Lyft unveils second annual diversity report

Lyft has released its second annual diversity report outlining the gender and racial breakdown of its 4,000-person workforce. At a glance, little has changed from last year’s report, which was the first time the $15 billion ride-hailing company disclosed its diversity stats. Forty percent of Lyft’s workforce is female, a slight decrease from last year’s 42 percent, […]

Lyft has released its second annual diversity report outlining the gender and racial breakdown of its 4,000-person workforce.

At a glance, little has changed from last year’s report, which was the first time the $15 billion ride-hailing company disclosed its diversity stats. Forty percent of Lyft’s workforce is female, a slight decrease from last year’s 42 percent, and about 33 percent of its leadership is female, a 3 percent decrease year-over-year. Fifty-two percent of its employees are white, down from 63 percent. Its leadership team remains mostly white and male.

It’s worth noting that Lyft roughly doubled in size in the last 12 months, according to Nilka Thomas, its vice president of talent and inclusion. The company is growing rapidly as it prepares for a 2019 initial public offering. This week, reports emerged that it was in talks with J.P. Morgan to lead its IPO and that it had more than doubled revenue in the first six months of 2018 to $909 million on a net loss of $373 million.

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The company has made several notable hires this year, too, including a whole bunch of former Tesla employees. Thomas, for her part, joined Lyft in March just months before the company brought in another $600 million and continued its hiring craze. She’s responsible for global hiring, diversity and inclusion, workplace policy and employee relations.

Thomas told TechCrunch that considering such immense growth at Lyft this past year, she’s pleased with the latest report.

“In hypergrowth, what tends to happen is you have a bias toward speed and diversity can suffer,” Thomas said.

Before joining Lyft, Thomas spent 13 years at Google, most recently as its director of global diversity, integrity and governance. In the six months since she was hired, Thomas has helped launch an internal database that gives employees access to the racial and gender diversity data of different teams across the company, a sort of diversity report card updated in real time. Thomas says the goal is to make sure a manager’s numbers don’t get lost in the bigger picture and to keep them accountable as Lyft continues to hire.

Thomas has also maintained a focus on Lyft’s culture. Though it’s great for companies like Lyft or Uber to disclose diversity data, it means nothing if they aren’t providing employees from underrepresented backgrounds resources to succeed. With that in mind, Thomas has piloted a program called R.I.C.H. — Race, Identity, Culture and Heritage — a group for Lyft employees to learn how to have difficult conversations surrounding race in the workplace.

“In the era of #MeToo, we want to make sure that we’ve gone beyond what our compliance obligations are,” she said. “We are really sensitive to what can happen to marginalized and vulnerable groups.”

Last year, Lyft was recognized by the Human Rights Campaign for its work on corporate equality. The company has implemented a Gender Inclusion and Affirmation Policy that promises to provide an inclusive environment for transgender people and supports various nonprofits through its Round Up & Donate program. Last month, Girls Who Code, an organization focused on closing the gender gap in tech, announced it had raised $1 million from Lyft rider donations.

Uber, for its part, hired its first-ever chief diversity officer, Bo Young Lee, earlier this year under chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi’s lead. In its first diversity report since both Khosrowshahi and Lee were hired, Uber showed slight progress, though the company still has no black and brown people in tech leadership roles.

At TechCrunch Disrupt SF in September, TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey spoke to both Khosrowshahi and Lee. Khosrowshahi, in a wide-ranging discussion, said Uber is “really trying to shift the culture of the company going forward.” Lee, for her part, told Dickey she’s working tirelessly to integrate Uber’s new cultural norms.

Both Uber and Lyft — in fact, most of the highly valued unicorn companies in Silicon Valley and the Fortune 500 powerhouses — have a long way to go before establishing equitable cultures and hiring practices.

“This challenge expands across the entire industry, in part because we’ve normalized the problem,” Thomas said. “We have a pretty dire status quo.”

Uber’s complex relationship with diversity

Since Dara Khosrowshahi came to Uber as CEO about a year ago, there has certainly been less drama, but drama remains. Over the last few months, there were reports of Uber COO Barney Harford making insensitive comments about women and racial minorities, as well as Uber’s now-former Chief People Officer Liane Hornsey making denigrating comments […]

Since Dara Khosrowshahi came to Uber as CEO about a year ago, there has certainly been less drama, but drama remains. Over the last few months, there were reports of Uber COO Barney Harford making insensitive comments about women and racial minorities, as well as Uber’s now-former Chief People Officer Liane Hornsey making denigrating comments toward Uber’s global diversity and inclusion lead Bernard Coleman and Bozoma Saint John, the chief brand officer who left in June.

At TechCrunch Disrupt SF earlier this month, I sat down with both Khosrowshahi and Uber’s new, first-ever Chief Diversity Officer Bo Young Lee, who joined in March. Believe it or not, there are still bad actors at the company, so Uber still has work to do. What surprised me, however, was Khosrowshahi’s defense of Harford, not only saying that he’s “an incredible person” but that he’s also “one of the good people” as it relates to diversity and inclusion.

“This is an issue that everyone is fighting, and I will tell you Barney takes it personally,” Khosrowshahi told me. “And he is a champion and he will be a champion as it relates to these matters. He’s one of the good people.”

Lee, when I asked her if she agreed with Khosrowshahi, said at Disrupt, “absolutely, 100 percent.” Lee, on a call ahead of Disrupt, described the importance of internal diversity champions who find ways to bake diversity and inclusion into their everyday workflow. Onstage, Lee described how she had been aware of the allegations against Harford and had already been working with him around inclusion. In fact, she said, Harford had reached out to her, admitting that he knew there’s a lot to learn and that he’d like for her to help him.

Harford also wrote, in Khosrowshahi’s words, “a really heartfelt apology letter to the company,” but it’s still hard for me to get on board with the idea that Harford is one of the “good” ones. This is not to say people can’t be imperfect and can’t change — an idea Khosrowshahi made quite clear, and one that I generally believe as well — but I would just hope that there are some better “good” ones out there.

“I don’t think that a comment that might have been taken as insensitive and happened to report by large news organizations should mark a person,” Khosrowshahi said. “I don’t think that’s fair. And I’m sure I’ve said things that have been insensitive and you take that as a learning moment. And the question is, does a person want to change, does a person wants to improve? Does a person understand when they did something wrong, and then change behaviors? And I’ve known Barney for years and that’s why I stand 100 percent behind him.”

Khosrowshahi described how he’s also made mistakes, and how that doesn’t mean he should be marked by those mistakes. He went on to describe how at his last job, Expedia, he would usually grab a beer with “one of the guys and, because I was comfortable because it was you know, a person who looked like me, a person with whom I could be more casual and I could have a conversation.”

He added how these people got “access to me that was not fair, and that could have shown up in a New York Times article and that could have marked me,” he said. “That’s not who I am. You know, I learned, I corrected, I’m aware. And the question is, what do you do?”

A new chief in town

During my conversation with Khosrowshahi, we also chatted about the hiring of Lee as CDO, as opposed to promoting Coleman, and the fact that she doesn’t report directly to the CEO — despite the suggestions of former Attorney General Eric Holder. Though, it’s worth noting those suggestions were directed toward now-former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

Khosrowshahi said Lee is the right person for the job and he thinks it’ll become clear that she is the right person for the job. Regarding why Lee doesn’t report directly to Khosrowshahi and instead, to a yet-to-be-hired new chief people officer, he said, “diversity and inclusion have to be a core part of everything that the company does, has to be a core part of your people strategy.”

“And I want Bo and my chief people officer working together fundamentally not just on the diversity of the company, but also on the core culture,” he added. “Like, we’re really trying to shift the culture of the company going forward. So Bo is going to report into our chief people officer. And she and I more than monthly, are constantly having exchanges on how things are going. And I think that’s the optimal structure, which is open — open communication with me working directly with the CEO but part of the core strategy of the company because I do think that this is one of the things that we have to execute on.”

In conversation with Lee, she spoke about the task she has at hand, as well as some strategies she has implemented, and plans to implement in order to get Uber to where it needs to be. One of those initiatives involves creating a pipeline around Uber drivers, which consists of a couple million people around the world. Lee described to me how it would be “amazing to create a pipeline to hire some of those driver partners,” whether into customer service, community operations or “maybe there’s great tech talent in there that we don’t even know about.”

That’s an area where Lee is working with recruiters to better identify ways to source that talent. Lee is also working on ensuring Uber’s new cultural norms actually get baked into the company. Last November, Khosrowshahi introduced Uber’s new cultural norms, which include values like “We build globally, we live locally” and “We do the right thing. Period.” Before, Uber’s values were indisputably much more aggressive.

“You can put out new cultural norms, you can put out new cultural values but it’s not until those values are built into our systems, our performance management, our organizational design — the way that we even think about product design, you’re not going to see the full manifestation of it,” Lee said. “And as an organization is going through culture change, that can be very unmooring for people and that can actually make people feel very psychologically unsafe. And what I find at Uber right now is a lot of people who are trying to — within this culture that is shifting, that is changing for the better — trying to find their footing somewhere along those lines.”

Part of what’s hard right now, she said, is getting Uber employees to the point where they “feel like they can trust that the system will work.” Regarding the allegations about Harford, Lee said that she was aware of them and looking into them, but didn’t resolve them by the time the NYT piece came out.

“But I would say that when the news did break in that public way, I was, more than anything, just really sad about this because what it told me was that we still have a culture where people aren’t sure they can trust that things are going to get fixed and things are going to get done,” she said. “And so they felt that they needed to go outside to find remediation for some of that.”

Lee also told me, ahead of Disrupt, that she’s exploring the idea of what fewer levels of hierarchy at the company would look like.

“It’s hard to speculate what the changes would look like,” she said. “I ideally would love to see the number of levels possibly changing. More importantly, what I would love to see beyond levels, is the power distance between those levels decline.”

Uber’s chief diversity officer is coming to TechCrunch Disrupt 2018

At TechCrunch Disrupt 2018, Uber’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Bo Young Lee will be joining us to talk about the ride-sharing company’s efforts to put detoxify its corporate culture and promote a more inclusive environment for employees. Lee was hired as the company’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer this past January, after leaving […]

At TechCrunch Disrupt 2018, Uber’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Bo Young Lee will be joining us to talk about the ride-sharing company’s efforts to put detoxify its corporate culture and promote a more inclusive environment for employees.

Lee was hired as the company’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer this past January, after leaving insurance company Marsh LLC where she held a similar role.

Uber has obviously had its fair share of issues with fostering an inclusive culture, they’ve made some public efforts to showcase that the company was making active efforts to promote internal change and they seem to at least be having a more peaceful 2018 than 2017 — in terms of news surrounding the company’s culture. Nevertheless, there has still been plenty of movement surrounding diversity at the company even after Lee’s hire.

In April, the company released its first diversity report under new Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi showing some slight improvements with the percentage of female employees (38 percent) at the company, while there was a slight drop in black representation and a bump in Latinx representation.

In June, the company’s Chief Brand Officer Bozoma Saint John left the company, noting in an interview with TechCrunch that Uber had made some improvements but still had work to do. “I’m not saying the corporate culture has righted itself 100 percent,” John said. “Or it’s where it needs to be today. It isn’t. There’s still a lot to be done in that regard.”

In July, the company’s Chief People Officer Liane Hornsey, whom Lee reported to, resigned from the company following a racial discrimination investigation that targeted how the executive was handling complaints.

There’s obviously plenty to talk about in terms of the company’s own diversity efforts, we’re also looking forward to picking Lee’s brain about broader trends around inclusion in the tech industry and where her cautious optimism lies.

Disrupt SF will take place in San Francisco’s Moscone Center West from September 5 to 7. The full agenda is here, and you can still buy tickets right here.