Drive out bias: Learn from Uber's mistakes
Thursday, June 25, 2015
By Simma Lieberman
Last fall, while attending a dinner
party with the likes of Arianna Huffington, Ed Norton and Kara Swisher, Uber
executive Emil Michael suggested that Uber should pay $1 million dollars to
hire opposition researchers to dig
up dirt on journalists who wrote negative stories about the ride-share
"They'd look into your personal
lives, your families', and give the media a taste of its own medicine," Michael
Related: 3 quick reminders for leading a diverse team
Michael’s ire was focused
specifically at Sarah Lacy, founder of tech newsite Pando Daily. Lacy wrote
that she deleted the Uber app after what she described as Uber’s
pattern of sexist comments, policies and advertising detrimental to the
company’s women drivers and passengers.
In response to public outrage over
Michael's comments, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a series of tweets that
Michael's remarks "showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity, and a
departure from our values and ideals."
Really? Then why is he representing
your organization? Did you not know until that moment what he thought? Or did
you know, agree and assume that everyone else agreed? Or maybe, you didn’t
think he’d say it in public?
Here’s my advice to every CEO, politician
and public figure who has had to apologize and explain away the sexism, racism
and homophobia of an employee or representative:
- You’re responsible for anyone who represents
you. It doesn’t matter whether they’re
at work or at a party. How do you want to be seen in the world?
- Let every single employee know that and hold
- If you say that you and your organization value
respect, inclusion, diversity and talent, then you better mean it in words and
deeds. If not, eventually, you’re going to be embarrassed, lose customers or be
the defendants in a big lawsuit.
- If you really believe the values in your
mission, your website or your marketing material, then you’ll hire people who
believe and live those values at work and everywhere else.
You create the cultural blueprint for your
organization and when you have people in senior leadership who are offensive,
and, disrespectful, they are reflections of the culture you’ve created.
These scandals are like the parent who
apologizes for their kids bullying, when their kids learned that behavior from
I love technology and disruptive
innovation. I want to see everyone benefit and be welcomed to the new age (like
the Imagine Dragons song says). For that to happen, we need more diversity of
every kind represented our organizations. Right now, it’s lacking.
The people who lead the most
innovative firms, like Uber, are opening up new worlds at immeasurable speeds.
They are creative, brilliant and "think outside the box." However, if they want to extend their reach
and influence even more, they need to live, hire and discover the genius in
people "who are out of the box."
Those who use their power to demean
people who are different than them, and suggest that threatening the families
and livelihood of people who criticize them is okay, should not continue to be
rewarded — or be excused.
Simma Lieberman, internationally known as "The Inclusionist" is
a diversity and inclusion and culture change consultant, speaker and coach.
Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the
authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive
Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.
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