It didn’t take long for Uber to jeopardize whatever goodwill the company had earned by announcing a series of new initiatives aimed at increasing the hiring and retention of women and minorities. On Tuesday afternoon, the company published a series of initiatives it would be implementing to make the company’s culture more welcoming. By early Tuesday evening, audio had leaked of a board member, David Bonderman, making a sexist remark. By Tuesday night, Bonderman had submitted his resignation from the board.
The exchange in question took place at a meeting to discuss the new policies and the absence of the company’s embattled CEO, Travis Kalanick. According to a recording obtained by Yahoo, Arianna Huffington, a board member, says, “There’s a lot of data that shows when there’s one woman on the board, it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board.” Bonderman replies, “Actually what it shows is it’s much likely to be more talking,” to which Huffington says, “Oh come on, David.”
Bonderman’s statement wasn’t just in poor taste, it was also wrong, according to research on gender dynamics during business meetings. As The New York Times reports:
Tali Mendelberg, professor of politics at Princeton University, and Christopher Karpowitz, an associate professor of political science at Brigham Young University, conducted a study in 2012 concluding that men talked far more than women did at meetings. The professors convened 94 groups of five people and varied the number of men and women in the groups. Their study is in line with multiple others drawing similar conclusions — men talk more than women, and men interrupt more than women.
In a statement, Bonderman, who is a partner in the private equity firm, TPG, an investor in Uber, wrote that his comments “came across in a way that was the opposite of what I intended, but I understand the destructive effect it had, and I take full responsibility for that.”