Uber has been recently accused (by Susan J. Fowler who is an ex-employee of Uber) of sweeping claims of sexual misconduct by senior personnel under the carpet. This led to a series of reports that the allegations could be wide spread but responding on Monday, Uber Technologies says it would appoint former Obama administration US Attorney General Eric Holder to lead a panel of an independent investigation.
A former employee at the company had alleged that management at Uber did not handle her complaint of sexual harassment appropriately. In an email to employees, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said Eric Holder and partner Tammy Albarran from law firm Covington & Burling will be joined by Arianna Huffington (the founder of the Huffington Post who left the publishing firm last year and now sits on the Uber board) and the company’s associate general counsel Angela Padilla among others.
The purpose is to find out if the claims are correct and to prevent such from happening in future. But there is another challenge the ride hailing company may be facing and that’s the shortage of female diversity in its ranks.
Uber says 15.1 percent of its employees in management and engineering positions are women but others think the figure is actually smaller than that and that it could be due to the politics at the top management level which has led to discrimination but responding to this, Mr. Kalanick says he and Liane Hornsey who is the chief HR officer would work to publish a diversity report at Uber in the coming months.
But Uber is not alone in the diversity problem because according to a report, women’s share of software and computing jobs actually took a dive from 34 percent in 1999 to 27 percent in 2011 and the number of female partners in venture capital firms declined from 10 percent to 6 percent between 1999 and 2014. So this is a Silicon Valley problem that needs to be addressed. Some blame this on the aggressive nature of job demands in the tech sector which have made it unfriendly for female engineers who also want to have a family to cope and sometimes it’s not just the fault of the male leaders.
Marissa Mayer (Yahoo CEO) was criticized by other women in tech for returning to work just two weeks after giving birth to a set of twin girls in 2015. When she has a son on 2012, she did the same thing and this was a fraction of what was allowed at Yahoo. She largely ended the remote work culture at Yahoo which gave women more time to work from home and still take care of children. Now it’s allowed to cut your leave for business reasons but others fear the message it sends that maternity leave might not be big deal after all even though the CEO who earns millions of dollars annually is able to afford other forms of child care that comes at high price financially.