Uber, the ride-hailing giant which became mired in internal fighting and leadership intrigue after the resignation of its former CEO Travis Kalanick, appears to have scared off every female candidate willing to entertain the notion of replacing him.
In fact, the Washington Post reported Friday, numerous high-profile female executives including Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki, General Motors’ Mary Barra, EasyJet’s Carolyn McCall and Hewlett Packard’s Meg Whitman have all been approached to lead Uber but have all turned the offer down or are no longer considered likely hires. The three people left on its candidate shortlist are all men, with outbound General Electric chairman Jeffrey R. Immelt considered the top contender for the job.
“We are disappointed, of course,” Joelle Emerson, chief of diversity consultancy Paradigm, told the Post. “It could have communicated a commitment on the company’s part to having a more inclusive culture. Though certainly I don’t think hiring a woman would have guaranteed that.”
The Post noted the motivations of each woman who turned down the job is unknown. But a recent New York Times piece on the turmoil surrounding Whitman’s decision to walk away from the potential job suggested Kalanick is sabotaging the hiring process as part of a comeback attempt—just weeks after he was pressured into resigning over allegations he saw a widespread culture of workplace sexual harassment.
Uber’s challenges are not limited to rampant sexism, but ongoing legal battles with self-driving car company Waymo and angry drivers, upstart competitors like Lyft, annual losses in the billions of dollars ($2.8 billion in 2016 alone!) and the resignations of most of its senior leadership.
While there are many reasons Kalanick’s detractors on the Uber board might be desperate for a fresh direction, and especially a new CEO who is not an old white dude, all of these factors could help explain the embarrassingly handled search for a new CEO. Who wants to become the public face of Uber’s failure if the company continues to tank? And who wants to become the female CEO blamed for not cleaning up Kalanick’s mess?