At a glance, little has changed from last year’s report, which was the first time the $15 billion ride-hailing company disclosed its diversity stats. Forty percent of Lyft’s workforce is female, a slight decrease from last year’s 42 percent, and about 33 percent of its leadership is female, a 3 percent decrease year-over-year. Fifty-two percent of its employees are white, down from 63 percent. Its leadership team remains mostly white and male.
It’s worth noting that Lyft roughly doubled in size in the last 12 months, according to Nilka Thomas, its vice president of talent and inclusion. The company is growing rapidly as it prepares for a 2019 initial public offering. This week, reports emerged that it was in talks with J.P. Morgan to lead its IPO and that it had more than doubled revenue in the first six months of 2018 to $909 million on a net loss of $373 million.
The company has made several notable hires this year, too, including a whole bunch of former Tesla employees. Thomas, for her part, joined Lyft in March just months before the company brought in another $600 million and continued its hiring craze. She’s responsible for global hiring, diversity and inclusion, workplace policy and employee relations.
Thomas told TechCrunch that considering such immense growth at Lyft this past year, she’s pleased with the latest report.
“In hypergrowth, what tends to happen is you have a bias toward speed and diversity can suffer,” Thomas said.
Before joining Lyft, Thomas spent 13 years at Google, most recently as its director of global diversity, integrity and governance. In the six months since she was hired, Thomas has helped launch an internal database that gives employees access to the racial and gender diversity data of different teams across the company, a sort of diversity report card updated in real time. Thomas says the goal is to make sure a manager’s numbers don’t get lost in the bigger picture and to keep them accountable as Lyft continues to hire.
Thomas has also maintained a focus on Lyft’s culture. Though it’s great for companies like Lyft or Uber to disclose diversity data, it means nothing if they aren’t providing employees from underrepresented backgrounds resources to succeed. With that in mind, Thomas has piloted a program called R.I.C.H. — Race, Identity, Culture and Heritage — a group for Lyft employees to learn how to have difficult conversations surrounding race in the workplace.
“In the era of #MeToo, we want to make sure that we’ve gone beyond what our compliance obligations are,” she said. “We are really sensitive to what can happen to marginalized and vulnerable groups.”
Last year, Lyft was recognized by the Human Rights Campaign for its work on corporate equality. The company has implemented a Gender Inclusion and Affirmation Policy that promises to provide an inclusive environment for transgender people and supports various nonprofits through its Round Up & Donate program. Last month, Girls Who Code, an organization focused on closing the gender gap in tech, announced it had raised $1 million from Lyft rider donations.
Uber, for its part, hired its first-ever chief diversity officer, Bo Young Lee, earlier this year under chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi’s lead. In its first diversity report since both Khosrowshahi and Lee were hired, Uber showed slight progress, though the company still has no black and brown people in tech leadership roles.
At TechCrunch Disrupt SF in September, TechCrunch’s Megan Rose Dickey spoke to both Khosrowshahi and Lee. Khosrowshahi, in a wide-ranging discussion, said Uber is “really trying to shift the culture of the company going forward.” Lee, for her part, told Dickey she’s working tirelessly to integrate Uber’s new cultural norms.
Both Uber and Lyft — in fact, most of the highly valued unicorn companies in Silicon Valley and the Fortune 500 powerhouses — have a long way to go before establishing equitable cultures and hiring practices.
“This challenge expands across the entire industry, in part because we’ve normalized the problem,” Thomas said. “We have a pretty dire status quo.”