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Uber board member makes sexist 'joke' at sexism meeting

Commentary: Billionaire David Bonderman decides Uber's pivotal meeting is the time to offer his views on female board members -- with a supposed joke.

 Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Technology Experts Gather At The Annual Web Summit Conference

David Bonderman. Full of wit?

Horacio Villalobos - Corbis / Getty Images

Uber's turning the corner.

This is what we're meant to believe after its long and tortured journey toward a level of respectability somewhere slightly above the rabid hyena.

Charm-challenged CEO Travis Kalanick is taking a leave of absence and will apparently enjoy some leadership shackles when he returns. It appears, though, that the spirit of macho posturing isn't quite passed. 

Audio of Tuesday's all-hands meeting to address sexual harassment at the company -- obtained by Yahoo Finance -- reveals Uber board member Arianna Huffington running the meeting.

She spoke of how her goal was to increase the diversity of the board "much as I like my white, male colleagues." She introduced new female board member, Wan Ling Martello, Nestle's CEO in Asia and Africa. 

"There's a lot of data that shows when there's one woman on the board, it's much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board," said Huffington.

To this billionaire board member David Bonderman, founder of TPG Capital and chairman of the board at budget airline Ryanair, piped up: "Actually what it shows is it's much likely to be more talking."

Huffington didn't take the opportunity to berate Bonderman. Instead, she humored him with an "Ohhh. Come on, David." The rest of the room appeared to react with, ohh, utter silence.

It might have made for more edifying listening if Huffington had offered a few carefully selected epithets in his direction. Perhaps it would have been a defining moment.

Should we pause to consider again that this was a meeting to discuss the sexual harassment and demeaning of women that was exposed by former Uber employee Susan Fowler? After Fowler published her blog post, Uber hired former US Attorney General Eric Holder to lead an inquiry into the allegations. Uber's board on Sunday unanimously voted to adopt all of Holder's recommendations. 

TPG Capital didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Uber offered me these words from Bonderman: "I want to apologize to my fellow board member for a disrespectful comment that was directed at her during today's discussion.  It was inappropriate.  I also want to apologize to all Uber employees who were offended by the remark.  I deeply regret it." 

But this sad, guileless, half-witted "joke" wasn't directed just at Huffington, was it? It was directed at every woman sitting in that room. Some might even conclude that it showed the very culture of which Uber had been accused for so long hadn't exactly been eradicated.

The company wouldn't be drawn on whether it feels Bonderman might now consider his position on Uber's board. (Bonderman reportedly resigned after making the comment.)

Of course, another board vacancy might mean the appointment of another woman. Could Uber cope with that?

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