Uber recently pledged its commitment to increasing diversity in its leadership roles. We look at how the company started, its overhaul in 2017, and the benefits of inclusivity in the workplace.
How will Uber become more inclusive?
Recently, Uber announced plans to achieve certain diversification and inclusivity targets by 2022.
At Uber, the US workforce is largely comprised of white men. Making up 30.1 percent of staff, white men are distantly followed by black women (5.3 percent), Hispanic men (4.6 percent), black men (4 percent), and Hispanic women (3.7 percent). Today, Uber is incentivizing its management to address the imbalance.
Uber’s global workforce has increased exponentially over the past year, from 18,000 in 2018 to around 26,000 at the end of March 2019. (This figure does not include drivers, whom Uber regards as self-employed.)
Who is Uber?
Uber was founded by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick. In 2009 the pair were attending an annual tech conference in Paris called LaWeb. According to rumor, Camp and Kalanick began proposing ideas for a timeshare limo app after they were unable to get a cab.
After the conference, they each returned home, but Camp continued to mull over the concept, purchasing the domain name UberCab.com.
At the time, Camp was still CEO of StumbleUpon; he began developing UberCab in his spare time. By the summer of 2009, he invited Kalanick to join his side project. They launched the service in San Francisco in May 2010. The app quickly grew in popularity, thanks to its efficiency and user-friendly attributes, such as GPS location identification and instant online payments. By October 2010, Camp and Kalanick had received a $1.25 million injection of capital.
UberCab had its fair share of adversaries. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency served a cease-and-desist order in October 2010, citing the use of the word “cab” in the app name as one of the principal issues. UberCab changed its name to Uber.
After a shaky financial start to 2011, Uber received more than $37 million in funding, principally from Menlo Ventures, Goldman Sachs, and Jeff Bezos. The next year, the company launched UberX, a more affordable hybrid car service. Saudi Arabia’s Wealth Fund invested $3.5 billion in Uber in June 2016.
With more than 3.9 million drivers worldwide, Uber has faced fierce international resistance from the taxi industry. Taxi drivers in London, Paris, Berlin, and Madrid have staged large-scale protests.
Taxi companies object to Uber on the basis that its drivers effectively bypass local laws and expensive license fees, creating unfair competition. In October 2017 Uber was banned from operating in London, where the company had more than 40,000 registered drivers. The decision was overturned in 2018, allowing Uber to operate in the city once more, provided the company adhered to certain conditions.
In 2017 a New York judge ruled that Uber drivers should be regarded as employees rather than independent contractors, meaning that they are entitled to employee benefits, significantly impacting the company’s bottom line.
Today, with competition from new start-ups like Lyft, Uber has begun diversifying its operations with Uber Eats, a food delivery service, and UberPool, a car-pooling service. The Uber Visa Card was recently announced by Barclays in the US. A rewards credit card that comes with a $100 starting bonus, Uber Visa offers cashback on restaurants, airfare, and some online transactions. In 2018 Uber announced its investment in Lime, working in collaboration with Google Ventures on the electric scooter rental company.
Uber received damaging media coverage in 2017 when a female engineer made a 3,000-word blog post criticizing the company. The post went viral, and Uber’s board staged an internal investigation, resulting in the resignation and dismissal of a number of high-level employees.
An internal investigation led to a 47-item recommendation to improve the culture at Uber. More than 20 additional staffers were fired.
Kalanick resigned from the Uber following his own controversies in 2017. Then-CEO of Expedia Dara Khosrowshahi took over in Kalanick’s role.
Why is inclusivity important?
Our culture shapes us. Diversity is critical to the success of companies like Uber. We see the world from our own unique viewpoint, drawing on personal life experiences. By fostering inclusiveness and diversity in the workplace, we start to look at the world from different perspectives. We become more forward-thinking. Working in a diverse environment teaches us a lot about other people—and ourselves.
Though Uber is an international company, its workforce consists mostly of white males.
Khosrowshahi explained to reporters in 2018 that improving diversity within the company’s leadership roles was a priority. The company’s diversification and inclusivity goals for 2022 are designed to increase the percentage of underrepresented demographics in management roles. The company has overhauled its policies, improving employee benefits by offering 18 weeks of parental leave for full-time employees in an effort to attract more female employees.
The company’s total female workforce grew by 42.3 percent from 2018 to 2019, with notable increases in the tech sector. Uber has pledged to continue its efforts to promote diversity, ensuring its practices are equitable and inclusive.