Under Spotlight, Uber Reveals Lack of Diversity And Pledges Change

In the latest step to patch up its reputation after a series of hits this year, Uber released a gender and ethnic diversity report on the company today and promised to make its predominantly white, male staff more inclusive.

The San Francisco-based ride-hailing giant says men make up 63.9 percent of its total global employees, while 36.1 percent are women. These numbers roughly track with the patterns at other big Silicon Valley companies, including Facebook, Google, and Apple, the New York Times found. Uber’s overall percentage of male employees is a bit lower than at those companies.

But Uber offered further breakdowns in the self-produced report it posted on its website, and they show greater imbalances compared to its overall employee totals. Men hold 84.6 percent of tech jobs, compared with women at 15.4 percent.

Similarly, 78 percent of the members of Uber’s global leadership are men; 22 percent are women. Narrowing down further on leadership in tech roles, Uber says 88.7 percent are men, while 11.3 percent are women. (The report, which studies race and ethnicity separately from gender, also finds white majorities in tech and leadership roles. See below.)

Conditions for women at Uber came under fire early this year, not only for the lack of diversity, but also due to allegations by a woman engineer that she and other women were sexually harassed by a manager, and that he was protected from discipline because he was a “high performer.”

In the wake of that much-discussed blogpost by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler in February, Uber hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the sexual harassment claims.

Now, Uber is lifting the lid on its U.S. ethnic and racial demographics. Its report reveals that they skew significantly toward the hiring and promotion of whites compared with other groups. Among all employees, whites represented 49.8 percent. Those of Asian descent made up 30.9 percent; employees in a group defined as Black made up 8.8 percent; those defined as Hispanic were 5.6 percent.

Carving out the Uber staffers in U.S. tech roles, Asians made the largest group at 47.9 percent, followed closely by whites at 46.2 percent. The Black category accounted for 1 percent of tech jobs; Hispanics claimed 2.1 percent.

Again, the disparities rose when the statistical report focused on U.S. leadership jobs at Uber. Overall, 76.7 percent of the leaders were white. Next on the list were Asians at 20.2 percent, followed by blacks at 2.3 percent and Hispanics at 0.8 percent.

Among leaders in tech roles, whites occupied 75 percent of those positions at Uber, despite the fact that whites were slightly behind Asians based on their share of tech jobs at all levels. Asians made up only 25 percent of Uber’s leaders in tech roles, while they held 47.9 percent of tech jobs overall.

Uber acknowledged the key imbalances at its top levels.

“Our leadership is more homogenous than the rest of our employees. For example, no Black or Hispanic employees hold leadership positions in tech,” the company said in its report.

“This clearly has to change—a diversity of backgrounds and experience is important at every level. This is especially important in leadership, because leaders have a disproportionate influence on the culture of teams. And research shows that leaders from diverse backgrounds are more likely to hire diverse teams themselves.”

Uber has brought on a new chief human resources officer and hired a global head of diversity. The company says it is devoting $3 million to organizations that can funnel more women and “underrepresented people” into tech. In its report, the company listed a number of measures it’s taking to increase diversity. Among the initiatives are recruiting at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs); diversifying panels that conduct hiring interviews; making Uber jobs more welcoming for parents, veterans, the disabled and LGBTQ applicants; and training employees on inclusive behaviors.

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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