Uber’s chief brand officer, Bozoma Saint John, made her concern for diversity in the workplace clear at the SXSW Festival. She believes that white men needed to take more charge, holding the power to change the environment.
Saint John explained herself by stating, “I want white men to look around in their office and say, ‘Oh look, there’s a lot of white men here. Let’s change this.”
Saint John posed the question of why it should be the responsibility of people of color to boost diversity. White men have the most influence among peers and society, and should use that leverage as a platform for reform.
She said, “Why do I– as the black woman– have to fix that? There’s fifty of you, there’s one of me. Y’all fix it… Everybody else needs to make the noise– I want white men to make the noise.”
Uber was previously notorious for its lack of diversity and was consistently called out for it. This led Uber to hire Saint John as a black female executive to calm the fire, and she proved to be a great asset. She increased customer loyalty and started working for Uber Pool to “get out and understand what’s going on the road too.” She also stated how she wanted to aid women empowerment and diversity.
A technical report in 2017 for Uber released that it had no black or Hispanic technical leaders, and 3.7% of non-technical leaders were black and 1.2% were Hispanic.
On the other hand, it did show that Uber increased its percentage of black and Hispanic employees compared to the year prior.
Although Uber’s numbers might seem extremely low, Saint John revealed that other Silicon Valley tech companies are just as bad, or even worse.
She specified, “The number of African Americans in Silicon Valley is dismal. It’s not up to one company– it’s up to the entire industry to make sure that we are moving the conversation forward. Sometimes those walls of competition need to come down so we can move the entire industry forward.”
Those who oppose her commonly argue that the issues don’t lie in the workplace, they lie in the lack of diversity in the applicants. They claimed that it was a pipeline issue: there are not enough women and minority candidates.
Saint John retaliated, “That’s bulls–t” and added, “It’s not a pipeline issue.”
She defended her points by elaborating that people will stick to what feels familiar to them, referring to the white employers who feel hesitant to hiring anyone else. They don’t want to hire people with different backgrounds because it makes them uncomfortable.
Saint John presented these issues in the workplace with honesty and was clear to bring awareness of the ignorance that fueled the problems.
Photo Courtesy of Adcolor