Former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer came to the defense of Travis Kalanick, the ex-CEO of Uber who was forced to resign last week amid a revolt by shareholders. Mayer, who recently departed Yahoo after Verizon swallowed up the ’90s internet giant and merged it with AOL, made her remarks while speaking at the annual Stanford University Directors’ College on Tuesday, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. Mayer said she thinks Kalanick wasn’t aware of the corrosive corporate culture inside Uber as the company has rocketed to being the world’s most valuable startup.
“Scale is incredibly tricky. I count Travis as one of my friends. I think he’s a phenomenal leader. Uber is ridiculously interesting,” Mayer, whose name has actually been floated as a possible successor to Kalanick, said.
“I just don’t think he knew,” she continued, comparing Uber’s rise to that of Google’s, where she was a superstar executive before leaving for Yahoo. “When your company scales that quickly, it’s hard.”
Her comments were met with a backlash by some in the tech world. Kara Swisher, the founding editor of Recode, a website that focuses on Silicon Valley news, took issue with Mayer’s remarks. “This is such a fundamentally appalling excuse for lack of leadership, I am actually speechless (but not surprised),” Swisher said in a blistering post on Twitter. “I. Can’t. Even,” an exasperated Swisher said in another post.
Caroline Fairchild, a senior tech editor for LinkedIn, alluded to Mayer’s past statement in which Mayer declared, “I don’t think that I would consider myself a feminist” in a post on Twitter. Self-described “not a feminist” @marissamayer defends Travis because … scaling is hard? 🤔
Of course, Mayer is not the only woman to defend Kalanick amid his spectacular fall from grace. After news of his departure, Uber’s Product Manager, International Growth, Margaret-Ann Seger wrote a lengthy Facebook post in which she said she was “heartbroken” by Kalanick’s departure. She praised Kalanick, his leadership and the atmosphere he fostered at the company — lauding it as a place where women could flourish.
“Thank you for creating a culture where — as a woman — it was okay to, no, encouraged to speak up,” Seger wrote. “This is one of my oft less-told anecdotes, but I feel it’s appropriate given the circumstances. Before Uber, I was at Facebook. I left Facebook because I was told that I was too aggressive. Pushing too hard, wanting to move too fast, challenging the status quo a bit too much. The amazing part is that coming to Uber was like a homecoming. I could be who I truly am, without being labeled an ‘aggressive’ woman.”
In the wake of Seger’s missive and other similar ones by current and former Uber employees, more than 1,000 Uber workers signed a petition calling for Kalanick’s reinstatement as CEO.