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Uber reportedly tells female recruit sexism 'systemic in tech'

A manager for the ride-hailing company writes a seemingly tone-deaf message to a potential employee, according to The Guardian.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
3 min read

Uber keeps getting itself into diversity and gender discrimination scandals.


Uber appears to be having a hard time attracting female employees.

The ride-hailing company has pledged to do more to balance its male-heavy workforce, but after a litany of scandals, including claims of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, some women say they don't want to work there.

Uber tried to recruit software engineer Kamilah Taylor earlier this month and she said no thanks, according to The Guardian.

"In light of Uber's questionable business practices and sexism, I have no interest in joining," Taylor wrote in a LinkedIn message to a female Uber manager who was trying to recruit her.

Then the Uber manager seems to have dug herself into a hole.

"I understand your concern," wrote the manager. "I just want to say that sexism is systemic in tech and other industries. I've met some of the most inspiring people here."

Uber didn't respond to a request for comment but told The Guardian it was investigating the exchange, which it said wasn't sanctioned by the company's recruiting department.

News of this tone-deaf interaction comes at a difficult time for Uber. The company has been accused of stealing Google's self-driving car technology and criticized for using a secretive tool to thwart police. It's also come under scrutiny for a chaotic corporate culture, mistreatment of drivers and being ignorant to diversity issues.

After former Uber employee Susan Fowler wrote a blog post in February detailing allegations of sexual harassment, sexism and unprofessional business practices, two of the company's investors penned an open letter saying Uber needed to change.

"Uber's outsize success in terms of growth of market share, revenues and valuation are impressive, but can never excuse a culture plagued by disrespect, exclusionary cliques, lack of diversity, and tolerance for bullying and harassment of every form," Mitch and Freada Kapor wrote.

Uber has since said it will right its wrongs by hiring a chief operating officer to work as a "true partner" to CEO Travis Kalanick, who recently renewed controversy when he was caught on video belittling an Uber driver. It has also hired former US Attorney General Eric Holder to lead an internal investigation into Fowler's allegations and says that by the end of this month the company will publish its first diversity report (something most other major tech firms have been doing for years).

Earlier this week, Uber board member Arianna Huffington and two top female executives held a media call to say Uber was getting on the right path and focusing on leadership, accountability and the "right culture."

"Our focus on diversity and inclusion will be critical to ensuring that Uber is a great place to work," said Liane Hornsey, Uber's chief human resources officer. "We need to work more closely as a team, and at this point over-index on making room to ensure that everyone can be heard and that everyone feels valued."

But looking at the interaction between Taylor and the Uber manager, it seems Hornsey's sentiment hasn't yet trickled down to the rest of the company.

Besides Taylor, other female engineers have expressed similar sentiment about the ride-hailing company.

"I feel like every one of my friends and mutuals in tech has known about Uber's trash company culture for years," Julie Ann Horvath, design manager for Apple and an outspoken woman in tech, tweeted earlier this week.

Another woman, brand strategy expert Cassie Vance, said she was approached by Uber about a job opportunity earlier this month but declined to meet with the company, according to Bloomberg.

"To say that I'd be embarrassed to have Uber on my résumé would be a gross understatement," Vance wrote the recruiter in a LinkedIn message seen by Bloomberg. "I know I'm not the only person that feels this way, and if you ask me, there's no marketing strategy that is going to get you guys out of the hole you've dug yourselves."

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