When Bozoma Saint John was hired as Uber’s chief brand officer last June, the company was in the midst of a crisis. The beleaguered ride-sharing app had been drawing intense criticism for a number of misdeeds, chief among them fostering a culture that supported sexual harassment. Saint John has been tasked with turning the company’s image around, but while speaking at the 2018 SXSW festival, she challenged male employees to step up and help create a more inclusive work environment.
“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 said, according to CNN. “Why do I — as the black woman — have to fix that? There’s 50 of you, there’s one of me. Ya’ll fix it … Everybody else needs to make the noise — I want white men to make the noise.”
Uber’s first diversity report, published last March, revealed that the company had no technical leaders who were black or Hispanic. Just 3.7 percent and 1.2 percent of its non-technical positions were held by black and Hispanic employees, respectively.
A former executive at Apple Music, Saint John knows that the culture at her new company is problematic. But she also noted that lack of diversity at Uber is reflective of a wider problem among Silicon Valley tech companies.
“The number of African Americans in Silicon Valley is dismal,” Saint John said. “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.”
Saint John also did not mince words when sharing her thoughs about the suggestion that the diversity problem in Silicon Valley can be attributed to a lack of female and minority candidates.
“That’s bullshit,” she said. But at Uber, she suggested the tide was beginning to turn, Business Insider reported. there’s a feeling of hopefulness where people feel empowered to create the story that they want to create in the world,” she said.
Earlier this year, Saint John sat down with CNN and talked about balancing her job as a corporate executive with being a mother, and why that’s led to her “feeling like a true hustler.” Watch that interview below.
Read the full story at CNN.