Uber released their first Diversity Report which attempted to shed some light on their figures and how they stack up to the rest of the industry.

The Diversity Report

Uber’s Chief Diversity Officer Bernard Coleman III (another first for Uber) was tasked with coming up with something special. A diversity report like no other, a report that would shine a light on their lack of diversity but more importantly highlight the steps they’re taking to improve it.

A lot of commentators will say its about time. Having been lobbied by Rev. Jesse Jackson, Uber (as well as Snap) have been late to the game when it comes to disclosing their data and giving us a look into the innards.

However a lot of insiders blame the delay on the fact that the company’s culture wasn’t steered to creating the best diverse workplace, but hiring “brilliant jerks” as SVP People Liane Hornsey, told journalists at a press conference

The Results

The report showed the obvious — the company is overly white (49.8%) and male (63.9%), however Uber fared better than the likes of Apple and Facebook with better than most female representation (36.1%) and over 20% holding leadership roles.

Out of the 1550 words of the report, the most cringeworthy line has to go to

“Our leadership is more homogenous than the rest of our employees. For example, no Black or Hispanic employees hold leadership positions in tech,”

The Not So Bad Stats

A silver lining is that Uber unlike its peers, has pretty solid representation of people of colour with 8.8% (albeit, most being in support roles). Although the stat alone stands out as a ray of hope, the fact that there is no black representation in a leadership role or a Board seat is extremely disheartening and shows that there is still much progress to be made on that front.

As a morale-booster, Uber has committed $3 million over the next 3 years to support 3 organizations focused on diversity (Colorintech.org will be happy to receive wink, wink)

What it missed

As always, my gripe with these things is that it is US-specific and only focuses on Uber’s global staff. Uber had an opportunity to pioneer what a marketplace diversity report should look like and epically failed in all of the hype. Uber’s all singing report was that of Google’s or Facebook’s instead of breaking down and including Uber drivers and digging a little deeper on what is causing attraction, attrition, people leaving etc.

They also failed to shine a light on the sexual harassment internal investigation and how the company plans to take steps so it doesn’t happen again.

If you’re going to be transparent, you might as well take the wraps off everything.

What it means

For Uber: A chance to be in front of the story for the first time in almost a quarter (something positive). It’s also a better diversity picture compared to its peers and the fact they’ve admitted they were late to this is a step in the right direction.

For women at Uber: I’m not sure the report will do much in the way of showing how the company deals/tolerates with sexual harassment. A lot of women who I personally know at Uber are happy about their work, but not necessarily their workplace.

For everyone else: Everyone else will make their own opinion of the report. Top journalists (like Sarah Lacy) are not giving Uber any breathing space and at this point I feel like whatever Uber do is going to be seen one way or another.

Other Unicorns: This definitely puts pressure on the still-private (Spotify, Dropbox) and now-public (Snap) unicorns that have yet to release their diversity stats even though their employee counts hit thousands. Hopefully it spurs them on to release their own data as they enter Wall Street.

Disclosure: I love Uber and am a frequent user in 3 different countries. I am not an investor (unfortunately) and have not worked for Uber or any of their international ventures.

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