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Uber tries to change its culture, board member undermines effort with ‘inexcusable’ joke


It’s just one thing after another with Uber.

On Tuesday the company seemed determined to fix the problems that have led to accusations of sexual harassment and other unprofessional conduct, embroiling the company in controversy for months. CEO Travis Kalanick announced he was taking a leave of absence “to work on Travis 2.0.” Uber laid out 13 pages of changes to everything from its drug and alcohol policy to its governance structure.

And then this happened:

You read that correctly. During the very staff meeting where Uber directors were explaining to employees how the company is going to curb sexism and sexual harassment, one of Uber’s male board members essentially said women talk too much.

Here’s how it went down: Board member Arianna Huffington said research shows that when there’s one woman on a board, it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on a board, according to audio of the meeting leaked to Yahoo Finance. Her fellow board member, David Bonderman, butt in to say actually, what it means is there’s likely to be “more talking.”

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Huffington followed the comment with some awkward laughter and a “come on, David.”

The internet was not forgiving.

Recode’s Kara Swisher called Bonderman “profoundly tone-deaf” and urged him to “sit down and shut up while the actual adults clean up the mess.” Twitter lit up with followers calling his joke “insane” and “incredible.”

Bonderman issued an apology to Uber employees after the meeting, and then resigned from the company’s board hours later.

“Today at Uber’s all-hands meeting, I directed a comment to my colleague and friend Arianna Huffington that was careless, inappropriate, and inexcusable,” Bonderman wrote in a statement. “The comment 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.”

Bonderman added that he doesn’t want his comment to create a distraction as Uber works on fixing its culture.

“I need to hold myself to the same standards that we’re asking Uber to adopt,” he wrote.

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Huffington responded with her own statement: “I appreciate David doing the right thing for Uber at this time of critical cultural changes at the company.”

Listen to audio of the meeting here:

Photo: A  woman leaves the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco in 2014. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

Tags: Arianna Huffington, david bonderman, sexism, Uber