#DeleteUber: Are Boycotts Effective In Creating Social Change Within A Company?

Following an essay detailing extensive sexual harassment by a female engineer formerly employed by Uber, there is a call throughout social media to #deleteuber.

A few weeks ago, that same hashtag was trending as a response to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick stating he intended to meet with President Donald J. Trump as a part of Trump's advisory board, after President Trump had signed his Executive Order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. The initial Uber backlash of 2017 prompted some negative media attention, but it proved to be fleeting. Through this hashtag, users of the ride-sharing service hope to stand up for their principles and initiate social change within the company. 

With the hashtag #deleteuber trending once again due to the female engineer's viral blog post about Uber's sexual harassment within the company, it serves to consider the effectiveness of a boycott in the 21st century. An episode of Freakonomics' podcast, released in January 2016, explores the impact of boycotts on a company - both in reputation and in financial profit. 

"Now, our question of the day, you’ll remember, was simply this: “do boycotts work?” Here’s what the evidence seems to suggest: The typical boycott is more smoke than fire. And it doesn’t often seem to financially hurt the targeted company. But, humans being human, and the court of public opinion working as it does, a boycott can color the reputation of a given firm —  as it has for Monsanto, and for its new plant scientist Ben Hunter. And a boycott, when it reflects dissatisfaction with a larger social issue, can become some wind in the sail. The way the Montgomery Bus Boycott did. The way that even — perhaps, maybe, who knows, maybe just a tiny bit —  the Chick-fil-A boycott did."

Listen to the podcast, or read the transcript, now. You can learn more about Uber's response to Ms. Fowler's essay here.

Words: Staley Sharples