black girls code founder turns down ‘tone-deaf’ $125,000 grant from uber

August 28, 2017
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After former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick joined #45’s advisory council, and engineer Susan Fowler alleged sexual harassment and a culture of misconduct at the company, the ride-share service faced a P.R. nightmare that they have since been eager to clean up. First, they hired a Black woman, Bozoma Saint John, as chief brand officer. Then they replaced Kalanick with an anti-Trump CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi. Now, they are putting money into tech organizations centering on women—but for one of those organizations, Black Girls Code, it’s too little to late.

When Uber offered $125,000 last week, the pioneer for diversity in STEM fields turned it down.

“My decision is layered,” Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant told TechCrunch. “I’ve been quite open for some time about the fact that we as an org use Uber as a tool. We’re also headquartered in the city [Oakland] where they have planned to move. So I’ve been open to the notion that they can transform themselves. Yet their past history and ‘political’ nature of maneuvering is and was troubling.”

After an earlier (but far larger) donation from Uber to Girls Who Code, Fowler highlighted the same problem that Bryant points to now, arguing that money to organizations alone is just lip-service:

Bryant also told TechCode that given Uber’s lack of donations to other organizations in Oakland, such a large grant to Girls Who Code seems disingenuous. “(It) seems a bit tone-deaf to really addressing real change in how they are moving towards both inclusion and equity,” Bryant explained. “It appears to be more PR driven than actually focused on real change. So we turned it down.”

Try harder next time, Uber. You’ve got a lot of making up to do.