Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) help drive people across Uber to make the right decisions. While a strong interest in DEI and part timing drew Chris Folwell, Head of DEI in EMEA, to work in the area, he had been incorporating the topics in his conversations long before that.
Tell us about yourself.
“I lead Uber’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts across the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. I live in Amsterdam with my boyfriend and puppy. I’m originally from the UK, where the rest of my family still live. When I’m not at work, you’ll find me eating at great restaurants, exercising at the gym (because of the great restaurants), playing video games, strumming on my guitar and singing at the top of my lungs at every given opportunity.”
Tell us about your role as a Head of DEI, EMEA and what drew you to work in DEI.
“The job I do covers quite a lot. I think of it as broadly covering 3 main buckets: Workforce (representation and experience of staff), Workplace (the culture, physical and virtual environment), and Marketplace (the way users – be they drivers, couriers, riders or eaters – experience Uber as well as how marketing reflects communities that we serve).
I divide my time across many topics and audiences and – for the most part – balance it quite well but there is a constant need to prioritise. What drew me to the subject comes down to a couple of things:
The first was that, as a gay man, I have some understanding of how it feels to be discriminated against both structurally and individually (the UK had legislation called Section 28 which prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” when I was younger and I’ve been aggressively approached on the street several times when holding hands with significant others). Needless to say, I’m incredibly lucky compared to most. My family has accepted this part of me, I have great friends, colleagues and a wonderful boyfriend – so whilst I don’t see myself as a victim, I know that life can be more difficult for some people than others. Anything I can do to help make those challenges feel less insurmountable, I’ll do it.
The second was that I have spent a lot of my career jumping around lots of different functions/business areas. As a result, I’ve gained an appreciation that different business areas need different approaches to get them bought into work. DEI work should be high on the agenda across companies, but how it gets there can differ. Luckily, Uber invests heavily in DEI (from team structure to budget to deliver tangible results) so the conversation for me now is more about how to get things done, not whether Uber should.
The third was, honestly, timing. I have built my career predominantly in Human Resources as my home business function but worked in Operational Leadership and Product Development and Management. When George Floyd was murdered in the United States, I was asked by a previous employer to lead the development of their DEI Strategy from within the HR team for the first time. I’d been incorporating DEI conversations in my work for years but this task led me to move into the work full time, moving to Uber shortly after that.”
What does an inclusive workplace mean to you?
“Simply put, it’s a workplace that helps people be their best. Deliver their best work, build the best working relationships and have a great time doing it because they feel empowered to be themselves.”
What has Uber done to ensure safety and inclusivity in the workplace?
“It’s important to say that safety means multiple things – be it physical, emotional or psychological (to name a few). For psychological safety, there are a number of things at Uber that actively support this and I’ll speak to a few of them.
Uber has strong cultural values that are deeply ingrained into everything we do as a business. It’s almost a blueprint for how Uber as a business acts and how our teams work together. They’re incorporated into all of the things that Uber does, from recruitment, to staff recognition, to deciding whether to pursue a particular programme of work. They are core to what the experience of working at Uber is like. Running alongside this, is a bi-annual survey to understand how staff experience what working at Uber is actually like. This helps our management team understand what is great and what could be improved.
Teams at Uber are also encouraged to build communities around specific interests. I myself am a part of a number of these groups to learn more about colleagues and to collaborate on ideas to improve the business.”
How does everyone at Uber help create an inclusive workplace?
“One of the main opportunities to contribute as an Uber employee to an inclusive environment is by joining one of Uber’s many Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). They are created as communities for people with similar experiences (like parenthood or having faith) to come together, connect and learn from each other, but also to influence the business. Membership isn’t restricted to just those with these experiences (as it wouldn’t be very inclusive otherwise!), anyone can join to learn about different experiences or share their own.
Each ERG has an Executive Sponsor from the business leadership team. This helps the ERG Leads to make a positive impact on the business for all employees across the whole business. Impacts that the ERGs have had over the years include influencing our human resource teams to build inclusive benefits provision to working with Product Safety and Equity teams to create mechanisms for both earners and riders/eaters to feel safer. This collaboration creates an environment where no idea is wasted and people know that they can make changes to things that go far beyond what they’d achieve solely in their day jobs.”
Posted by Uber