In the midst of multiple scandals that have caused the company to re-evaluate its entire culture, Uber released its first diversity report on Tuesday. The report shows that women make up 36 percent of Uber’s staff worldwide, but only 15 percent of technical roles and 22 percent of leadership. Tech leadership at the ride-sharing startup is nearly 89 percent male. In the US, about half of Uber’s employees are white and 30 percent are Asian, while just under 9 percent are black, 5.6 percent are Hispanic, and 4.3 percent are multi-racial. In technical roles, however, Uber’s US workforce is 46 percent white and just under 48 percent Asian, with underrepresented minority groups barely represented. Uber leadership is also not very racially diverse: 76 percent white and 20 percent Asian, with black and Hispanic employees making up just over 3 percent of leaders in the company.
In a blog post announcing the report, CHRO Liane Hornsey acknowledges that Uber has a long way to go to become a more inclusive workplace but touts the progress it has made so far and the initiatives it is currently pursuing:
Of course, we need to do better and have much more work to do. But we’ve made some strides in diversifying our workforce: last year, 41% of new employees were women, which is 5% more than the proportion of women in our overall employee population. Similarly, we hired 3% more Black and 2% more Hispanic employees compared to our overall employee base.
In addition, we’re ramping up our presence at recruiting events around the country and our outreach to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). And today, we’re committing $3 million over the next three years to support organizations working to bring more women and underrepresented groups into tech. Employees will be crucial in deciding which organizations we partner with.
While Uber’s diversity numbers may not be especially impressive in absolute terms, by the standards of the tech sector they are well within the norm—albeit a norm that most agree is still too exclusive. Business Insider’s Biz Carson and Skye Gould do some great chart work looking at how Uber stacks up against other tech companies on various diversity numbers, showing that in some respects, Uber is actually ahead of its peers: It has a greater percentage of women in its overall workforce than other major tech companies, and its US staff is less overwhelmingly white. In tech and leadership roles, however, the company falls a bit behind its peers: For example, women make up 23 percent of tech roles at Apple and 19 percent at Facebook (low numbers themselves) compared to just 15.4 percent at Uber.
Uber has really been feeling its lack of women leadership as it has weathered a scandal involving allegations of pervasive sexist behavior and tolerance toward sexual harassment in the workplace, and it is playing catch-up on that front, as Recode’s Johana Bhuiyan explains:
The company already has a number of women in top jobs, including the head of communications and policy, Rachel Whetstone, the head of HR, Liane Hornsey, and its general counsel, Salle Yoo. But what sources describe as the true inner circle, the so-called “A-team,” is made up mostly of men, whom Kalanick is keen on protecting.
Uber board members Bill Gurley and Arianna Huffington are aiding Kalanick in his search for a chief operating officer, a role similar to the one Sheryl Sandberg plays at Facebook, a grown-up executive with wide-ranging control. They’re looking at a number of female candidates for the job. The company is also considering female candidates for the board seat that was left vacant after Alphabet executive David Drummond stepped down last year.
Venture capitalist Freada Kapor Klein, an Uber investor who advocates for greater diversity in Silicon Valley and who has been among the company’s most vocal critics regarding its handling of issues regarding gender and sexual harassment, is pleased to see that Uber is trying, according to SF Gate:
“The numbers in the technical jobs aren’t great, but nobody in tech is getting this right,” she said in a statement. “Companies who have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars to improve diversity, and hiring (diversity and inclusion) staff, are honestly not doing much better than Uber.” …
Among nontech workers, and especially in customer support, women and non-Asian minorities account for larger segments of Uber’s workforce. Kapor Klein said that’s a positive, giving Uber “the ability to create real job pathways for existing workers of color, to provide training and mentorship to move them into technical careers.”
Other critics were less generous. Joelle Emerson, chief executive of the Silicon Valley diversity consultancy Paradigm, expressed her disappointment to the Wall Street Journal that the report “comes only after a public crisis” and adds that she continues to worry about company’s culture problems.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s Ellen Huet and Carol Hymowitz point to a glaring omission in Uber’s diversity report—though to be fair, it’s something that’s missing from most such reports—namely, retention data:
Retention — the percentage of each demographic group that stays at the company each year — reveals more about the hospitality of the workplace culture than the percentage of white and Asian men there overall. Most companies, including Uber and its peers in Silicon Valley, track it. They just don’t make it public.
Retention data is a proxy for job satisfaction, and tech companies won’t be able to build the diverse workforces they claim to be working toward unless they can hold onto the small fraction of female and minority employees they successfully recruit. Since 2014, demographics at Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Google, Twitter Inc. and others have stayed roughly the same: Women make up about 17 percent of technical workers; only about 6 percent are black or Latino. …
“People are looking for ways to tell a good story around their diversity and inclusion efforts,” said Ellen Pao, co-founder of Project Include, which advocates for more diversity in Silicon Valley. “The fact that tech companies aren’t sharing their retention numbers indicates those numbers likely aren’t good.”