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Uber CEO takes indefinite leave as firm vows to improve corporate culture

The board of the technology-driven ride-hailing company, Uber, has vowed to improve its corporate culture following a report which recommended sweeping reforms. However, it has been widely reported that its chief executive Travis Kalanick has taken indefinite leave.

Despite talk about a possible listing Uber remains a private US-headquartered company but is now an international brand and is valued at $68bn. However, it has become mired in a number of controversies including allegations of a sexist culture and demands from Uber drivers for better employment rights.

Uber ceo leave corporate culture

Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick takes indefinite leave

In February a former Uber employee Susan Fowler published a blog in February alleging harassment, discrimination, and retaliation during her employment at Uber, and detailing the ineffectiveness of the company’s then-existing policies and procedures. This resulted in the company appointing  Eric Holder and Tammy Albarrán, partners at the law firm Covington & Burling to carry out an independent review. They were asked to examine “the specific issues relating to the workplace environment raised by Susan Fowler, as well as diversity and inclusion at Uber more broadly.” A special committee of the board was appointed to oversee the work.

The resulting report recommended changes to the senior leadership at Uber including reviewing and reallocating Kalanick’s responsibilities; the appointment of a chief operating officer to act as a partner to the chief executive and increasing the profile of Uber’s head of diversity and the efforts of his organisation. Additionally, the review recommended board changes including the appointment of an independent chairman and additional independent directors as well as the creation of an oversight committee. It was also proposed that ethical business practices, diversity and inclusion, and other values from Uber’s business code of conduct should be incorporated into its executive compensation program.

The review also recommended improvements to improve the independence of the company’s audit committee; improved internal controls, a reformulation of Uber’s 14 cultural values and mandatory leadership training for its senior managers.

The Uber board unanimously approved all the recommendations and stated:”Implementing these recommendations will improve our culture, promote fairness and accountability, and establish processes and systems to ensure the mistakes of the past will not be repeated. While change does not happen overnight, we’re committed to rebuilding trust with our employees, riders and drivers.”

However, the Uber boss notified employees of his intention to take indefinite leave via an email. Embarrassingly for the company a board member, David Bonderman, was forced to resign following a sexist remark he made at a staff meeting discussing a change of company culture. An audio recording of the meeting was obtained by Yahoo Finance in which Bonderman suggested more women on a board meant more talking. He subsequently apologised and quit his Uber board role.

What do you think?