This interview is part of our latest Women and Leadership special report, which highlights women making significant contributions to the major stories unfolding in the world today. The conversation has been edited and condensed.
Jill Hazelbaker, 40, a former political spokeswoman, is the senior vice president of marketing and public affairs for Uber.
You joined Uber in 2015 when it was under scrutiny for a workplace culture where sexual harassment against women and discrimination were said to be common. Did that factor into the release of Uber’s first Safety Report in 2019 addressing incidents of sexual assaults and other safety issues on rides?
There is no question that things happened in the company that were not OK. We needed to get our house in order internally and then fix it externally. I took it as an opportunity to try to make a profound impact.
Can you explain the report’s methodology?
We examined data from 2017 and 2018, when an average of 3.1 million trips took place daily in the U.S. We looked at serious safety incidents reported on the platform from riders and drivers, including significant crashes, sexual assaults and physical assaults. And we also collaborated with outside experts and third-party organizations.
The report revealed that Uber is safe, and statistically speaking, incidents are rare: 99.9 percent of Uber trips ended without any safety-related issue, and 0.0003 percent of trips had a report of a critical safety incident.
But even one incident is too many, so it was about what new approaches we could take.
And what were some of those approaches?
One of the big issues is confirming who your driver is, so Verify Your Ride allows riders to verify each ride with a four-digit PIN that they verbally provide to their driver, who must enter it into their own app in order to start the trip. We also have an In App Emergency Button that connects riders and drivers to 911. In some cities, trip details and location can be shared automatically with first responders, or riders and drivers can send a text message to 911.
Another feature is Share My Trip, where riders and drivers can share with family members or friends who can follow their journey in real time and know when they’ve arrived.
You have said that you are going to update the report. Can you be more specific about when?
We’ve committed to releasing Safety Reports every two years. We rely on data from the federal government, which has been delayed but is expected to be released soon. Once that data is released, we’ll finalize and issue our next report, likely this spring.
You also said you would seek a way to share the names of drivers who were accused of rape with competitors, so that they don’t merely move to another hailing service.
Yes, since the report was released, we launched the Industry Sharing Safety Program. This enables companies to exchange basic information about drivers and delivery people who have been deactivated for serious safety incidents to help prevent these individuals from operating on another platform.
You’ve steered Uber through growth, challenging moments and one of the largest tech initial public offerings in history (in May 2019). What is the biggest challenge you see for Uber?
I think a major challenge and opportunity is to meaningfully improve the status quo for people who work on platforms like ours. Today, Uber is one of the largest sources of work — of any kind — in the world. From 2016 to 2021, more than 31 million people earned $177 billion on Uber, drawn by the independence and flexibility of the work.
That kind of flexibility is something more people have come to appreciate during the pandemic, but drivers and couriers have always understood that being independent shouldn’t mean being on your own. That’s why our policy teams across the world are fighting for a better deal for gig economy workers; you can still be independent, but you also get benefits and protections.
We’ve made a lot of progress, but it’s going to take time. Ultimately, I believe we’ll succeed because it’s what the drivers and delivery people themselves tell us that they want.
How important are Uber Eats and Uber’s other services?
Pre-pandemic, our delivery business was growing at a healthy rate but was still very much the “little sibling” to our mobility business. As Covid hit, and people stopped moving around their cities, we really leaned in, and Uber Eats became even larger than our global mobility business was before the pandemic began. Now we’re leaning in again to transform delivery into other categories such as grocery, convenience, alcohol, pharmacy and more.
Before Uber, you had a career in politics in which you served as the press secretary to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and as the national communications director for Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign. You also worked for Google and Snap. What do you think attracts you to politics and aggressive business environments?
I like being at the center of the action because that’s where the impact is — and that’s where change is born. It’s easy to criticize from the sidelines, but it’s no substitute for getting in the game yourself.
What is your advice to women who might choose your path and pursue high-stakes jobs?
Be easy on yourself. And do the things that bring you joy. These are hard jobs that require great energy and focus. You’re not going to get it right 100 percent of the time, and if you can’t laugh along the way, you’ll drive yourself absolutely crazy.
As a parent of three children under the age of 6, you’ve advocated for women in tech. What advice do you give to mothers who want to take on leadership roles?
In my time at Uber, I’ve had six rounds of [fertility treatments] and three children. My family and my career bring me immense joy, but I’m not going to pretend that at points it hasn’t been unbelievably hard. We’ve glamorized this idea of “having it all” when, I think, we should be much more transparent about the reality: “Balance” requires a lot of support and is often elusive.