There were the times before, and then there is the now. Uber’s 2022 People & Culture Report acknowledges the significant changes the rideshare giant has undergone since bringing in new leadership as well as heavily investing in rebuilding an internal culture that had undergone scrutiny.
“It was a pivotal moment in shaping who Uber is today,” Bo Young Lee, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Uber, wrote in a preface to the report. “Through sustainable changes over time, we have rebuilt and reshaped our culture.”
The report highlighted the continuing change that has helped revitalize the culture at Uber. Women now account for 42.5 percent of the organization’s global workforce. Employees identifying as members of a racially underrepresented group rose to 23.6 percent globally. Since setting specific targets focused on increasing representation of women and underrepresented groups a year prior both overall and at manager or senior analyst level and above, numbers have risen between one and four percentage points.
Since its first diversity report in 2017, the numbers are far more startling. Women in positions of leadership in the US are up 15.4 percent. Underrepresented groups in leadership positions in the US are up nearly 8 percent. While Uber certainly has more work to do, the organization continues finding new ways to create pipelines and source talent from nontraditional sources.
Change in Action
An ideal case study lies in Uber’s legal department where both attorneys who have been with the company for years and those who have joined more recently have come together under the leadership of Chief Legal Officer Tony West to help propel cultural change.
“One of the goals I set out to achieve for Uber’s legal department was to be both a talent magnet and talent academy,” West says. “When you look at our team, it’s clear we’ve attracted the best and the brightest to our ranks. I’m proud this is a place where folks can come, help build a world-class company, and receive unparalleled professional development that can propel their careers.”
“I think lawyers who join this company, whether they are starting their careers or are senior leaders on the team, embrace the challenge of innovating,” Lando Juarez, senior director of delivery and autonomous products, legal, explains. “Considering how much Uber has changed the transportation and logistics landscape in just over a decade, we have an accelerated view of what can be accomplished in a short period of time. Helping people go anywhere and get anything unlocks so much public good.”
Director of Legal and Trade Compliance Dianna Jones says that when considering making a change, she closely looked at Uber. What she saw was an organization committed to evolving. “I knew I would be taking a risk with people who have integrity, and wanted to be part of righting the ship,” she says. “I knew if we did it right, we could really have an impact beyond the scope of our roles.”
Maureen Frangopoulos, who has been at Uber since 2015, says she feels like she has worked for very different organizations over the last eight years. The senior legal director of global safety and insurance litigation has consistently believed in the mission, she believed in her team, and she was unwilling to leave when things got hard.
The lawyer knew that to rebuild the culture, she had to focus on creating a safe space for others. She doubled down on development efforts for those around her and helped ensure that everyone felt they had a voice at the table. And she’s focused on being a mentor and an ally to the next generation of lawyers while helping them navigate the legal profession.
“Wilson Elser salutes Uber’s Maureen Frangopoulos and the balance of her formidable safety and insurance litigation team,” says Loren S. Cohen, partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP. “Since the very beginnings of Uber’s corporate journey, we’ve enjoyed a front-row seat as Maureen has built her talented and diverse team, instituted cutting-edge policies and procedures, and meaningfully contributed to Uber’s remarkable success.”
“Maureen has a leadership style that is unparalleled,” adds Madeline Baio, partner at Vaughan Baio & Partners. “Over the past six years that I have known Maureen, I have watched her bring together an amazing team of dynamic, extremely talented, innovative, and diverse individuals who are an absolute pleasure to work with. In her current role as global senior director of safety and insurance litigation, Maureen provides big-picture guidance, always with right amount of grit and empathy.”
Senior Director of Government Investigations and Special Matters Jessica Chan had spent time investigating companies as a member of the Enforcement Division of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and admits that the challenge of coming to a company in the midst of a crisis was appealing to her.
“I knew management had changed completely, and I saw an opportunity to make a large impact very quickly,” Chan says. “I went from being on the outside looking in, to actually being able to participate in positive change over time. And in that time, I’ve seen the message of Uber’s mission reach and be better understood by the community. Our approach will continue to evolve, but we’ve made some incredible strides.”
The Signs Along the Road
One of the best signs Director of Regulatory Legal Jason Burch has seen is an organization whose early investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are starting to pay off. Diverse candidates are being hired by diverse management. What were initially very concentrated DEI efforts have become almost second nature in their practice.
“When I walk around New York City, I see a melting pot,” Burch says. “When you walk into Uber, nothing changes. That is kind of incredible when you think about it.”
Within the legal team, Uber has worked with other tech companies through the Law in Tech Diversity Collaborative’s summer internship program to identify diverse law students of promise who might be perfect for an in-house role at the technology company. Even if they don’t immediately go in-house, they’re familiarized with the company, the job, and may be better primed to join the company when they’re ready.
“People get a taste of what it’s like to work here,” Burch explains. “They want to come back because the work we get to do is novel and complex. And they report back to their friends and other students. This program is really starting to bear fruit, and I’m lucky to participate as an interviewer, mentor, and assigning attorney through the program.”
DEI efforts are not only prioritized within the company, but the company is also committed to holding outside counsel it works with to the same high standards. Chan says the legal team reviews and evaluates firms’ DEI data and goals as well as the progress they are making toward those goals each year. Additionally, Uber requires diverse junior attorneys to be part of presentation teams, ensuring opportunities to interface with clients and grow professionally.
It takes something special to willingly come to an organization undergoing a massive cultural shift, but Juarez says that’s precisely the point. “Whether we’re more established legal professionals or just starting our careers at Uber, I think we’ve all found meaning in what this company can be,” he says. “From the products and services that we are building, to the people developing them the right way—it’s embedded in our culture. We’re all part of creating something special, and I think you can feel it.”
Jones agrees. She asserts that the changing culture created a specific gravitational pull that managed to attract those who wanted challenging work that would ultimately pay off big. “Not everyone would see this as the perfect role for themselves, but there are certain kinds of people that know they have the wisdom and skills to really help improve an organization,” she says. “I see a lot of those individuals here.”
For Juan Valdivieso, director of litigation, the mission is even simpler: to improve the way and means people are moving every day. It’s a real-world impact that is apparent in every ride and every delivery. And he trusts everyone at the table to help make that difference, inside Uber and out.
In the spirit of improving the experience for drivers, the team helped launch an initiative to encourage more female and nonbinary drivers. Now, in some markets, female and nonbinary drivers can select a preference to receive trip requests from only female riders.
Additionally, to be more accessible for its trans and nonbinary drivers, Uber has recognized that names on driver identification may not reflect their own identity. It has enabled drivers to display their self-identified chosen first name. Valdivieso is pleased that Uber is helping drivers bring their authentic selves to work, just as it does with its corporate employees.
“We believe that this change can play a part in reducing the discrimination many members of the trans and nonbinary communities experience when they are forced to use a name which may no longer match their gender,” according to a statement from Uber.
“Uber’s legal team is a dedicated, innovative, and market-leading advocate for building an inclusive culture, both in-house at the company and in raising the bar on diversity with outside counsel,” says Bob Atkins, partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.
“It is a privilege to work with the legal team at Uber,” adds Christopher G. Betke, partner and cofounder of Coughlin Betke LLP. “These attorneys are smart and strategic, and my admiration only grows for the group as our working relationship continues to progress.”
Across the board, these Uber attorneys have noticed that culture change has led to business change, and that’s attracting bright, committed, inclusive teammates that work together with integrity. They’re becoming the team they promised to be and want to be.
Wilson Elser is the preeminent defense litigation firm in the United States. We proudly serve several global insurance carriers as well as leading-edge corporations such as Uber. At any given time, our more than nine hundred attorneys are litigating some one-hundred thousand defense and coverage matters nationwide. Our engagements comprise one-off premises liability matters, large-scale claims programs and most every type of litigation between. We always place the highest premium on winning on our clients’ terms and rigorously adhering to their guidelines. Wilson Elser is ranked in the Am Law 200 and 53rd in the National Law Journal’s NLJ 500.
“Uber has a diverse and dynamic in-house team led by an exceptional leader in Maureen Frangopoulos. The attorneys on Maureen’s team are detail-oriented and passionate about Uber. That passion manifests itself in our daily interactions with the team and the commitment to excellence they bring to all legal matters.”
—John Allen, Transportation Practice Group Chair
“Working with this extraordinary Uber team for six years has shown them to be innovative industry leaders. They have fostered a collaborative environment to successfully navigate complex and unique claims in their burgeoning field.”
—Paula Wellons and Jared Davidson, Partners
“Working with the Uber legal team is a case study of cutting edge legal work while promoting and advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion both inside the legal team and in partnership with outside counsel.”
—Kerry Burke, Partner
Writer Billy Yost
Editor Brittany Farb Gruber
Design Direction Rebecca Kang
Photo Editor Sarah Joyce
Photos Courtesy of Uber (Juarez, Burch)
Ben Krantz (Jones)
KortneeKate Photography (Frangopoulos)
Liv Rhodes (Chan)
Two Dudes Photo (Valdivieso)