May 14, 2021 - Technology

Exclusive: Uber makes new hire, launches anti-racism campaigns

Illustration of a diverse crowd raising fists and cell phones.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Eager to show progress on the pledge to make its platform and business anti-racist, Uber on Friday announced new anti-racism driver and rider campaigns, as well as fresh internal hiring practices, Axios was first to report.

Why it matters: Uber is one of the biggest ride hailing companies in the world. Its decisions impact the millions that use the platform, where drivers and riders alike say they have experienced racism.

Flashback: George Floyd's death lit a spark within corporations that were pushed — by employees and consumers — to reckon with how their practices perpetuate systemic racism.

  • Last July, Uber laid out 14 commitments to combat racism and support the Black community.

One of the features that Uber launched to support Black-owned restaurants was $0 delivery fees.

  • On Friday, Uber reported it fulfilled 3.5 million of those orders for all of 2020. 

What’s new: Uber started a two-fold pilot program in Brazil this week that involves buying ad space at places like bus stops to drive awareness of in-app training. The ads include examples of language and actions that Uber won't tolerate — taken from real user reports.

  • Uber says next steps will involve adding videos about systemic racism onto the app to 23 million users and partners.
  • The company expects to launch similar initiatives in the U.S. later this year.
  • The company also updated its reporting system to allow drivers and riders to identify specific discriminatory interactions, and enhanced the way it will process those reports.

Inside the company: Uber hired its first inclusive design lead, Erica Ellis, who started in March, to oversee the building of features and products that are accessible and usable by as many people as possible.

  • The company also says it changed its hiring strategy to add 2-4 weeks of sourcing time to ensure a "pipeline" of diverse candidates.
  • Uber says it's also started applying the Mansfield Rule, which it piloted in 2019, to certain functions at the company.

Yes, but: Companies have often been accused of being performative, and temporarily shifting dollars and attention to communities impacted by large visible acts of systemic racism. 

  • “These commitments were made specifically for the Black community but that doesn't mean our anti-racism efforts are limited to the Black community,” Uber spokesperson Lois Van Der Laan told Axios. "We will continue to work hard to fight racism and inequality both within, and outside our company.

The big picture: Many companies rushed to show support for the Black community following the murder of Floyd. Expect more updates like this in coming weeks.

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