Sexism in Uber: Law firm asks for major changes in report which all but confirms allegations
Uber, one of the leading taxi aggregation services in the world, is set to face a thorough shake-up in respect to the working culture and management of the company behind the mobile application.
This will even include reducing the responsibilities currently assigned to CEO and co-founder of the company Travis Kalanick, among other wide-ranging sets of changes that have been approved by Uber's Board of the Directors.
Such a major revamp was decided upon following the submission of a report by the law firm, Covington & Burling, which was asked by the company to conduct an external investigation. The investigation was ordered following the allegations of a working environment and culture in the company filled with sexism and sexual harassment, made by former engineer Susan Fowler.
The report has all but confirmed the allegations of an environment of sexism and sexual harassment prevalent in the company.
In February this year, Fowler had published a blog post in which she made detailed allegations that she had faced harassment, discrimination and retaliation, and how the policies and procedures in place at that time in the company were not effective enough to protect employees.
This led to the company hiring the law firm to look into the matter and issues raised by her as well as the issue of diversity and inclusion in the company on a broader level. The firm then submitted a report giving detailed steps that need to be initiated on a broad range of subjects, based on 200 interviews with current and former employees, not only in related to Fowler but also on the overall environment in the company.
And the change starts at the top for Uber as the responsibilities of its CEO have been asked to be reduced on the firm's recommendations in the report which were adopted by the Board of Directors.
As on the issue of reviewing and reallocating his responsibilities, the report said, "some of the responsibilities that Mr. Kalanick has historically possessed should be shared or given outright to other members of senior management."
Though the report does not give any clear reasoning behind such a recommendation the fact that he was also entangled in a controversy related to a communication he sent to employees during a company celebration where he advised them about not to engage in sexual activity with colleagues, must have made matters worse for Uber. In the same mail, he even went as far as telling them what they should think about if they still chose to do so.
He wrote in the mail in 2013, "Do not have sex with another employee UNLESS a) you have asked that person for that privilege and they have responded with an emphatic "YES! I will have sex with you" AND b) the two (or more) of you do not work in the same chain of command. Yes, that means that Travis will be celibate on this trip."
Along with the issue of the CEO, other major changes recommended by the report are hiring a Chief Operating Officer, who would also take over some of the responsibilities of the CEO, holding performance reviews of senior management, enhance the independence of the Board by restructuring it to include independent members, and installing an independent chairman of the board etc.
These become even more important given that during the meeting where the current report was discussed and sexism in the company was the main issue, Board Member, David Bonderman, said that women talk too much. The comment was apparently targetted at another director Arianna Huffington. This episode eventually led to the Bonderman resigning from the company.
Along with the recommendation on the issues of sexism, the company has also been asked to move forward on the front of bringing in diversity into the company, by implementing steps such as establishing an Employee Diversity Advisory Board, regularly Publish Diversity Statistics, targeting diverse sources of talent including alternative and non-traditional sources of recruiting and Solicit Feedback from Employees on the issue among others.