Nobody's Laughing at This Now-Former Uber Board Member's Joke About Women

June 13th 2017

Kyle Jaeger

Here's what you shouldn't do during a board meeting at a company embroiled in controversy over sexism: make a sexist joke that demeans the value of female board members.


But on Tuesday, Uber now-former board member David Bonderman did just that, according to audio from the meeting that was obtained by Yahoo News. It happened as fellow board member Arianna Huffington was making a speech about next steps for the company after CEO Travis Kalanick announced that he was taking a leave of absence on Sunday. The announcement came after a law firm released a damning report about the corporate culture of sexism at Uber.

The New York Times' Mike Isaac, who has been following this story, broke the news Tuesday night that Bonderman resigned:

The report made a series of recommendations, including reforming the company's "party culture," prioritizing diversity, and taking steps to hold Uber's leadership accountable for addressing complaints such as workplace discrimination.

At the meeting, Huffington mentioned that Uber was adding another woman to the board, Wan Ling Martello, and referenced data showing that "when there’s one woman on the board, it’s much more likely that there will be a second woman on the board." Bonderman replied: "Actually what it shows is it’s much likely to be more talking."

Sources told The New York Times' Mike Isaac that the joke didn't land, and Bonderman has since apologized. Still, the comment started a conversation about how playing into gender-based stereotypes reinforces workplace sexism at the company's peril.

Do women actually talk more than men?

According to a 2014 study published in the journal Scientific Reports, it depends on the context. While men and women talk about the same amount is causal settings such as a lunch break, women "were much more likely to engage in long con­ver­sa­tions than men" while performing a collaborative, academic task. Based on research of female representation in business, however, that difference could represent a competitive advantage.

Companies that have more women as board members are more profitable, a 2011 study that looked at female board representation at Fortune 500 countries found.


"[T]hose in the top quartile in terms of female board representation—with women making up between 19 and 44 percent of their boards—had a return on sales (that is, net income as a percentage of revenue) that was 16 percent higher than for companies with no women on their boards," The New Yorker reported.

But for a company like Uber, which has come under fire over allegations of widespread sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination, having more women at the time makes sense for more than one reason. Companies that have prioritize diversity among their leadership tend to do better financially, but placing women in executive roles is also begets expanded opportunities for minorities.

"Gender diversity helps companies attract and retain talented women," a 2014 Gallup report found. "This is especially relevant as more women join the labor force around the world. Companies cannot afford to ignore 50 percent of the potential workforce and expect to be competitive in the global economy."

  • Correction:June 13, 2017This piece was updated to reflect that David Bonderman resigned from the board of Uber.
This story was first published June 13th 2017.