We asked 25 female founders who they'd pick as Uber's next CEO — here's what they told us

Key Points
  • According to a weekend report, Uber's board has narrowed down the search to four men.
  • So we decided to ask woman founders of other tech start-ups who they would pick for the spot.
Kara Swisher: Travis Kalanick's role at Uber is probably the focus for any potential CEO
Kara Swisher: Travis Kalanick's role at Uber is probably the focus for any potential CEO

It looks like the next CEO of Uber will be a man.

According to a weekend report by Recode, there are only 4 candidates on Uber's shortlist, and none of them are women.

To be fair, Uber's board of directors considered several women, but they didn't want the job. Most recently, HP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman publicly announced she wouldn't be taking the job, after reports emerged that she had been talking to Uber and offering advice.

It's a hard sell, given Uber's cultural and regulatory challenges and its massive ongoing losses. Nonetheless, it seems hard to believe that Uber couldn't find any women to take the job. So we asked dozens of female tech company founders to find out who they'd like to see in the top spot. 25 responded.

The vast majority voted for fellow women, which would be a symbolic choice for a company that is grappling with its "bro" culture.

Here are their top picks:

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO (6 votes)

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg at 2017 MAKERS Conference
Jerod Harris | Getty Images

As our founders pointed out, Sandberg has the leadership experience, "likeability" factor, and is personally passionate about diversity in the workplace. That would make her a dream get for Uber, a company that needs to figure out a path to viability while cleaning up its brand.

Why her? Michel Feaster, CEO of Andreessen-Horowitz backed UserMind, points out that Sandberg knows how to lead multibillion-dollar M&A deals, which might be increasingly useful to Uber; she's managed different business units; and she takes a "firm social standing on diversity" to boot.

SohoMuse founder Consuelo Vanderbilt Costin adds: "She's been able to overcome incredible adversity in her life" after her late husband's death.

Shanna Tellerman, founder and CEO of start-up Modsy, said Sandberg is a " strong operator, understands consumer businesses at scale and a great leader."

Ultimately, "she doesn't deserve to be number two," to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, said serial entrepreneur Dana Denis-Smith. "This is a great step out of operations to CEO."

Could it happen? Almost certainly not. All reports indicate that Sandberg did not want to be considered for the role.

Marissa Mayer, former Yahoo CEO (2 votes)

Bloomberg | Getty Images

Mayer might have struggled at Yahoo during her tenure, but several female founders told CNBC that she should get a second chance to shine. And she might well be on the market for her next high-profile gig.

Why her? Sarah Cone, who started the investment firm Social Impact Capital, is ready to see Mayer excel in her next role. "She needs another chance to prove she's an amazing CEO," Cone told us. Another founder, who requested anonymity as the company has a partnership with Uber, also picked Mayer: "She focused a lot on Yahoo's culture, I've heard more than people realize."

Could it happen? Mayer rushed to former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick's defense in the wake of criticism for his handling of Uber's cultural problems, which included allegations of sexual misconduct. That might have impressed key members of the board. But reports say this appointment is unlikely to happen, as Mayer lacks the "real-world logistics" experience to run a company like Uber.

Arianna Huffington, Uber board member and CEO of Thrive Global (2 votes)

Arianna Huffington
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Uber director Huffington is rapidly emerging as the public face of the company. Her influence is being felt internally at Uber, according to multiple reports, and she's getting praise for her effectiveness. Not only that, Huffington is a media mogul who has described diversity as like "fresh air" and pushed for more women to be brought into leadership positions.

Why her? As Kristine Ashcraft from medical start-up YouScript, puts it: "Her goal is to fix the systemic culture in Silicon Valley -- and Uber is a great place to start."

Mary O'Brien, founder of another medical start-up called VideDoc, described Huffington as the right person to deal with the controversy. "She's unrelenting in her pursuits," said O'Brien.

Could it happen? Apparently not. Huffington's comms chief told Recode: "Arianna has zero interest in the CEO role."

Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo CEO (2 votes)

Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi speaks at The New York Times DealBook Conference
Bryan Bedder | Getty Images

Nooyi has been with Pepsi since 2006 -- and in that time, has kept up a steady drumbeat of growth while also keeping an eye on costs (unlike Uber, which spends more than it makes). As she puts it, her job has been to keep "innovating the hell" out of her company. Pepsi, like Uber, doesn't have the most positive brand connotation. But that has stopped Nooyi from pushing for healthier products and a more culturally diverse workplace. Oh, and she might be looking for a successor.

Why her? "She is not only incredibly brilliant, but is a double minority like myself and open minded toward all people," says Carolyn Aronson, founder of Its a 10 Haircare. Others recognized Nooyi for adapting Pepsi's strategy to meet consumers where they are: "As the appetite grew for healthier options, she shifted Pepsi's strategy," said Lisa Pearson, CEO of data management start-up Umbel.

Could it happen? Nooyi hasn't been floated much, if at all, for the position. The focus thus far is on tech leaders. But former CEO Kalanick and Nooyi might have a connection by serving on Donald Trump's business council.

Honorable mentions

Apple CEO Tim Cook: "He's an operational master," and a "very socially conscious leader who is well versed in navigating politics and regulation the right way." (Holly Shelton, MoveWith)

Uber chief brand officer Bozoma Saint John: "Why not CEO? She's played a pivotal role in her last positions at Apple and PepsiCo, and shown a track history of leadership in enhancing brands at scale." (Ciara Clancy, Beats Medical)

Intel group president Diane Bryant: "Bryant keeps Intel alive as head of the company's most profitable and fastest-growing unit, its Data Center Group. The company's new focus on the Internet of Things puts Bryant at the forefront of Intel's potential for innovation." (Shannon Ong, The Catch)

Google veteran Shona Brown: "Her main beliefs can best be summarized as people make the company. A woman does not have to run Uber, but Shona is immensely qualified and has a track record of helping big companies improve their culture." (Angela Sutherland, Yumi)

Arista Networks CEO Jayshree Ullal: "Her global experience is what Uber needs to gain customer's trust outside the USA for a continuation of growth" (Maja Zecevic, Opionato)

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky: "He has the skills necessary to build a new product for an old problem...and he has figured out how to deal with the challenges of a highly public and controversial product with professionalism." (Kate Hiscox, Venzee)

Lyndon Rive, former Solar City CEO and co-founder. "I think his vision for putting solar panels on every roof could be transferred to a passion for replacing the way we think of transportation today." (Lynn Perkins, UrbanSitter)

Former Ford CEO Alan Mulally: "Uber's issue isn't a technology problem, it's a values and culture problem. Alan is skilled at instilling a value based culture in the work place and executing on that culture, which is exactly what Uber needs." (Anne Marie Faiola, Bramble Berry)

A second chance for Travis Kalanick: "My first reaction is that is should be Travis, as he is the heart of the company - in sickness and in health. Also all the gender stuff seems a bit overblown compared to what happens elsewhere, like the VC firms of Silicon Valley." (Anonymous)

With additional reporting by Matt Rosoff, Sally Shin, Lora Kolodny, Michelle Castillo and Ari Levy.

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