HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington has presented herself as the surprise new face of ride-hailing app Uber, as she sets about fixing Silicon Valley’s ‘systemic culture’ as an influential board member.
In reference to the spate of crises and allegations of sexism that have bedeviled Uber in recent months, culminating in the departure of chief executive Travis Kalanick himself, Huffington was parachuted in to mend the firm's broken public image.
Explaining her rapid rise to the top during an interview with the Financial Times, Huffington revealed that she became a close confidant of Kalanick when investors began calling for his head, making her his first port of call for advice.
Mindful of the potential for a crippling civil war within Uber’s ranks, Huffington recalled: “I felt that neither he nor the company should go through a protracted public fight. But it was entirely his decision."
Once in place Huffington swiftly made her presence felt by promising to hold "management’s feet to the fire". Outlining her mission Huffington added: “The goal should be not just to fix Uber but to fix the systemic culture of Silicon Valley. Otherwise, every year we will produce new reports asking why aren’t women advancing?
“There is such an incredible emphasis everywhere in the valley on top performers, and just because they deliver in a narrow sense, they’re forgiven again and again. And even if their behaviour leads to them being let go, it’s largely done quietly and they’re quickly rehired by another company, where the behaviour continues.”
Huffington’s eclectic career has seen her migrate from media to found health start-up Thrive, only to veer off in an altogether different direction as the first independent director appointed to Uber’s board.