Why Isn’t Uber Talking About The Women’s Strike?
To mark International Women’s Day, a number of women are striking today with the blessing of their employers—or at least with their tacit agreement. Those who can’t participate by taking the day off are instead showing their solidarity by donning the color red, attending rallies, or boycotting businesses that aren’t led by women.
Judging by Uber’s reaction to the strike—or lack thereof—you might not know it’s in the midst of a sexism-related controversy that has upended its reputation. In fact, its silence is kind of perplexing.
Among tech companies in general, some have been more vocal than others about their support of the strike. Lyft, for example, reportedly sent out a note to employees telling them they could take part if they wanted to; Facebook and Google didn’t make statements specific to the strike but told Recode that employees are free to participate.
According to employees we spoke with, Uber employees are allowed to participate in the strike with approval from their managers, but the company itself declined to comment regarding its support. Further, it was unable to confirm how many employees were taking part.
One could argue that prominent tech companies are more equipped than most to openly support the strike, and that it might make sense, from a PR standpoint, to make a public statement about their female employees’ right to show their solidarity. This is especially true given that Silicon Valley often faces harsh criticism for lacking in gender parity.
In that sense, this seems like a real missed opportunity for Uber, which is still weathering the fallout from blistering allegations about workplace sexism and sexual harassment. Since ex-Uber engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti detailed her experiences in a blog post last month, the floodgates have opened, with current and former employees sharing similar stories with the press and in their own blog posts. Now, Uber has a chance to step up. While openly supporting the strike would do little to repair the systemic sexism that employees say permeates the company, it would at least show good faith.
Granted, it’s possible that Uber doesn’t want to appear opportunistic in this moment, or that it’s concerned that female Uber drivers who can’t afford to take the day off might misinterpret the gesture. One criticism levied against the Women’s Strike in general is that women who have the luxury of taking a day off without losing pay are, by and large, women with white-collar jobs. But this inaction reads more as Uber being unwilling to take a stance—or that paying lip service to the strike just isn’t high up on Uber’s list of priorities.
Then again, when only 15% of Uber’s technical roles are held by women, maybe that says all we need to know.