Uber founder resigns amid pressure to change toxic workplace culture

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. (REUTERS/Shu Zhang)

Uber founder Travis Kalanick has resigned as CEO in response to pressure from shareholders over his role in a company culture that critics say has promoted sexist treatment of women in the workplace.

“I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors’ request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight,” Kalanick said in a statement given to The New York Times in the very early-morning hours on Tuesday. Just last week, the embattled CEO announced he was taking a leave of absence from his duties.

Kalanick’s resignation is the culmination of a tumultuous period at Uber that has seen a cascade of calls for change in recent months.

In February, the ride-hailing company had appointed former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate sexual harassment claims leveled by a former employee who said she was told that a manager who harassed her wouldn’t face punishment because he was a “high performer.” In wake of the report, dozens of former and current Uber employees also came forward to detail instances of sexism in the workplace — a culture that employees claimed was fostered by the company at the highest levels. Just weeks later, a Senior V.P. at the company resigned after it was revealed that he had concealed his own history of sexual harassing employees.

In March, the company’s problems were thrust into the spotlight once more after a hiring manager told a potential employee that she shouldn’t worry about Uber’s allegedly sexist culture because “sexism is systemic in tech.” Despite Kalanick’s claims that he was determined to get “to the bottom” of Uber’s toxic workplace culture, many critics were unconvinced — in part because of Kalanick’s own past comments. In a 2014 interview with GQ, for instance, Kalanick famously joked that the company should offer a service called “Boob-er” to deliver women on-demand for men.

As a result of another investigation performed by an outside law firm, Uber fired more than 20 employees. And after the death of his mother in a tragic boating accident, Kalanick took a leave of absence from the company earlier this month. Shortly after Kalanick’s announcement, an Uber board member told Arianna Huffington at a meeting to address the company’s issues with sexism that adding women to the board would result in more talking — because, according to an old, disproven stereotype, women talk more than men do. He resigned within hours of spouting the ill-advised remark.

With drama over numerous controversies hanging over the company, which is valued at $68 billion, major shareholders had begun demanding Kalanick’s ouster. Kalanick will remain on the company’s board and retain the majority of Uber’s voting shares.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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