Bozoma Saint John, Uber’s chief brand officer, called on white men to help diversify their workplaces.
“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 at the SXSW festival on Sunday.
Saint John said the onus should not be on people of color to improve diversity at work: “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.”
Saint John joined Uber last June and is responsible for increasing customer loyalty. Her hire was considered a strategic move in Uber’s turnaround effort: The company added a black female executive after being blasted for having a non-inclusive culture.
Travis Kalanick resigned as CEO later in June amid turmoil at the company.
Uber, like most tech companies, is working to diversify its workforce. Its first diversity report, released in March 2017, showed that Uber had no technical leaders who are black or Hispanic. Among non-technical leadership positions, 3.7% were black and 1.2% were Hispanic.
However, the report noted that in the 12 months prior, Uber had increased its hiring of black and Hispanic employees.
Uber’s numbers aren’t outliers when compared to other Silicon Valley tech companies, according to Saint John.
“The number of African Americans in Silicon Valley is dismal,” said Saint John, who left her marketing leadership job at Apple Music for Uber. “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.”
One problem often cited for the lack of diversity is that the pipeline of candidates lacks enough women and minorities.
“That’s bulls–t,” Saint John said.
Saint John added it’s common for people to stick to what’s familiar, what makes them comfortable. As a result, they don’t seek people who don’t have similar backgrounds to or look like them, she said.
“It’s not a pipeline issue,” she said.