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Uber’s Big Diversity Solution Has Already Been Done, And May Not Have The Result Critics Want

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Former Obama-era attorney general and hired investigator Eric Holder presented his recommendations to Uber employees Tuesday, which call for forced diversification and getting rid of ideas like “meritocracy.”

The ride-sharing startup turned tech conglomerate hired Holder to conduct an internal review after a number of scandals, like sexual harassment and systemic sexism accusations, ensued over recent months and years. The workplace culture was called into question by both outside observers somewhat privy to the internal conduct, as well as people who allegedly experienced it directly.

Within his 13 page report, Holder references or uses the word “diversity” and “diverse” 52 times, epitomizing the overall theme of the suggestions. (RELATED: Investors Not Happy To See Holder, Huffington Investigating Uber)

One of the recommendations is titled “Utilize Blind Resume Review,” which essentially means that the company should eliminate any personally identifying information — like ethnicity, name or gender — from the initial part of the hiring process.

“Blind” hiring has historically widened rifts in diversity, statistically speaking.

An in-depth Bloomberg report detailed how such hiring processes weren’t working for much of Silicon Valley, and naturally continued the hiring of white and Asian males.

Some firms tried to do even more, like making sure that at least a certain number of candidates for minority groups are nominated — an initiative that Uber also suggests.

Many employees at GitHub, an internet hosting service, told Bloomberg that they grew resentful when they were forced or pressured to change their recruitment practices, alleging they sometimes missed out on the best possible person for the job.

“People feel it’s an unfair judgment on them if they get turned down and someone they feel is objectively less than them in some way is hired,” said Tracy Chou, a former software engineer for Pinterest, who argues that the affirmative action-like policies don’t go far enough.

At Facebook, recruiters were told to prioritize finding “diversity candidates,” or engineers who weren’t white or Asian, according to Bloomberg. They tried, but failed, as the proportion of black and Latino workers stayed the same and women in tech roles only increased by one percent.

Uber released diversity statistics in March showing that approximately 85 percent of its tech workforce is male, and roughly 94 percent are either white or Asian. (RELATED: Uber Showcases Diversity Report By Calling Certain Kinds Of Employees ‘Jewbers’)

If the company eventually adopts the process in which the resume reviewer only has access to “the candidate’s substantive skills and experience,” it may yield the same results that many other tech firms have reportedly produced: a still relatively low rate of non-white, non-asian, and female hires.

Another recommendation to “Reformulate Uber’s 14 Cultural Values” typifies the several appeals to diversify the workforce regardless if that will produce higher value for the company or not.

According to Holder, Uber should:

…eliminate those values which have been identified as redundant or as having been used to justify poor behavior, including Let Builders Build, Always Be Hustlin’, Meritocracy and Toe-Stepping, and Principled Confrontation; and encourage senior leaders to exhibit the values on a daily basis and to model a more collaborative and inclusive culture.

Although some of these terms may be idiosyncratic jargon more common to the business industry, and Uber itself, the idea that meritocracy or rewarding people purely based on their ability should be eliminated is fundamentally contrary to the interests of any business. Uber’s “blind” hiring is a way to reduce or completely remove any bias in recruiters, but it does not guarantee a more diverse workforce as is evident from several other tech companies’ accounts.

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