Uber Board Member Made a Sexist Joke During a Meeting to Discuss Problems With Sexism

How many sexists does it take to run Uber? A lot, apparently.

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As we’ve talked about many, many times, Uber’s sexist culture has been causing it a ton of problems. Given all the lawsuits, exposés, investigations, and the revolving door of executives, it only seemed like a matter of time before CEO Travis Kalanick would get the boot. That time finally came Tuesday morning, when it was announced that he would be taking an indeterminate leave of absence, eventually returning with a diminished role.

It’s not like anyone expected Uber’s rampant toxic sexism to suddenly disappear. That culture has been woven right into the company’s fabric since day one. But could we maybe have been able to take a freaking breath? Apparently not, because in the very same board meeting where Kalanick’s leave was announced–a meeting designed to address the sexism-fueled scandals that plague the company–one board member decided that would be the perfect time to interrupt fellow board member Arianna Huffington with a super sexist joke.

Yahoo Finance has leaked audio of the meeting, but the gist of it is: Huffington was welcoming a new board member, Wan Ling Martello, who is a woman. Huffington was citing data that shows that when one woman is on a company’s board, “it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board.”

Board member David Bonderman thought it would be appropriate to interrupt her to make a joke about how a woman on the board would really just mean they’re never going to stop talking.

Hahahahaha, women, amirite? Yup, Uber’s board meetings are now gonna be a slumber party gab fest, probably full of talk about shoes and periods and nagging their husbands. You’ve sure got our number, Bonderman.

Do we need to point out the unpleasant irony that Bonderman, a man, interrupted Huffington, a woman, to talk about how women are always talking out of turn? I wouldn’t think so but okay, yes, fine, apparently we do.

Huffington laughed–albeit awkwardly–and continued on. (And Bonderman, by the way, apologized and stepped down from the board almost immediately. Good.) But let’s look at the point she was making. Why would one woman on a board or in any typically male-dominated situation, statistically lead to an exponential increase in seeing more women represented? Surely, some of that has to do with gatekeeping, both in creating access and a tacit permission for women looking to set their sights on previously unconquered territory.

But also some of that, at least, has to be because of men like these, who, when they don’t actually have to interact with women professionally, they create ideas of how difficult or juvenile or otherwise other women are, to the extent that they comfortable making gross, sexist jokes like these.

A few months ago, a study was released that immediately came to mind. It studied the habits of Supreme Court Justices and found that female Justices were interrupted three times more often than their male colleagues.

Wouldn’t you know it, though? The study was misreported by a number of conservative outlets as stating women interrupt three times more often. Because preconceived stereotypes are no match for clearly-written facts.

And of course, how many of Kamala Harris’ colleagues thought she talked too much or too forcefully during Jeff Sessions’ Senate hearing? How many men tuned out the reality and didn’t even register how her male colleagues interrupted her, instead choosing to perceive her as being “hysterical”?

This kind of deeply ingrained misconception runs rampant in male-dominated industries and communities. If you’re not a woman, and don’t work with many women, what incentive would you have to challenge those deep-rooted, completely false notions that women as a whole interrupt, talk too much, and are a general waste of time?

One woman on a board leads to many women on a board. And many women on a board leads to fewer companies like Uber.

(via Yahoo, image: Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.
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