esterday, Travis Kalanick was ousted as CEO of Uber, effective immediately.
I’d like to say that the expulsion of a CEO who created a toxic work environment, held up primarily by the tent poles of sexual harassment and discrimination, gladdens my heart. I’d like to say the same about the moment I found out about Roger Ailes’ and Bill O’Reilly’s removal from Fox. I’d also like to say that the very public firing of American Apparel founder Dov Charney warmed my cockles. I can’t.
Yes, it’s good for super-creeps to be removed from circumstances under which they have even a 1% chance of being exposed to living beings. Yes, it’s good that part of the press coverage of Kalanick and co.’s activities reveal that sexual harassment is a no-no and will not be tolerated in the workplace. Sure, it’s nice that working women can now go to HR and file a sexual harassment complaint that won’t wind up in the garbage.
But none of that matters because it’s all lip-service. The ongoing futility of women speaking out against workplace predators and sleazoids is, to me, best expressed as a lightbulb joke.
Q: How many women does it take to get a sexual predator removed from the workplace?
A: About 20. That’s how many people have to join a class action lawsuit against a sexist fuckwit, and his employer, before the cost of getting rid of the guy is lower than the cost of defending the him. It’s just cheaper to give the entitled prick a golden parachute.
As with all things in life, if you want a real answer follow the money. Kalanick maintained a toxic, fear-driven, unsafe work environment for seven years before five of Uber’s big investors threatened to pull out unless Kalanick left. Of course fighting sexual harassment is the part of the story that gets highlighted; it makes for feel-good copy. Don’t take the bait. Making anyone feel good is not behind the Uber reshuffle. Of much more consequence, financial consequence, is the fact that Uber has run afoul of state and federal law enforcement as well as Google in an intellectual property civil suit. “You can’t fight Google” may as well be the modern version of “You can’t fight city hall.” It ain’t gonna happen. How to mollify the money men? Throw a human sacrifice into the mouth of the volcano. Someone was going to have to be held accountable. The fact that it’s Kalanick simply makes for better press and a better public profile for Uber. Kalanick being a sexist dick is not why he went down. Why do I say this? Among other reasons, because he’s still on the board. He still has his shares. Nothing really that terrible has happened to him. Silicon Valley, like most industries, has a short memory.
Which brings me back to golden parachutes. Sure, the assholes formerly of Fox got the boot. I would absolutely kill to be disciplined the way Ailes and O’Reilly were. I would love to be on permanent vacation with a $40 million Ailes send-off, or a $25 million O’Reilly farewell. Alas, it will never happen. I don’t work in a corporate environment, and I don’t have billions of dollars riding on what I do or do not get up to on any given day. But of utmost importance…lean in to hear this one…I just don’t have the balls to be that much of a prick. An unfortunate technicality. But don’t count me out! When women are finally truly equal, and are relieved of their high-profile jobs at major companies due to outrageous misconduct with enough severance pay to start their own networks or taxi companies, I’ll be the first one grabbing ass and demanding head in a conference room.
You see, equality isn’t about being treated the same when times are good. Equality is getting the same reward for being bad.