by Sharon Florentine

Uber scandal highlights what’s wrong with Silicon Valley

Mar 02, 2017
CareersIT Leadership

Sexual harassment, discrimination, favoritism, nepotism ... and you wonder why women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community don't want to work in tech.

Uber headquarters
Credit: Magdalena Petrova/IDG

If you want to know why it’s so difficult for companies in the technology industry to hire and retain women, people of color and LGBTQ people, look no further than Uber. It’s a living, breathing example of the type of environment that’s all-too-common in Silicon Valley.

Shortly after Susan Fowler’s explosive revelations about her tenure at the ridesharing startup, others began speaking up. Another female Uber engineer, under the alias Amy Vertino, wrote about her tenure at Uber; it’s incredibly similar to what Fowler experienced. The company’s senior vice president of engineering, Amit Singhal, resigned yesterday after information surfaced that he’d failed to disclose a sexual harassment allegation at his former employer, Google.

The New York Times reported on Uber’s awful corporate culture. Early investors in the company, who claim they’ve been trying to address and rectify these problems “from the inside,” are also speaking up. It didn’t have to be like this.

You have to address these issues from the very beginning. You have to be open, transparent and accountable from day one. You can’t publicly claim to have certain corporate values while privately ignoring a culture that behaves in opposition to those. Of course, that starts with having a mission and values that are more clearly defined than “be yourself,” and “always be hustlin’,” otherwise, you’re leaving it up to the individual to determine for themselves what that means. And we see how that turned out for Uber.

You have to empower your HR departments to act in the best interest of your employees, not just in the best interests of your bottom line. They need to be able to weed out toxic workers, no matter how well those people are performing.

Because when it comes down to it, you can only gloss over these culture issues for so long before they blow up and you’re faced with a scandal.

And while the company and CEO Travis Kalanick have promised a full investigation, and have committed to releasing a diversity report — something they’ve never done before — it feels like it may be too little, too late. The damage has already been done.