Ever since Travis Kalanick was ousted from his role as CEO of Uber, there's been extensive discussion around who should replace him. As a woman and HR executive who's experienced first-hand the bro culture of the Silicon Valley, I can see why so many people would love to see a woman take the role. In fact, there's been plenty of speculation as to which high-profiled female executive should step in. Meanwhile, last week, several notable ones passed on the chance. With good reason...
The 'glass cliff' on this one is potentially very steep.
The termrefers to a job offered to a woman knowing it's likely a no-win situation. Just ask Marissa Mayer what that's like. In a time when women are increasingly crashing through glass ceilings and inspired by successful females like Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg to "Lean In," they now must be uber careful (yes, pun intended) on which high-visibility jobs they take. Many of those coveted roles they're aiming for are disasters nobody can fix well or fast. The super powers of Wonder Woman herself wouldn't be enough. And, with studies showing when women fail it's remembered longer, it's no wonder why all the amazingly talented women on the short-list for Uber CEO said, "Thanks. But, no thanks."'glass cliff'
That said, I think putting the right man in the job offers a unique opportunity.
One of the most difficult challenges women face in making equality a reality is the push-back from men who feel they're being persecuted for the past. Many men in business today were raised to be fierce competitors. As a result, creating a professional gender battle by publicly shaming those who have failed women in the workplace actually makes it harder for women to get these men to see their side of things. In many cases, it's making men more defensive. Here's a great example:...
Women Champions vs. Male Allies
A colleague, Julie Kratz is writing a new book on the subject of how men can be better advocates for women at work. In the beginning of her research, she referred to them "women champions," but the reaction by men to this title was negative. To them, it felt like they were competing with women - and the title indicated the women had won. Instead, they liked the term "male allies" because it implied both sides won. A subtle change in wording made all the difference in perception.
What's the definition of a "male ally" you ask?
I've have several male allies in my life who've been instrumental in helping me realize my own professional potential. They all share similar characteristics. First, they're confident in their professional abilities and not threatened by the strengths of others (especially, women's). Second, they understand the more support they provide women in the workplace, the better their own work situation gets. And third, they realize being a male ally isn't so hard. This last point is one many women are trying to emphasize most. For example, Karen (a tech industry member who asked to keep her full name anonymous), says she contributes to a Twitter account to coach male ally behavior because,
"With all the headlines about sexism in tech, there's a growing awareness about the issues women and underrepresented groups face. Yet, across the industry, many men are unaware of how they can help create more inclusive workplace cultures. And it's not hard to do. There are straight-forward, simple steps anyone can take. We created the @betterallies Twitter handle to demystify allyship and share these everyday actions."
I believe a good solution to Uber's problem is to hire the right male ally to take over.
Given the entire world is watching them, imagine what it would do for equality if a confident male ally came in and turned things around? The press alone could help us educate millions of men and women on the powerful, positive impact male allies can have by creating workplaces that improve equality. Instead of chastising the failure of Travis Kalanick, we could focus on celebrating the success of the male CEO who proved a huge company could survive and thrive without its previous bro culture.
Uber changed our world. They have the chance to do it again.
Call me an optimist, but I truly believe Uber can be fixed. This company disrupted an entire industry and changed how we travel forever. As an HR and employer branding professional, that excites me. Why? It's something everyone who built Uber can be proud of. Having employees be proud of where they work is vital for business success. Now, they have the chance to be proud again. Evolving their culture into something news-worthy for all the right reasons would be equally powerful. That's why if they can't find the right female CEO, I think choosing a male ally for the role could be just as effective.