The departure of Stacy Brown-Philpot as CEO of TaskRabbit marks a step in the wrong direction for diversity and inclusion in the technology sector.
Brown-Philpot, a former Google executive, is one of very few black women in senior leadership roles in Silicon Valley and technology overall. She has led TaskRabbit as CEO since 2016, and was previously the firm’s COO. “There’s been so much momentum in terms of creating gender equity in tech,” she said of the diversity deficit. “We have a long way to go with minorities. We have a long way to go with making sure we have more black people represented in tech.”
TaskRabbit was founded by a woman, Leah Busque, and since Brown-Philpot took over, the online gig worker platform has expanded to thousands of cities across the U.S., Canada and Europe. She is credited with managing this growth, along with the company’s acquisition by Ikea in 2017. “Under her leadership, TaskRabbit has become a successful global business that is strongly positioned for continued year-over-year growth,” the company said in a statement.
The events of 2020 have put all leaders to the test, and Brown-Philpot has risen to the challenge. When the coronavirus struck, many of the contract workers who offer their services on TaskRabbit wanted to keep working. The company swiftly enacted measures to ensure that they could do so safely, providing free PPE and instructing workers on safety procedures.
TaskRabbit has been preparing for Brown-Philpot’s departure, and she will remain as CEO through the end of August, allowing for a strategic CEO succession. The company’s board of directors and IKEA have been supportive of her decision to move on, and discussions around her replacement have stressed the importance of diversity and inclusion in executive leadership.
The next step in Brown-Philpot’s career is not yet known. “It’s really hard to decide what you’re going to do next when you’re so focused on what you’re doing right now,” she said. “We’ve been planning this for months, and even right now, we’re dealing with a recession, a pandemic and a social justice movement all at the same time.”
Brown-Philpot said the killing of George Floyd and ensuing global protests have had a profound impact on her, as the New York Times reports. She had already decided to leave TaskRabbit when these events unfolded, and believes she can still have an impact. “I know that I still have my voice, and I don’t think it only exists as a CEO,” she said.
With CEO succession planning underway at TaskRabbit, including a transition facilitated by Brown-Philpot, the outgoing CEO has options within and outside the technology sector. She serves on the boards of HP and Nordstrom, and was recently asked to serve as an advisor on a $100 million fund being created by SoftBank. The Japanese tech conglomerate announced its “Opportunity Growth Fund,” which will invest in companies led by black Americans and people of color, on June 3.