i3 | April 12, 2019

How Uber Grew its Diversity from the Ground Up

Bernard Coleman

This column is written by  Bernard Coleman, the Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Uber Technologies Inc. Bernard works in close collaboration with areas like human resources, talent recruitment, analytics, marketing, communications and branding to enhance diversity throughout Uber.

Success is progress — that’s something I always say when recognizing the never-ending improvement diversity and inclusion (D&I) can achieve. Therefore, forward progress is success.

I joined Uber just over two years ago, and upon my arrival I was met with an organization at the beginning of a significant inflection point. Uber faced challenges from multiple fronts and we worked in concert to effectuate a whole-scale culture shift that required an all-hands-on-deck approach.

To tackle D&I in a comprehensive and holistic manner, we realized the first step was to create a core framework to ensure that we considered every element of the cultural change needed to bring about positive progress. We initially focused on four areas:

  • Individual employees: We wanted employees to feel an increased sense of belonging. They needed to be equipped to take immediate, individual actions that enabled staff to both model and mirror inclusion.
  • Systems: We worked to do a wholesale review of our systems with the intention of decreasing bias and improving fairness and equitable treatment across the board.

  • Leadership: We wanted leaders at every level to understand why inclusion and diversity matters, amplifying the message throughout the company so that it was fully embedded in our DNA.

  • Citizenship: We created ways for our staff to gain deeper involvement not only in their work but to also make a difference in society and plant seeds to positively impact others.

In focusing on individuals, our employee resource groups (ERGs) grew from seven to 15 in less than two years – an expansion from around 2,000 members to almost 7,000 across the company. The ERGs, which are worker-led groups each focused on a different community, have been instrumental in helping drive the culture change and contribute to our growth spanning from culture to commerce.

Furthermore, we created Why Diversity Matters (WDM), our first global diversity workshop program designed to emphasize awareness and our commitment to inclusive behavior. Since WDM, we’ve trained more than 4,000 staff and continue to refine the workshop to ensure staff attain growth, no matter where they are in their respective D&I journey.

We deployed a $3 million STEM fund to support organizations such as Girls Who Code, BUILD, Code.org, SMASH, Technovation, OHUB, the Hidden Genius Project and others to positively impact society. We knew we needed to do our part by investing in STEM and entrepreneurship and we are continually working to deepen these partnerships to uphold that commitment.

We created Uber’s first Diversity Advisory Council, an advisory body comprised of Uber employees and six external experts well versed in diversity and inclusion to help advise Uber on these matters. We also built a dedicated D&I team, created a diversity-sourcing function, improved our recruiting process and updated our cultural norms.

In overhauling systems, we rewrote 1,500 job profiles to ensure they were more inclusive, conducted a full audit of salary and equity for fairness across gender and race/ethnicity, revamped our performance review process, and released our first and second diversity reports.

When I reflect on my two years at Uber, what is apparent is the significant growth and progress we’ve made. I’m proud to have played a part in this journey and am appreciative to have had the opportunity to contribute.

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