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Uber has made headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent months, but Marissa Mayer, the former CEO of Yahoo, on Tuesday defended the company’s embattled former CEO, according to a report by The San Francisco Chronicle.
Travis Kalanick, who was Uber’s CEO since he cofounded the company in 2009, has been accused of creating a toxic culture at Uber and turning a blind eye to several major issues including sexual harassment. He stepped down as CEO last Wednesday.
“Scale is incredibly tricky,” Mayer reportedly said at the annual Stanford Directors’ College education event. “I count Travis as one of my friends. I think he’s a phenomenal leader – Uber is ridiculously interesting.”
Mayer, who may be campaigning for the Uber CEO role, added: “I just don’t think he knew. When your company scales that quickly, it’s hard.”
Mayer went on to say that Uber was going through the same kind of thing Google went through when Eric Schmidt was brought on as CEO to help founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
Frans Johansson, CEO of corporate innovation agency The Medici Group, said: “Regardless if Kalanick knew the extent of Uber’s sexist corporate culture, the truth of the matter is that diversity and inclusion were not embraced from the get-go.
“Yes, Uber grew exceptionally fast, and it’s natural for companies to just gravitate towards new hires who are like them. But when you don’t embrace those with different backgrounds or experiences, that’s when companies start to back themselves into a corner, both from an acceptance and a creativity standpoint. It’s the most successful businesses that actually make diverse hiring a priority.”