Uber has hired its first-ever chief diversity and inclusion officer as the company moves towards untarnishing its image of workplace inequality and addressing the issues that ousted founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick.
Bo Young Lee will begin her job in March in the newly created role, Recode reported.
Lee will be the third executive appointment for Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, who was hired in August 2017 to replace Kalanick. Other recent hires under the new CEO include chief legal officer Tony West and chief operating officer Barney Harford.
With an eye toward taking the company public in 2019, Khosrowshahi is working quickly to right the ship at Uber, Recode reported. That, in part, includes filling critical executive roles.
Khosrowshahi confirmed in November that the company is targeting 2019 for a public offering, CNN reported. This is a departure from his predecessor, Kalanick, who tried to put off an IPO as long as possible.
“We have all of the disadvantages of being a public company, as far as the spotlight on us, without any of the advantages of being a public company,” Khosrowshahi said on stage at a New York Times DealBook Conference in Manhattan.
West was Khosrowshahi’s first significant hire, joining Uber in November 2017 from PepsiCo Inc, where he was general counsel. He led a team of lawyers in more than 200 countries. He was also a former federal prosecutor and senior official in the U.S. Department of Justice under former President Barack Obama.
West is credited with playing an integral role in the 2011 decision by the Obama administration to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriages, Reuters reported:
West also has family ties to the government. He is married to Maya Harris, a former senior adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and his sister-in-law is California Senator Kamala Harris.”
Uber hired former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder to investigate the company’s culture after former Uber employee Susan Fowler published a blog in February 2017 describing the sexism and sexual harassment she endured during her year working there.
Fowler’s blog went viral.
Holder’s law firm recommended that Uber promote its then-global head of diversity, Bernard Coleman, to a more senior role of chief diversity officer. The Holder report also recommended that Coleman report directly to the company CEO and COO.
Lee worked previously as the global diversity and inclusion officer at financial services firm Marsh, Recode reported.
Uber did not share its workforce diversity numbers publicly until Fowler’s accusations of sexism at the company.
That changed in March 2017, when Uber released its highly anticipated first-ever diversity report. The report revealed that Uber had no black or Hispanic employees in tech leadership positions — something that “clearly has to change” — the Silicon Valley-based ride-hailing firm said at the time.
Uber has made a more public effort to be more transparent and increase diversity, including donating a $1.2 million grant to Girls Who Code. That move was controversial.
Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant turned down $125,000 from Uber’s $3 million diversity fund, telling TechCrunch the gesture seemed “more PR driven than actually focused on real change.“
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