The Uber sexual harassment and diversity report: 5 key takeaways

Former Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. recently released portions of his law firm’s report and recommendations to Uber on sexual harassment and lack of diversity problems within the company. Here are five of the recommendations that stand out as novel and innovative.

#1: Use a “blind resume” or “blind audition” type of selection process

One of the more intriguing recommendations made by Holder stated that Uber should use a “blind resume” or “blind audition” process to fill positions.  As described in the Holder report, “[b]lind resume review eliminates any indicia of gender or ethnic background, including name and personal information, so that the reviewer has access only to the candidate’s substantive skills and experience.”

Famously, several major orchestra hiring groups experimented with using blind auditions in the 1970s and 1980s to combat the glass ceiling of biased views and assumptions about who should and should not be in an orchestra. In a blind audition, the musicians perform behind a screen and use other measures—taking high heel shoes off to mute their distinctive clicking sound—to help conceal the gender and race of the performer.

Before using these blind auditions, about 95% of the musicians in major orchestra symphonies were white males.  Since the orchestras instituted these blind auditions, the percentage of women employed by the major symphony orchestras increased to about 35% by the mid-2000s.

Following in the footsteps of symphony orchestras, businesses like Uber are now trying to institute blind auditions, or at least elements of a blind audition, into their hiring procedures.

Time will tell if Uber and other large corporations are able to diversify their ranks as effectively as the symphony orchestras, but it is an experiment well worth watching.

#2: Adopt a version of the “Rooney Rule”

The Holder report also took a page from the NFL playbook and recommends that Uber should use something like the “Rooney Rule” for women and other underrepresented populations for key positions.

The Rooney Rule has its origins in the National Football League. It requires NFL franchisees to interview at least one minority candidate for all head coach and general manager positions. The success of the Rooney Rule is documented, with research showing a noticeable increase in the number of minority head coaches hired since its adoption.

The idea, according to the report, is that “each pool of candidates interviewed for each identified position includes at least one woman and one member of an underrepresented minority group,” which helps ensure that “members of the populations currently underrepresented in Uber’s workplace are interviewed with appropriate consistency.”

Likewise, to ensure diverse perspectives and reduce the potential impact of unconscious bias, “Uber should include at least one woman and/or member of a population currently underrepresented on each applicant interview panel—not just the panels for diverse applicants.”

Hopefully, the Rooney Rule translate well from the sideline to the corporate boardroom because, if so, other companies will almost certainly follow Uber’s lead on this initiative.

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