Amid PR Circus Fire, Uber Suddenly Decides to Care About Diversity

By Sidney Fussell on at

Somewhere in between responding to the fallout from accusations of misogyny and sexual harassment, responding to the fallout from its CEO screaming at a bankrupt driver, and responding to fallout from a New York Times investigation uncovering a secret worldwide program to evade police, ride-sharing behemoth Uber had a eureka moment: Hey, why not trot out some women and minorities?

As first spotted by Inc, Uber added new job listings for several diversity oriented positions on Friday, including a coordinator, business partner and manager of diversity and inclusion. And after a slew of controversies uncovered a largely dysfunctional and outright hostile work culture that denigrated female employees and drivers, the company could certainly use an overhaul.

Part of its rebranding as a cuddlier, less obstructive of justice ride-sharing app appears to be focusing on diversity or (as the listings put it) “driv[ing] innovation and expanding a culture of inclusion that helps to celebrate differences.” This is a bit of a reversal for the company that, pre-controversy, balked at seriously investing in the idea and releasing a diversity report like Apple, Yahoo, and Google all have. When asked, HR head Liane Hornsey told a Fast Company reporter in early March:

“I haven’t seen it move the numbers. I haven’t seen anyone who’s done it say it’s made any difference for them. I reserve the right to really think about that over time. But it hasn’t worked for anyone, so why would I?”

Diversity reports aren’t ideal, and often obscure key information about recruitment, but they send an important message to prospective employees, showing them that a company is willing to endure some bad press for the sake of a little bit of transparency and accountability. Diversity reports don’t “work” in the sense that they immediately result in new hires, but they illustrate what diversifying a company actually requires—which is more than just throwing money and blaming the pipeline.

Simply put, diversity reports aren’t for the people already in the company with jobs, they’re for the talented people routinely overlooked by the tech industry, demonstrating that a company values something that they, as women, as LGBT individuals, as people older than 35, have to offer. Uber’s dismissal of diversity reports speaks to the same hubris that let rampant misogyny fester. Now, Uber’s essentially asking prospective employees to work two jobs: as diversity liaisons changing company culture and as visibility tokens representing a paradigmatic shift for Uber. It’s diversity as currency to “buy back” goodwill.

Whoever ends up accepting the positions will certainly have their work cut out for them. And, at this point, it’s worth wondering if prospective candidates will even want the gig.[Inc]