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Uber has a big culture problem…a culture of sexual harassment, to be specific. They hired a couple of guys to lead them out of the darkness but is that enough?
According to Susan J. Fowler, former engineer at Uber there was a culture of sexual harassment and mistreatment of the women engineers at Uber and HR simply enabled, supported, and defended it. You can read it for yourself here. Another sexual driven scandal is just now coming to light, it seems in 2014, the executives of Uber thought it would be a good idea to pin numbers on the women in the group and bid on them for drinks and dancing. Read more here. And let’s not forget Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick getting into heated discussion with one of his own drivers. All this makes you wonder, what’s really going on over there?
They can’t seem to get their sh*t together. Here’s another embarrassing incident, the CEO expressed his support for President Trump and joined Trump’s Advisory Board, that resulted in a social campaign #DeleteUber which resulted in over 200,000 users deleting their Uber apps. Ouch!
Kalanick hired Eric Holder, former US Attorney General under President Obama, to lead the investigation into sexual harassment claim by Susan J. Fowler and other women employees. He also hired Bernard Coleman as Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion to change the culture. For what it’s worth, both are black men, so you would think that this black man (me) would be happy about that – and I was, until a woman in my life pointed out how tone-deaf it was to hire men to investigate issues that impact women. Of course, men can investigate and resolve sexual harassment but to her point, couldn’t they have hired a woman in one of these roles?
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The more I thought about it the more I realized, she is right, that IS tone-deaf. Sure, I could/can resolve sexual harassment and I have back in my practitioner days – however, I have never been sexually harassed or put in a quid pro quo situation. No one has ever excluded me based solely on my sex. My race? yes, but even then, they weren’t so bold as to tell me to my face, that is literally what happened to Susan Fowler. She was told by Uber’s HR that they would not punish the man that was sexually harassing her and according to her allegations, HR then lied to her and told her that she was the only one. She later found out that she was not the only one, but one of many…again, read the article, it is mind blowing.
You don’t have to be a woman to punish men for bad behavior but will the punishment and corrective action be enough going forward? Will the women of Uber truly feel 100% comfortable in discussing their feelings with these 2 guys? Will the women engineers (and other female employees) feel confident in the leadership of Uber? Will they believe that Uber truly has their best interests at heart?
Thinking back to when I had to investigate sexual harassment and in every instance, I can tell you, I was uncomfortable I didn’t know how to really console the victims. I was able to resolve this issue but I will never know how those women felt on the insider and if they truly felt that I understood what happened to them. I also wonder if they felt the company did the right thing by having me investigate it versus one of the women on the HR team. I am betting they felt a little uneasy telling me about the things that happened to them. I know for sure one lady was embarrassed and didn’t want me to investigate it. I bet she would have preferred speaking with another woman about it.
I want to be clear that I am not questioning the competency and professionalism of Eric Holder and Bernard Coleman, what I am wondering is how much better would it have looked publicly and internally if Uber had hired a team of diverse women (black, white, Asian, and Hispanic) to come in and clean up Uber’s culture of sexual mistreatment and discrimination?