As part of Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s efforts to turn around his embattled company’s public image and organizational culture after a series of scandals last year, Bo Young Lee will join the ride-sharing startup as its first chief diversity and inclusion officer in March, Johana Bhuiyan reports at Recode:
Lee’s hire — the third executive appointment under newly minted CEO Dara Khosrowshahi following chief legal officer Tony West and chief operating officer Barney Harford — is an important one for the company as it attempts to refurbish its image and address the many issues first brought to light by Susan Fowler’s essay in February 2017. … Lee, who was the global diversity and inclusion officer at financial services firm Marsh, will not be reporting directly to Khosrowshahi and Harford; she will report to Uber’s chief human resources officer, Liane Hornsey, for the time being.
An independent investigation conducted last year by former US Attorney General Eric Holder had recommended that Uber promote its current global head of diversity, Bernard Coleman, to the role of chief diversity officer, reporting directly to the CEO and COO. The company may change up Lee’s place in the chain of command later, Bhuiyan adds:
As she gets settled, Uber spokesperson Momo Zhou told Recode, the company will determine if she will continue to report to Hornsey or report directly to Khosrowshahi as the Holder report recommends. Coleman, in turn, will be reporting to Lee, though his role still needs to be more clearly defined.
It is unusual for a head of diversity to report directly to the CEO: According to our 2016 D&I Benchmarking Report at CEB, now Gartner (which CEB Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council members can read here), only about 3 percent of heads of D&I report directly to the CEO, with the largest percentage of these leaders (38 percent) reporting to the Chief HR Officer. Apple became an outlier last year when it shifted its worldwide head of HR, Denise Young Smith, into a new role as VP of Inclusion and Diversity, reporting to CEO Tim Cook. That hierarchy changed when Young Smith left the company at the end of last year, with her replacement Christie Smith instead reporting to VP of People Deirdre O’Brien.
For her part, Uber’s new D&I chief appears to fully understand her new role as part of a major culture change effort, TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey writes:
“As I was interviewing for this role, it became very clear that Uber is taking their cultural transformation seriously and truly wants to create a culture where every single person feels proud and heard,” Lee said in a statement to TechCrunch. “There’s much more work to be done, and I’m excited to bring my experience to the table solving tough D&I challenges in partnership with Uber employees.”
It is not clear why Uber chose not to elevate Coleman to the new role as the Holder report had recommended. Dickey notes that Coleman, who joined the company last January, was thrown into the deep end, facing first allegations of rampant sexual harassment and a toxic culture from former engineer Susan Fowler, then the release of Uber’s first, heavily scrutinized diversity report, within months of coming on board.