What Travis Kalanick Can Do to Dodge Another Messy Month at Uber

By Irving Schenkler

One of the complications for Uber—and every company caught in the glare of media attention—is the wildcard of social media.

Last week’s sexual harassment claim against Uber was not just about one indecent incident—it represented what has become perceived as part of the company’s culture, grounded in repugnant behaviors that have gone either “unnoticed” or without consequences. For a company that defines itself as a primary force for innovation, what’s to be said about how this colors its future, and especially its CEO, Travis Kalanick?

In the late 1990s, an array of well-known brokerage houses, including Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch, were sued over charges of sexual harassment. Smith Barney alone paid $150 million in settlements. Those were the days of the “boom-boom rooms,” where women were treated in a scandalously demeaning manner, and the impact of those charges were significant: Wall Street and much of corporate America was assailed for what was seen as a lack of “diversity” in the workplace and in senior management.

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Irv Schenkler is a Clinical Professor and Director of the Management Communication Program at New York University's Stern School of Business.