Before likely even stepping a high-fashion shoe into her office at Uber as the company’s new Chief Brand Officer, Bozoma Saint John is already enacting change.
Consider how barely six months ago many people of color and women were promoting #deleteUber. This call to action was in response to what was perceived as Uber’s callousness in allowing its drivers to pick up passengers stranded in the nation’s airports while taxi drivers protested President Trump’s “Muslim ban.”
Or, how rankled the internet community was when a former female Uber engineer blogged about wanton sexual harassment and an atmosphere of general disrespect toward women at the ridesharing service.
Now, take a look at comments on Twitter about Boz’s move to Uber:
— Saadia Muzaffarسعدية (@ThisTechGirl) June 6, 2017
Best of luck to her- I like Uber and want them to make it
— Danielle (@dazzlingdani) June 6, 2017
That is the exact grenade that company needed. Go, Bozoma!
— Katherine M. Gordon (@katgordon) June 6, 2017
Considering their recent troubles this a good move for Uber. Bozoma brings a lot to the table. https://t.co/dOgMeD9Fnj
— Amy (@curioushack) June 6, 2017
People are excited about Uber again, well…Uber and Boz, at least. Especially women and particularly women of color.
Uber has been shrouded in a swirling miasma of bad publicity that it’s almost exhaustive to recount it all. Such bad press takes a drastic measure to combat—indeed, a heroic effort of rebranding. And Uber has found its hero in Saint John, a “Wonder Woman” of marketing.
Saint John has done the impossible. By being the antithesis of the stereotypical Silicon Valley denizen (and a damn good marketer), she has jettisoned herself into the spotlight as one of the most high-profile women in Silicon Valley.
For those familiar with the Valley, there is recognition of the Silicon Valley “look.” Besides being white (or Asian) and male, even the women there all have a uniform of sorts. People take great pains to be non-flashy; think of the Mark Zuckerberg casual look of jeans, hoodie, and comfortable shoes.
And Saint John has blown that stereotype wide open. She’s proven to be a savvy tech executive and embraces her culture and her inner diva. High-heels, bold colors, not one to shy away from baring a little cleavage—is it any wonder she made them squirm when she stole the spotlight at Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference last year?
Many may speculate on why Apple let Saint John go. Surely, Cupertino is capable of counteroffering whatever carrots Uber dangled to lure her away. But in some respect, the move makes sense for a woman who seems to love a challenge.
In fact, it’s plausible that Saint John may be too larger-than-life for Tim Cook’s quiet and fiercely self-contained management style. Her effervescence may be much more effective in eclipsing Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s boisterous antics such as berating an Uber driver when the driver complained about some of the company’s practices when Kalanick was his passenger.
Kalanick is almost Steve Jobs-esque in his vision, his tempestuousness, and his sometimes downright obnoxiousness—a trait of Jobs that was so well-documented in the late CEO’s biography by Walter Isaacson.
Jobs would probably have appreciated Boz’s unconventionality and her success in product branding. She is poised to turn Uber’s bad press around, as well as the notion of who we think of when we think of Silicon Valley. That would make her not just Uber’s Wonder Woman but a superhero in forwarding the cause of diversity in technology.