Diversity at Uber and Lyft

Uber disrupted the market with its simple, yet revolutionary idea to use tech to break the 4th wall between consumers and traditional driving services with its competitor Lyft emerging from behind. When it comes to these rival rideshare companies, stakeholders are not only interested in who is in the driver’s seat, but also how each company plans to drive their DEI initiatives. After coming under scrutiny for promoting a culture of Diversity and Exclusion — an all-too-familiar theme resounding throughout the tech industry — these adversaries have been forced to out-maneuver each other in the race to be number one.

Although these companies compete with one another, they are interlinked by the service they provide. Both competitors are scrutinized by the same market lens, driving them to respond to the demand for change based on consumer sentiment. Evaluating the respective success of each rideshare company only makes sense in comparison to each other, not to fundamentals or the rest of the market.

In 2019 Market Watch found that Uber was drastically underperforming in almost every aspect compared to Lyft across growth and profitability. That Lyft was down 20% from its overvalued IPO price deflated enthusiasm for Uber, which in turn drove Lyft’s stock even further down. In this enigma, it is not that neither can live while the other survives, it is that the fates of both companies must ensure the survival of each other to compete.

Part of that demand has meant creating a diverse culture that internally promotes equitable and inclusive practices that must go beyond the presence of diversity.

Uber Gender Equality vs. Lyft Gender Equality

For decades, women and other marginalized workforce populations have been put at a disadvantage compared to company counterparts who benefit from the privileges of internal biases and a harassment-free work experience. In the era of inclusion, both Uber and Lyft have come under scrutiny for their failure to meet stakeholder demand when implementing DEI best practices in the workplace. Incidents of systemic sexism and sexual violence have been exposed through internal whistleblowers and documented public incidents involving the organizations’ leadership.

For both companies, it has meant having to set policies that support the safety of its most vulnerable customer base who encounter harassment or assault during their rideshare experience as well as internally analyze sexist workplace paradigms that create an unsafe and inequitable working environment.

In February 2017, former Uber software developer and engineer, Susan Fowler, became the No. 1 Disrupter in Silicon Valley after exposing ongoing sexist practices happening in the workplace. Sadly, Fowler’s experience at Uber is an all too common and unfortunate reality for women in the tech industry. However, in part, thanks to the #MeToo movement, Fowler had a platform to speak out against these workplace injustices. After she published a blogpost condemning systemic harassment and sexism happening at the workplace, public backlash forced Uber’s CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick to step down.

This incident, other poor public performances by leadership, and a fleet of lawsuits filed against Uber led to the resignation of 13 company executives and a drop in the company’s share prices by about 15 percent to the mid-to-high $30s range.

In 2019, Lyft also came under fire via lawsuits that accused the company of failing to protect passengers against sexual assault and harassment. Since 2015, plaintiffs reported that the company’s deficient background check process permitted an inherent and pervasive rape culture within the company, with unaccompanied or intoxicated female passengers subjected to harassment and sexual assault when using the rideshare service.

In response to public outcry, both Uber and Lyft partnered with the anti-sexual assault nonprofit RAINN to create a mandatory safety exercise for driver applicants. In 2019, Lyft arranged to incorporate a tech safety feature that would detect unexpected delays on trips similar to the “ride check” feature launched by Uber in 2018. Additionally, the sexual assault allegations were filed against both companies to eliminate their forced arbitration policy for sexual harassment and assault complaints — for drivers, riders, and employees — and removed a confidentiality requirement as part of settlement agreements.

When it comes to promoting gender parity, according to Lyft diversity reports from 2017, 42% of Lyft’s workforce is composed of people who identify as women, including 36% of its leadership team. However, disaggregated data reveals this is not true laterally across departments with only 18% percent of Lyft’s engineering division filled by women, including 13% of its technical executives. Uber lags behind Lyft slightly with 36% of its workforce identifying as women.

In a gender-blind evaluation, Uber gender equality reporting found that a 7% pay gap disparity exists favoring men who are independent contractor drivers. They also found that the turnover rate for women drivers in the first six months is ranked at 76% whereas for men it’s 60%.

Uber has pledged to take action to combat these issues in the workplace and on the streets, with Lyft also promising to cultivate a culture of workplace inclusion and put accountability into action.

Uber Diversity Issues vs. Lyft Diversity Issues

When it comes to ensuring equitable opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities, both companies have struggled to promote representation for the number of African Americans, Hispanics, and Latinos beyond administrative roles. While a lack of people of color in leadership roles is pervasive across all industries, it is a notoriously common occurrence that permeates the tech industry.

Furthermore, Uber’s negative media presence is smeared by a trail of leadership failures, from former HR director Liane Hornsey’s resignation after an internal investigation was conducted for mishandling reported incidents of racial discrimination to the resignation of former CFO Prabir Adarkar for similar reasons. More recently, after bringing CEO Dara Khosrowshahi on-board to clean up its failing diversity culture, the new COO he brought in from Expedia, Barney Harford, had to be “coached” to learn to stop making misogynistic and racist remarks.

According to 2018 figures, Lyft has made progress in bringing aboard Black executives, surpassing rival Uber and its Big Tech counterparts with 12% of its senior leadership roles filled by Black employees in comparison to 2.4% at Uber.

In spite of these incidents occurring, both companies claim to have put procedures in motion to filter out bad actors. However, public demand has demonstrated that when it comes to DEI, meaningful, actionable change with tangible results must be achieved. There are no jaws of life mechanism to extricate their profitability from their failure to act with conviction.

Diversity at Uber vs. Diversity at Lyft

Both Uber and Lyft’s diversity and inclusion strategies have evolved in response to increasing consumer demand that companies align with more values-based consumerism. So what steps have these organizations taken to rectify their positions?

  • Setting clear DEI goals and initiatives internally. Part of implementing DEI best practices involves laying a foundation that will create an environment in which DEI can thrive. Stakeholders should be explicitly aware of DEI policies and procedures, as well as the ensuing consequences when an organization’s DEI initiatives are not upheld. Last, an organization’s DEI goals can function as both a roadmap to track progress and a starting point that focuses on the process instead of reaching for an unattainable finish line.
  • Releasing DEI data and initiatives to the public transparently. Both companies have committed to continuing to release data publically through diversity reports in their efforts to use their platform to help create a safer, more inclusive company and to be a strong ally to all the communities they serve. Having this data publicly available holds both companies accountable to their DEI initiatives, but public visibility also pressures them to outcompete one another.
  • Providing preventive continuous training and workshops. Implementing DEI best practices in the workplace requires proactive efforts on behalf of leadership that prevent conflict in the workplace through tolerance training and diverse learning experiences. Training and workshops should encourage an approach to DEI that is a continuous conversation in an ever-shifting landscape focused on fostering cross-cultural understanding through mutual respect.
  • Evaluating internal progress through tracking and measuring. Tracking and measuring progress across the DEI landscape lets your organization know where you are and where you are heading. It tells you which of your DEI practices need a tune-up and which policies are successfully driving meaningful change in your workplace.
  • Consulting with third-party experts. Utilizing unbiased, third-party experts benefits an organization’s DEI initiatives by not only making the process more efficient, but it encourages employee engagement by offering protection to employees who may not come forward with personal experiences in fear of retaliation. An outside perspective or a helping hand increases your chances of successfully engendering a thriving culture of diversity at the workplace.

Actionable Recommendations Tailored to Your Workplace

Uber and Lyft revolutionized the rideshare experience by leveraging opportunities born out of the modern tech industry. However, there is a very real human element to these organizations that can no longer be overlooked. The tech industry has been able to find innovative solutions to modern problems but hasn’t managed to debug itself of systematic social inequities that plague marginalized workers and consumers.

Diversio’s AI-driven platform leverages the efficiency of technology-based solutions while maintaining its humanity through complementary certification programs and diversity training sessions. Aggregate data accounting for the experiences of diverse workforce populations is collected using a four-minute, anonymous survey linked to six empirically-backed key performance indicators. Our user-friendly dashboard interface allows your organization to identify, track and measure its DEI efforts in the workplace supported by ready-to-implement actionable recommendations.

Book a demo to find a solution to begin effectively implementing your organization’s DEI initiatives today.

Diversio DEI Expert
Diversio DEI Expert
Diversio's DEI expert shares everything about diversity that you need to know.
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