Uber’s Employee Ratings Put Women at a Disadvantage

Uber’s Employee Ratings Put Women at a Disadvantage

At Uber, discrimination was baked into the system, a new suit alleges, pointing to systemic bias against women in the ride-sharing company’s performance evaluations.

Suit Says Uber’s Employee Ratings Put Women at a Disadvantage

To assess and promote — or fire — workers, Uber Technologies Inc. used a practice known as stack ranking, a zero-sum evaluation that pits employees against one another. According to the lawsuit, filed in October by a former engineer at the company, Roxana Del Toro Lopez, stack rankings unfairly and disproportionately hurt women. Microsoft Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have faced similar legal challenges; both firms and, more recently, Uber, have abandoned the practice.

Beth Steinberg says she saw the biases in the system unfold in real-time

Beth Steinberg, who has worked for two decades in human resources in tech companies, says she saw the biases in the system unfold in real-time.

When she worked at Hewlett-Packard, Beth said,

“My observation was whoever was the best orator got their people ranked higher.”

In organizations where leaders and managers are mostly male — which is almost everywhere — men tend to fight for other men. “I was horrified even in a company as good at it as HP,” Beth added. The company says it has changed its performance evaluation system.

About six percent of Fortune 500 companies, including Accenture, Amazon, and even GE, have abandoned stack rankings, according to CEB.

Many have replaced employee ratings and annual reviews with regular feedback, a process that Cecchi-Dimeglio has found leads to more objective reviews.

If the performance evaluations are biased, and raises and bonuses are based on performance, it will hurt women’s compensation, said Anna Tavis, a clinical associate professor of human resources development at the New York University School of Professional Studies.

“This pay-for-performance system is fundamentally flawed,” Tavis said in an interview. “The performance element is very subjective.”