You are not Uber
I’ve been thinking about Uber the last few days. A lot of us have.
I’ve never used Uber. I tried once after a concert in Philadelphia along with half the stadium at midnight.
It was chaos. I ended up getting an actual taxi instead.
I know little about the company’s history besides headlines I have seen over the years.
I don’t know anyone who works there nor do I have an opinion of their leadership team.
Here is what I do know. I know about Susan Fowler and her awful experience working at Uber.
I know her experience is not unique. Not to Uber. Not to Silicon Valley. And not in the business world in general.
We treat women as a whole worse than we treat men as a whole. I don’t know how you could view this any other way.
Despite having read similar stories in the past, I still live in my own bubble. And so I renewed my shock that such a thing could happen.
On one hand, I couldn’t fathom doing to Susan what her manager did to her. And I couldn’t fathom responding to Susan the way HR at Uber responded to her.
Those are situations I cannot comprehend. But, I also can’t sit around and renew my shock every time one of these women are brave enough to speak out.
I’m wholly imperfect. Good intentioned as I am. I have unconscious bias I need to work at. I should take a story like this as a wake up call to be more aware and understanding.
That aside, following as the story and substories developed, two things stood out to me.
First, the “investigation” at Uber.
It’s led by Eric Holder, who already has a history with the company. Arianna Huffington, who sits on the board and has some stake in the game. And Uber’s HR lead Liane Hornsey, while new to the company, is an employee all the same.
These aren’t exactly independent third parties. One can hope they are diligent and focused on holding people’s feet to the fire as they have said.
What struck me the most was not who was investigating but rather that it was the main action they were taking.
By all means, investigate what happened because, as Susan spoke to, she was not the sole victim there. This wasn’t an isolated incident, despite HR’s insistence otherwise. Others who may still work there could still be going through a similar nightmare.
But, you also don’t need to do an investigation first to change your habits. To say that this kind of behavior has no place at Uber. That if anything like this ever happens again the outcome will be different.
Unless I missed it. I didn’t see anything to that effect.
Sure, there was an all-hands meeting. They’ll release their diversity numbers. I’m sure other conversations are happening. All good things that need to happen.
But, the main message to the public, their “we’re taking action” message, was that they are going to investigate.
But investigations in and of themselves do not fix problems. They might identify bad actors or broken processes. Some “high performers”, who turn out to be awful, are only a symptom of a larger organizational disaster.
One that I have a hard time believing snuck up on anyone who was actually paying attention.
Look, it’s not in my expertise to say how this could or should resolve. But, I know one can work towards change before coming to any other conclusions.
Secondly, I’ve read some responses from current Uber employees about how that’s not the Uber they know. Or that they were already addressing the issues.
You are not Uber.
Yes, you work there. You might even have a large presence and can make an impact.
But, there are 6,700 or so of you who work there. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you don’t all share the same work experience.
There are groups within departments within branches within whatever. I don’t care how it’s broken up.
I’m saying that your group might be awesome (and I’m glad if it is) but the one next to you might be garbage. Sounds like that might be the case.
When you are that focused on growth, you can’t say you’re focused on culture and equality.
We’ve seen those things do not go together. Across Silicon Valley and elsewhere.
Your bubble might be fine. But you’re close enough to the situation to know everything is not ok.
I’m not saying we need to burn anything to the ground. And your existence at these companies is not a bad thing. As I, and many others have stated, this is not only an Uber problem. You don’t have to leave to stay morally pure.
Your anecdotes of a positive experience doesn’t do anything for anyone either. Again, good for you. I hope you can use your luck and influence and empathy to make it so for others.
And if Uber is the canary in the coal mine we finally decided to care about, then good. Others have signaled the alarms on dangerous environments and we’ve looked the other way for too long. Until now.
I can only hope this is the tipping point.