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Diversity takes a back seat

Uber's first-ever staff numbers are just as bad as the rest of Silicon Valley

Uber’s diversity numbers are just as bad as the rest of Silicon Valley

Uber’s first-ever report on the gender and racial composition of its staff shows it’s a lot like the rest of Silicon Valley: very male and very white.

Among the ride-hailing giant’s estimated 6,700 employees (as reported in April 2016, and that doesn’t include independently contracted drivers), 64 percent are men and 36 percent are women. About 50 percent are white, 31 percent are Asian, 6 percent are Hispanic, 9 percent are black, and the remaining 5 percent is a mix of multiracial and “other.”

The numbers, released Tuesday, basically line up with other comparable firms in Silicon Valley, such as Google (69 percent male, 90 percent Asian and white) and Facebook (67 percent male, 90 percent Asian and white in the U.S.). Uber’s senior leadership, according to the new stats, is 78 percent male and 77 percent white.

The San Francisco-based company has been notably slow to release information about the gender and ethnic/racial breakdown of its staff. Recode has reported that CEO Travis Kalanick for years refused requests from employees to publish such numbers, because he believed that race and gender were not effective measurements of diversity. After departing employee Susan Fowler Rigetti revealed in February sustained sexual harassment during her time at Uber, Kalanick pledged to release diversity figures.

The company recently appointed a new HR chief, Liane Hornsey, whose public comments suggest the company is now moving in a different direction.

“It’s no secret that we’re late to release these numbers,” Hornsey wrote in a blog post. “And I’d like to thank our employees for their tenacity in arguing the case for greater transparency — because what you don’t measure, you can’t improve.”

Uber, meanwhile, is still conducting an internal investigation of its workplace culture and policies as a result of the widespread backlash the company received after Fowler Rigetti published her blog post. Uber leadership has said that the results of that investigation, which is being co-led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, will be published by the end of April.

The company remains busy putting out other fires. One of Uber’s investors, Google parent company Alphabet, alleged in a lawsuit that an ex-Google executive stole proprietary information before founding a self-driving car startup that was later acquired by Uber. Many of Uber’s top autonomous driving staffers have left the company in recent months, and in December Uber was forced to relocate a self-driving pilot program from San Francisco to Arizona under regulator pressure.

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