Tech companies can avoid being like Uber.
For anyone following Uber’s recent problems, Travis Kalanick’s resignation comes as no great surprise. But companies need to recognize the factors behind the headlines to avoid unwittingly following the same path.
You don’t have to look far to find examples of companies making the same sorts of poor decisions that led to Uber’s fall from grace. Like many tech leaders, Uber executives thought diversity and inclusion were negotiable values rather than key factors in attracting and retaining top talent. The latest Uber news highlights this disconnect: Investors asked for Kalanick’s resignation not because they expected the company to take responsibility for discriminatory behavior, but because negative press threatened the company’s financial performance.
Diverse workforces are critical to business success. A recent Deloitte study found that 72 percent of American workers would consider leaving their jobs for a more inclusive company. And research commissioned by the Anita Borg Institute (ABI) shows that diversity leads to increased innovation and better business results. Code.org projects there will be a million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them by 2020; we can’t let bias and bad behavior stand in the way of bringing every qualified technologist into the fold.
To prevent following in Uber’s now-notorious footsteps, leaders must recognize diversity and inclusion as core values. These five steps can help businesses prioritize—and benefit from—a diverse and inclusive culture.
1. Build a diverse leadership team.
Send a powerful message by positioning women and minorities in highly visible roles. New research from FundersClub shows that tech startups with at least one female founder recruit women twice as well as startups with no female founders. And ABI’s own data shows that companies with women and minorities in leadership roles are better able to hire and retain women technologists at all levels.
2. Communicate the value of diversity.
Outline a commitment to inclusion and diversity to encourage women and minorities to participate in developing company culture. Inclusion programs can illustrate an organization’s dedication: 92 percent of organizations on ABI’s Top Companies leadership index offered formal diversity training.
3. Set goals for improvement.
Track the diversity of your workforce and set targets for change, holding all senior managers accountable for success. Understand that achieving goals will take time, and require a long-term commitment as well as consistent oversight. Measurement is the only way to understand if your company is doing the right work to move the needle.
4. Leverage HR to improve culture.
Implement processes to support diversity at all stages of recruitment, hiring, and retention. Influence culture from the top down by focusing on advancing underrepresented minorities and women into visible senior roles. And ensure your HR leaders actively listen to employees’ feedback on diversity topics and address their concerns promptly.
5. Tackle bias using proven methods.
Establish formal policies that can make significant differences in company culture: diversity training, transparent promotion processes, official flextime policies, leadership development programs, and blind resume screening. Evaluate these programs continually to help weed out bias, which will improve your ability to hire, retain and advance women and minorities in technical roles.
As an industry, we owe a debt to Susan Fowler and countless other women who have spoken out about sexual harassment and gender bias. We must acknowledge that Uber isn’t the first place this pattern has surfaced, and it surely won’t be the last. We must acknowledge the truth of these stories by encouraging employees and consumers to hold corporations responsible for their actions. And we must work together to create an industry where these cautionary tales become increasingly rare.
Dr. Telle Whitney is president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Computing and a co-founder of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. She previously held senior technical management positions in the semiconductor and telecommunications industries. Whitney received her Ph.D. in computer science from Caltech, and her bachelor’s degree at the University of Utah.