Uber may link leaders’ pay to gender goal

Bengaluru: Cab-hailing service Uber Technologies Inc. may link the compensation of its senior leaders with its target of increasing the number of women in its workforce as it attempts to prove it is changing its infamous company culture.

In February 2017, Susan Fowler, a former engineer at US-based Uber, wrote a blog post detailing allegations of sexual harassment, a lack of gender diversity, poor management and other objectionable practices prevalent at the world’s most valuable start-up.

Fowler’s blog triggered a series of events that would change the company forever and force the ouster of Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, who was until then considered by many in Silicon Valley to be the greatest entrepreneur in recent times.

Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of travel platform Expedia, joined Uber as its new CEO last August. After taking over, Khosrowshahi has been trying to take the edge off of Uber’s ultra-aggressive company culture. He listed a new set of cultural norms for the company, replacing the much-criticised 14 values that guided the behaviour of Uber executives and prompted them to sometimes break rules and norms in pursuit of growth, both in their careers and for the company.

Khosrowshahi’s top priorities include increasing Uber’s gender diversity, the company’s global human resources head Liane Hornsey said. Uber had hired a chief diversity officer last month.

Currently, about a third of Uber’s employees and 23% of its senior leaders are women. In India, its gender ratio is similar lines. The company will increase these numbers, Hornsey said.

“In two weeks’ time we have an offsite. There are three offsites a year. Dara has said he wants one to be dedicated to the people agenda. We haven’t set our goals yet for the year. But after the offsite, every one of us will have a diversity goal and I would be very surprised if it wasn’t tied to our (performance-related) compensation,” Hornsey said in an interview in Bengaluru.

Hornsey is in India to hire senior engineers and product experts as Uber expands its tech centres in Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

“Dara would like us to hire significant numbers very quickly. I’m here to do the senior hiring and also to assess how quickly we can grow and absorb the hires. It would be easy to double or treble our tech centres but I also want to ensure that we get women in the right numbers in the centres, so that may slow our hiring,” Hornsey said.

Last week, Khosrowshahi, who was also in India, said Uber will continue to invest heavily in India, though over the long-term the company may explore a merger or an acquisition. Uber and local start-up Ola, which share SoftBank Group Corp. as their largest investor, are locked in an expensive market share battle for India’s ride-sharing and cab-hailing market.livemint