Uber Hires 2 High-Profile Female Execs To Deflect Criticism Of Inequality

Written by Dana Sanchez

Uber Technologies Inc., which has been under fire for having a workplace hostile to women, hired two senior female executives to inject more diversity in its leadership and fill a void left by recent departures, Bloomberg reported.

Bozoma Saint John, a high-profile Apple Inc. executive, is leaving Apple to go and work for Uber, according to TechCrunch.

Harvard Business School Professor Frances Frei is joining Uber as senior vice present for leadership and strategy, the company said.

Axios broke the news that Saint John was leaving Apple. TechCrunch got the tip that she’s headed to Uber, and confirmed it through sources at Uber. The company sees Saint John’s appointment as important in helping “turn the tide on recent issues,” TechCrunch reported.

Saint John, the Apple executive who garnered significant attention for her demo at last year’s worldwide developer conference, plans to leave the company, Axios has learned. Saint John was head of global consumer marketing for Apple Music (and predecessor Beats Music). Prior to that she was head of music and entertainment marketing for Pepsi.

Why it matters: While Apple has several women of color in higher-ranking positions, Saint John had a high profile beyond Apple and was widely praised for her on-stage work last year. She was also fairly unique among Apple executives in maintaining a strong personal brand beyond her work identity, with a strong following on Instagram and Twitter. Her exit also comes shortly after Apple shifted former human resources head Denise Young Smith to a new role as vice president of diversity and inclusion.

Saint John’s role at Uber is uncertain. The appointment is a key move for Uber that could help shore up confidence in the company both internally and externally as it fights to justify its $70 billion valuation by investors, TechCrunch reported.

Criticism of Uber’s company culture and management practices have reached a crescendo, and a #deleteuber campaign has been working to some extent.

Most executive news in the last six months at Uber has been about departures rather than hires. These include President Jeff Jones, AI lead Gary Marcus, communications SVP Rachel Whetstone, VP of global vehicle programs Sherif Marakby, VP of product Ed Baker, SVP of engineering Amit Singhal, vice president of maps and business platform Brian McClendon, and self-driving car head Anthony Levandowski.

Saint John was head of global and consumer marketing for iTunes and Apple Music. She was a surprise hit at last year’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, TechCrunch reported.

“Her charismatic appearance on stage not only gave the dad-joke peppered event a little more oomph, but it also underscored a bigger conversation we’ve been having in the tech industry about diversity, strong role models and which companies have been taking a leadership position in that area.”

Regardless of whether Saint John takes a marketing role or something else, her coming on board is part of Uber’s efforts to reposition itself as a different kind of company than it has been in the past, TechCrunch reported.

Uber formally announced Frei’s appointment this week. A Harvard Business School academic, she’s taking a new role as senior vice president of leadership and strategy.

Prompted by allegations of sexism, former Attorney General Eric Holder led an investigation into Uber’s management culture. That report is due out soon.

Despite the bad news, Uber’s revenue was up 18 percent to $3.4 billion in the first quarter of 2017 over the previous quarter. Between Q3 and Q4 of 2016, Uber grew 74 percent.

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