There were a few “bad apples,” sure. But a systemic problem? No way.
That’s what Uber board member Arianna Huffington had to say in defense of the San Francisco-based ride-hailing company Monday during on interview on CNN’s “Quest Means Business.”
Huffington is overseeing an investigation into Uber’s workplace culture, sparked by a former engineer’s accusations last month that the company protected a manager who sexually harassed her. The Huffington Post founder said she has talked to hundreds of women, and Uber’s head of human resources has met with more than 120 women and men to talk about the changes they want to see at the company.
Huffington said the investigation will wrap up at the end of April.
“Yes, there were some bad apples, unquestionably,” she said during the interview. “But this is not a systemic problem. And what is important is that the structures that were not in place are now being put in place to make sure that women, minorities, everyone feels completely comfortable at Uber.”
Some of those structures include new training for Uber’s managers, 61 percent of whom have had no prior managerial experience, Huffington said. No longer will “brilliant jerks” be accepted at Uber, she said.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder is leading the investigation, which has faced criticism for relying on insiders — Holder has done work on behalf of Uber in the past, and Huffington is a board member.
Even as Huffington promises reform, trouble continues to plague Uber. On Sunday the company confirmed its president of ride-sharing quit after less than a year on the job, the latest of several executives to leave the company. Those departures follow a string of other setbacks, including reports of managers sexually harassing and threatening employees, Uber dismantling a controversial program it used to evade law enforcement, and a lawsuit that accuses Uber of stealing Waymo’s self-driving car technology.
“It has been a hard start to this year, unquestionably,” Huffington said during the CNN interview. “But you know that whether you’re an individual or a company, change very rarely happens without a catalyst, and often a very painful catalyst. And that’s exactly what’s happening at Uber right now. Fundamental change is underway.”
Huffington, who is helping Uber search for a new chief operating officer, also defended Kalanick’s place at the helm of the company. She called him the “heart and soul” of Uber, and said he shouldn’t be judged by his worst moments.
“Leaders evolve, Huffington said. “And I’ve spent a lot of time with Travis over the last month, and I’ve seen his evolution.”
Photo: Arianna Huffington (L) and Christina Huffington attend 2016 Time 100 Gala, Time’s Most Influential People In The World at Jazz At Lincoln Center at the Times Warner Center on April 26, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Time)