Uber recruiters find a wall of resistance from women they try to hire – The Denver Post

 In Business
By Elizabeth Dwoskin and Todd C. Frankel, The Washington Post

SAN FRANCISCO — Last year, software engineer Elizabeth Ford got what many young engineers in Silicon Valley once considered the dream job pitch: Would she be interested in working at Uber?

Ford was blunt with the Uber recruiter, telling her the company was immoral and asking not to be contacted again. “As an engineer in the Bay Area, I feel we’ve pretty much turned on Uber,” Ford, 27, who works at restaurant start-up Eatsa, said.

On Tuesday, Uber said it would be taking 47 wide-reaching steps to address a recent string of controversies about its anything-goes, cutthroat corporate culture, including allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior – accusations that have made Ford and many other tech workers, particularly women, skeptical of joining the company.

Ford said Tuesday’s actions did not change her views.

“The company still has so much toxicity,” Ford said by e-mail. “They would need to change everything about their culture and how they operate to make me want to work there.

Silicon Valley recruiters, tech workers and analysts agree it will continue to be challenging for Uber to rehabilitate its reputation within the tech industry and return to the days when the company enjoyed almost unfettered access to the Valley’s talent pipeline.

The company’s months-long investigation resulted in recommendations for mandatory leadership training, formalizing the handling of employee complaints and new limits on alcohol and illegal drugs at company events. Uber’s board also announced that chief executive Travis Kalanick would take an indefinite leave of absence. Earlier in June, more than 20 Uber employees were fired.

It was perhaps the darkest day in the eight-year history of the company, which invented a ride-hailing app that disrupted transportation cities around the global and boasts the highest value of any private tech firm in the world at an estimated $69 billion.

Concerns about Uber’s ability to change seemed to be exacerbated Tuesday when – hours after the company promised to do better – a member of the board of directors was forced to resign after making a sexist comment during a staff meeting to discuss the efforts.

Billionaire David Bonderman apologized Tuesday after saying that research shows that having more women on the board of directors would lead to “more talking.” The comment came in response to a remark by fellow board member Ariana Huffington that “there’s a lot of data that shows when there’s one women on the board, it’s much more likely there will be a second woman on the board.”

Although nobody can put precise numbers on how many potential employees are avoiding the firm, Uber’s troubles are remarkable even in an industry that has struggled for years with the underrepresentation of women and minorities. Uber released its first employee diversity report in March, revealing that women accounted for just 15.4 percent of it tech workforce and 36.1 percent of Uber employees.

“I don’t know any woman who is dying to work for Uber,” Silicon Valley recruiter Y-Vonne Hutchinson said.

Perceptions of Uber have created a rift in the tech world. Many workers want to join the company, which is widely considered one the most innovative and exciting tech firms. Just last week, Uber announced that Bozoma Saint John, an African American woman, was leaving Apple to join Uber in the newly created position of chief brand officer. And Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei was hired to address Uber’s leadership problems.

But for others, the company carries a huge stigma.

For the past year, some female engineers have been posting on social media their rejections of Uber’s unsolicited recruitment attempts, creating a snapshot of the company’s talent travails. An online campaign called “Dear Uber Recruiter” expressed many of the complaints. Some of the women declined to use their names in interviews with The Washington Post, saying they had faced online harassment after posting messages on social media, but still discussed their experiences.

One woman showed the rejection email she sent Uber, which opened with, “I would never work for such a sexist, evil company as Uber.”

Other women in Silicon Valley, as well as some men, told The Post of their concerns about working at Uber. Worries about Uber’s workplace culture have spread even to recruiters at other tech companies considering hiring from within Uber’s ranks.

“It’s a huge ding on them for their motivations and personality,” said a former female manager at a large Silicon Valley start-up, on interviewing candidates from Uber. She requested anonymity to speak candidly.

Uber did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

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