Especially for women fixers, Uber culture is unfixable

Especially for women fixers, Uber culture is unfixable
former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick; image credit:
In my dream world (cue the excellent Midnight Oil tune), Uber as we know it is completely dissolved:
  • Cash raised (or what remains of the last round of financing after all those unsustainable rider subsidies and shitty bro-out parties) is returned to stakeholders,
  • Arianna Huffington goes back to focusing on naps,
  • Engineers and technology go to Lyft,
  • Corporate HQ–which appears to be comprised of a sea of spineless tech bros–is dismantled, and
  • Mike Judge signs onto Lyft’s board so that he can: 
    1. maintain a pipeline of ideas for Silicon Valley, which is easily the best comedy on television now and
    2. kill the Lyft Shuttle concept by endlessly ridiculing it on said television show.

So barring that fantasy scenario, here’s my real message today: Uber does not need a female CEO, as some rumors are suggesting it might. Uber, in case we’ve forgotten, is a company built on balls-out law-breaking and mowing down competition, regardless of cost, calamity or moral inclination. Not only does the business itself have its faults (and merits, to be fair), but its highly publicized douchebag culture is thoroughly and obviously unfixable. Seriously, what egomaniac would want to head this monstrosity?
Because let’s be honest. Douchebag culture simply cannot be fixed. All you can do is either remove it by firing the most flagrant douchebags and hoping that they don’t get re-hired in the crappy start-up next door. Or you can seal it up on a bottle and attempt to contain its growth, by hiring strictly non-douchebags to take over management of the douchebags. Both of these options take a tremendous amount of time, care, and decades of psychotherapy, which VC investors these days don’t seem to have the patience for.
And for women, especially, a glass cliff looms — 
“…research shows that feminine traits are considered to be especially important when a leader is expected to manage people, work behind the scenes to manage a crisis and ‘act as a scapegoat.’

The glass cliff-phenomenon results in negative consequences all around. For individual women leaders, being put in command when the odds of success are low can set them up to fail. Despite inheriting the problems, women in glass-cliff positions are seen to be fully responsible for the bad state of affairs. After becoming synonymous with a failure, career advancement can be undermined.

This glass-cliff dynamic can also serve to reinforce stereotypes and cultural beliefs that men are better leaders in the first place. When a woman is forced off the cliff, it can reaffirm beliefs that women aren’t good leaders anyway.”

Why women are often put in charge of failing companies 

Uber culture is such a colossal  mess that likely no individual can save it. So, Uber board, please. If you’re set on saving Uber — which isn’t necessarily the only option out there — internal or external, male or female, just please don’t set up a token woman fixer in the CEO role, poised to take the fall when prompted. Find someone who has a truly reasonable and good chance of success and support and defend that choice to the end.


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