Business Transformation

Uber Employs 15% Women in Tech Roles

Women make up 15.4% of the technical positions at Uber, 22% of leadership positions and 36.1% of the overall workforce, according to the ride-hailing company's first-ever diversity report, issued Tuesday after weeks of scandal and bad press.

The split puts it behind many of the other tech companies, but not drastically so. For example, in tech roles, Facebook employs 17% women, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) employs 19% women and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) employs 23% women. But, women make up only 32% of the overall workforce at both Apple and Facebook, less than Uber's 36%.

In releasing the diversity report, which CEO Travis Kalanick promised to do after former Uber engineer Susan Fowler wrote a scathing blog post about rampant sexism in the company, Uber vowed to make improving these numbers a priority. (See Uber's HR Nightmare: Company Investigates Sexual Harassment Claims.)

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Uber has been undergoing an "internal investigation" of its culture led by former US Attorney General Eric Holder since Fowler's report of the company, detailing sexual harassment, institutionalized sexism and an HR department that refused to do anything about it. Since her takedown, more engineers have come forward with similar reports of a toxic work environment, and Kalanick especially has been under fire for creating and encouraging such a culture. (See Culture in Crisis: What's Next for Uber & Tech?, Uber Engineering SVP Out as Probe Continues and Uber & Out.)

Today's diversity report outlined a few ways Uber says it has or will begin to improve, including:

  • Hired a Chief Human Resources Officer and Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Hired 41% women last year
  • Investing $3 million over the next three years to support organizations that bring more women and underrepresented people into tech
  • Going on a college tour for recruitment, including to a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs)
  • Diversifying interview panels
  • Enhancing benefits to make Uber more welcoming to parents
  • Educating its workforce on "actionable, inclusive behaviors" in hiring and work life
  • Updated job descriptions to remove potentially exclusionary language
  • Running interview training to make hiring processes more inclusive for women
  • Introducing gender and diversity training for employees

Uber stopped short of setting any diversity hiring targets, however. The report also accounts for other forms of diversity including race, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status and employees on work visas. You can view the complete report here.

Releasing a diversity report was a necessary step in improving Uber's image. Fowler's account of life at the tech company, and the subsequent fall-out, has cast a huge spotlight on the problem of gender discrimination across the Valley. Uber, in a lot of ways, is the archetype for all that is wrong with the tech industry when it comes to its treatment of women. Few women in tech were surprised by Fowler's post, and there has since been a mix of sentiments that this will be the last straw that finally sparks change and skepticism that things will ever change. (See Silicon Valley Writer Foresees End of Bro Culture.)

Right now Uber is talking a big game, but it remains to be seen if it can deliver on all of its promises and transform what is a deeply engrained company culture at the eight-year-old company. At the least, transparency in the form of diversity reports like the one it released today is a good start.

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Director, Women in Comms

kq4ym 4/11/2017 | 8:49:43 AM
Re: Industry-wide stats? Yes it would be interesting to see some more data to figure out maybe just what's going on. It still does seem remarkable that there's still not a lot of diversity in the workplace despite folks saying it's important and working hard at corrections.
Joe Stanganelli 3/31/2017 | 9:14:19 PM
Re: Industry-wide stats? Moreover, those stats -- sometimes -- don't include women in executive/leadership roles in tech, or in not strictly tech roles in tech industry (e.g., a marketer for a chip manufacturer) that still necessitate some level of understanding of the technology), and/or who have founded tech startups.  This makes the picture even more unclear.
Sarah Thomas 3/29/2017 | 8:03:55 AM
Re: Industry-wide stats? The numbers do vary by report, and the ways tech roles are defined varies too -- and so does looking at tech companies versus tech roles in all companies. A new report from Smart Asset this week looks at the best cities for women, and it puts the percent of women in "computer and mathematical jobs" at 26%. Not a good comparison, but another way to look at it.

I'd say Uber's 15% is worse than most, but not terribly so. It clearly doesn't tell the whole story though, given Uber's culture.

Joe Stanganelli 3/28/2017 | 7:56:42 PM
Industry-wide stats? Are there any up-to-date and reliable sources of data out there on the percentage of women in tech roles in general in the US?  (I've seen figures pegging this at anywhere from 15% to 28%, if not more.)  Scandals aside, this would certainly help put the stats at Uber in even better context.
Sarah Thomas 3/28/2017 | 5:31:19 PM
Uber changes ahead These numbers aren't as bad as I thought they would be (at least comparatively), especially after Fowler's account of the lack of women in her engineering department. It outlined a lot of steps it's going to take -- likely with the help of a new COO. That hire will be crucial.

What do you all think -- has Uber convinced you it really wants to change??
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