Uber founder Travis Kalanick has been shoved aside by the board of directors, following a detailed report from former attorney general Eric Holder that delved deeply into the company’s corporate culture. That report came as a reaction to a scathing blog post by former Uber employee Susan Fowler that accused Kalanick and the company of tolerating the harassment of female employees.
Kalanick Moved Aside
The full text of the report has not be made public, but at an meeting of the board on Sunday, June 11, all of its recommendations were accepted, including one requiring Kalanick to step aside. He is now on what is being described as a “leave of absence” for an indefinite period of time. His long time supporter and alleged enabler, Eric Michael, has left the company. He was previously listed as a senior vice president of Uber.
In an e-mail to employees, Kalanick wrote, “The ultimate responsibility for where we’ve gotten and how we’ve gotten here rests on my shoulders. There is of course much to be proud of but there is much to improve. For Uber 2.0 to succeed there is nothing more important than dedicating my time to building out the leadership team. But if we are going to work on Uber 2.0, I also need to work on Travis 2.0 to become the leader that this company needs and that you deserve.”
Kalanick has developed a reputation for being a self important jerk — a young man with too much money and very poor social skills. Mark Cuban, who is an investor in the company, says the best thing about Kalanick is at he will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Cuban says that is also his greatest weakness.
Kalanick once boasted that being a rich white kid was terrific for his sex life, calling the company he created “Boober,” a reference to the number of women he was meeting thanks to the size of his bank account. He also was caught on video recently in a tirade against an Uber driver who dared complain about the company pay plan.
The driver claimed he was bankrupt because he invested in a new car to drive for Uber, only to see his compensation cut. Kalanick screamed, “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!”
Uber has clashed repeatedly with authorities and is now under investigation for devising a computer program it called Grey Ball that helped it avoid investigation by government agencies. Another program, which it dubbed Hell, used algorithms to detect which of its drivers were also working for Lyft, its principal rival.
The 47 proposals from Holder include mandatory leadership training for senior managers. The position called “head of diversity” will be renamed “chief diversity and inclusion officer.” The company, when considering candidates for high level positions, will interview at least one minority candidate and one woman from now on.
Window Dressing Says Fowler
Susan Fowler, whose complaints started the whole investigation, dismissed the company’s actions as nothing more then “optics.” Asked if anyone from Uber had apologized to her for the way she was treated, she responded on Twitter by saying, “They’ll never apologize. I’ve gotten nothing but aggressive hostility from them.” Aggressive hostility is precisely what Kalanick is known for and the company he built reflects that attitude.
More Male Stupidity
As if to put an exclamation point on the dysfunctional culture that pervades Uber, after the company announced on June 12 that it was adding a woman — Nestle executive Wan Ling Martello — to the board of directors. The only other woman on the board is Arianna Huffington, who praised the move. That’s when another wealthy white man with more money than brains quipped that the only difference would be more talking at board meetings with two women in the room.
That person, David Bonderman, resigned from the board shortly thereafter while issuing a tepid apology to any and all who might have been offended by his lighthearted insensitivity. He seems to have completely missed the point of the Holder report and serves as a perfect example of the male privilege ethos that dominates the tech industry.
More independent board members are planned. What Kalanick’s role with the company going forward is unclear, but don’t shed too many tears for Travis. He’s laughing all the way to the bank.
Source: Washington Post