Uber throwing money at Girls Who Code is not enough

Uber throwing money at Girls Who Code is not enough

The individuals at Uber who have had their lives horribly impacted on will not be healed by this money, writes the Utopia co-founder and chair of BIMA's diversity council.

I like people with an opinion.  I'm the sort of person who has an opinion.  You could say I'm well known for it. But I don't like people who have an opinion, change that opinion and then pretend they never had the previous opinion in the first place. That is the art of deception.  

You know the kind of person I mean. The kind of person who refused to believe the internet was worth any investment whatsoever and then five years later made mega-millions from their internet browser. 

Or the kind of person who refuses to let children be educated on homosexuality at school and then achieves a position of power and decries those people who don't support LGBT+ rights.

Or the kind of person who reduces women to "pussy", yet then calls on them to exercise their democratic rights and vote.     

That kind of person is a coward with no courage in their convictions. Sure, change your mind. But admit you got it wrong, explain why and don't try to hide the errors of judgement you made. Vulnerability is strength. Deception is weakness. And often, if you're in a position of power, illegal.

Which is why Uber's sudden and dramatic commitment to diversity is so galling. Until March of 2017, when Susan Fowler’s blog post revealed the horrific practices happening on a daily basis, Uber had shown zero commitment to diversity.  

In 2015, 2016 and January 2017 the Reverend Jesse Jackson pleaded with Travis, the former chief executive of Uber, to just do one simple thing to support the diversity cause and publish its diversity stats. Uber ignored the Reverend Jesse Jackson.  

In 2016, for 6000 staff, Uber had just ten Human Resources personnel. And reports suggest these staff were asked to focus on getting people in and getting them out as quickly as possible. Nothing else. And further reports suggest that the reason why was because people, diversity, talent were at the bottom of the growth agenda Uber had clearly set.

In 2017 David Bonderman on the Uber Board was sacked for making disparaging remarks about women.  A week later, Uber appointed its second woman to the board with Wan Ling Martello joining Arianna Huffington. Whoop – two women on the board of eight. Great progress – not. Just 15 months ago there were no women. In 2016. None.

But hush, ignore all that, because now Uber is committed to diversity. It has published its diversity stats, launched a website and donated $1.2m (£910,000) to Girls Who Code.  I'm over the moon Girls Who Code have that extra $1.2m as they drive change at a systemic level. It's okay to dance with the devil when it helps millions of little angels.  

But there's more. Uber has admitted that its performance-driven ways have left managers prone to "silly gaffes". An admission of error at last. Except it's not. 

Calling the bullying, misogynistic and downright cruel culture that Susan wrote about so eloquently "silly gaffes" is like Neville Chamberlain saying, "it was just a piece of paper" or Enoch Powell saying "it was just a speech.".  

The PR tirade we have experienced from Uber since March is deception of the first order. So I call on Uber to have courage in its convictions and state what is true. Its sudden commitment to staff and diversity is a volte-face of the most cynical and calculated kind and is motivated by commercial gain. Yes there are passionate, wonderful people trying to do the right thing at Uber, but the businesses motivation is not pure.

The individuals at Uber who have had their lives horribly impacted on will not be healed by this $1.2m or the prevention of "silly gaffes". An honest apology won't heal them either, but it will demonstrate that right at the heart of Uber is perhaps the beginning of something we can begin to trust again.

Nadya Powell is co-founder at Utopia and chair of BIMA’s diversity council


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