“A family man taking the wheel at Uber.”
So read a headline in a Financial Times article this month about the new head of the tech giant, which has been beleaguered by bad press about a hostile work environment and an outgoing CEO known for volatile outbursts, one of which was caught on camera with one of his own drivers. Dara Khosrowshahi—an Iranian immigrant who rose in the business world, eventually landing as CEO of Expedia—will be taking the wheel at Uber, with the hopes, no doubt, of steering the company in a new direction.
It’s not just Uber struggling with its image; much of August was consumed with Google’s public relations debacle after a leaked memo from an employee put the spotlight on the company’s issue with its own toxic work environment and hostility to women. Indeed, much of Silicon Valley is in a state of soul searching, after countless lawsuits and media blowups have revealed that sexism and negative work atmospheres seem almost endemic to the very companies whose public figures lecture us daily about equality, diversity, and respect.
Might hiring more family-oriented CEOs and adopting more pro-family policies be the solution? Some think so. As Leslie Hook wrote about Uber for the Financial Times:
Many of Uber’s shareholders see Mr. Khosrowshahi as the antidote for everything his predecessor Travis Kalanick was not—diplomatic, steady and a family man. (His office at Expedia was covered with pictures of his four children.) Its demoralized employees and disillusioned shareholders have become desperate for a savior who will restore the company to its former glory.
Dad to the rescue?
Jokes aside, there is something to the idea of putting a man in charge who is a father, especially one to a bigger family. Being a committed husband and father requires a kind of patience they don’t teach in business school, and the home is where men and women learn to set aside their selfish whims in order to nurture and care for a more vulnerable set of humans.
Pope Francis has fleshed this concept out in his writings, calling the family the first place “where we learn to live with others despite our differences.” He wrote for the 2015 World Meeting of Families:
In the family, we realize that others have preceded us, they made it possible for us to exist and, in our turn, to generate life and to do something good and beautiful. We can give because we have received. This virtuous circle is at the heart of the family’s ability to communicate among its members and with others. More generally, it is the model for all communication.
“Family is where we daily experience our own limits and those of others,” he continues. "It is the 'first school of communication.'”
Writing about the fallout at Google, Ross Douthat echoed this sentiment by suggesting that the company might help to fix its problems with workplace hostility and sexism by implementing more pro-family policies. “[S]ince the usual way to reintegrate the sexes is to have them marry one another and raise kids," Douthat wrote, "what Silicon Valley probably needs right now more than either workplace anti-microaggression training or an alt-right underground is a basic friendliness to family, pregnancy, and child-rearing.”
And who better understands those realities than someone who has just experienced it all first-hand? Khosrowshahi’s four children were all born in the last five years!
It’s easy enough to craft slogans about mutual respect, tolerance, and love for all, but the reality is that family life is where we first live out those challenges in real time, on a daily basis. The best place to learn respect is at home, and the best teachers will always be parents.
In choosing a man known for his family values to run the company, perhaps Uber will take its best turn yet.
Ashley E. McGuire is a Contributing Editor at the Institute for Family Studies. Her new book is Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female (Regnery, 2017).
Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or views of the Institute for Family Studies.