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Uber Board Member Resigns and Kalanick Takes a Leave

Travis-kalanick-1940x900_34723An Uber board member resigned after making a sexist comment not supported by research. At the same time, CEO Travis Kalanick will take a leave from the company.

David Bonderman, an investor from TPG, said of more women on the board, "Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking." His comment was made during an Uber staff meeting in response to Arianna Huffington, a female board member, saying that having one woman on the board usually leads to others. Bonderman's comment has no merit: research shows that men talk more than women in meetings.

The comment was untimely, in the midst of Uber, presumably, trying to change its culture following complaints of sexual harassment and lack of follow through. Employees complained about the comment, and Bonderman apologized and resigned: "I do not want my comments to create distraction as Uber works to build a culture of which we can be proud. I need to hold myself to the same standards that we’re asking Uber to adopt. Therefore, I have decided to resign from Uber’s board of directors."

The comment also comes soon after a report by Eric Holder and others with recommendations for improving the company's culture. Many of the recommendations are for basic management principles, such as conducting performance reviews and having HR keep records.

Also in the news is a "Miami Letter" Kalanick sent to employees in 2013 before a company outing. The email offers advice for having sex, drinking, and more. By any measure, it is not an appropriate email for a CEO to send to employees. (Read here -- NSFW.)

But one happy result is Travis Kalanick's taking a leave from the company. If they want to change the culture, his stepping aside for at least a while may help.

Image source.

Discussion:

  • Maybe Bonderman made the comment as a joke. What are your thoughts? Employees may be sensitive now because of the sexual harassment complaints and other issues.
  • Read and assess the report. What principles of report writing from Chapter 10 are followed, and how can it be improved?
  • What effect do you think Kalanick's stepping away will have? Is this the right decision for the company?