Uber is looking to hire a second-in-command to CEO Travis Kalanick to help run the company amid backlash over its internal culture and public image.
In an all-hands meeting on Tuesday, Kalanick told employees that Uber is actively searching for a chief operating officer. The news comes as Uber faces criticism, both internally and externally, over the company’s treatment of women and for Kalanick’s own actions. The new hire, it seems, would help mitigate the crisis and stem the company’s bad PR.
Kalanick summed up his plans in a very brief blog post:
“This morning I told the Uber team that we’re actively looking for a Chief Operating Officer: a peer who can partner with me to write the next chapter in our journey.”
In the past two months, a series of reports have fueled the viral #DeleteUber campaign against the ride-hailing company. The hashtag first surfaced in January, when Uber raised eyebrows with its response to President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.
While taxi drivers were striking in protest of the detainment of two Iraqi men at New York’s JFK airport, Uber turned off surge pricing, a move which many people saw as an attempt to break the strike.
The hashtag gained traction later on after Kalanick attempted to defend his decision to stay on Trump’s economic advisory council in a Facebook post. The CEO eventually stepped away from the council due to the backlash Uber was facing.
More recently, the criticism has shifted to Uber’s internal practices. Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler wrote a scathing account of sexism and harassment in the company’s corporate office last month, which was supported by anonymous sources to The New York Times and ReCode. An internal investigation headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder and Uber board member Arianna Huffington is ongoing.
It would be an understatement to say the company had an image problem right now, and Uber’s decision to hire a “peer” for Kalanick is likely directly related to his involvement in the series of scandals. Sources have told ReCode’s Kara Swisher that the company would prefer to hire a female COO, following a similar move by Facebook in 2008.
Swisher reports that the company is also focusing on women candidates to fill a board seat vacated by Alphabet executive David Drummond.