Uber’s New Hiring Initiative: Trying to Win Back the Women
Crowd-sourced mobile taxi service Uber has developed a bit of a reputation for having a sexist “bro culture.” A new announcement this morning from the company reveals it’s trying to change that. Uber announced it will be partnering with UN Women “with the goal of accelerating economic opportunity for women.” As part of that commitment, it has pledged to create 1,000,000 jobs for women drivers by 2020. That sounds good, but is this sudden explosion of growth really proof that the company is becoming more female friendly?
A good example of how Uber has gotten a sexist rep is the feud between the company and Sarah Lacy, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of tech website PandoDaily. In October, Uber’s French office unveiled a sexist promotion with an app called “Avions de Chasse” that pairs Uber riders with “hot chick” drivers. Lacy responded with an oped piece on her site criticizing the company’s “Asshole culture,” writing that she deleted the app. She stated she was shocked that this company valued at $18 million “celebrated treating women who may choose to drive cars to make extra money like hookers.”
That’s when Uber execs apparently retaliated in maybe the worst way possible. They hired spies. Yup, spies. Spies who allegedly attempted to dig up information on Lacy to discredit her. While nothing ever real came of it, there was a lot of public outcry against Uber.
USA Today reported that Emil Michael, senior vice president of the business, allegedly said at a dinner party that the company spends $1 million to conduct “oppo research” on journalists. That means digging for any information Uber can manipulate in order to discredit its journalist critics. After public backlash the company made its apologies on Twitter and dropped the promotion.
The controversy with Lacy wasn’t the only anti-female press for Uber. Uber founder Travis Kalanick was quoted referring to his company as “Boob-er” because of all the ladies he pulls due to its success. With comments like that it’s no wonder the company’s headquarters have been deemed a boyish clubhouse.
It only got worse for Uber in December when it was banned from New Delhi, India after a male Uber driver was accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger. Unfortunately, that’s not the only case of alleged Uber sexual assault. In Boston, an Uber driver was charged with sexual assault after inappropriately touching a female passenger while dropping her off in the North End neighborhood. With that in mind, hiring more female drivers could make female passengers feel safer while using the service. In NYC, the app SheRides has already created a business model based on the concept, with an all female fleet that it claims is tailored to the needs of women.
Currently women make up only about 14 percent of Uber’s 160,000 drivers in the U.S., according to the The Huffington Post. This new female hiring initiative would increase Uber’s driving force by more than seven times its current total. Its clear that Uber realizes that referring to itself as “Boob-er” and hiring spies to stalk female journalists wasn’t the best idea. This hiring initiative, however, is a good first step of many that Uber will need to take in order to rid itself of its negative “bro culture” rep.