TaskRabbit C.E.O. to Step Down, a Blow for Silicon Valley Diversity

Stacy Brown-Philpot, the chief executive of TaskRabbit and one of the few prominent black women in Silicon Valley, is stepping down after four years running the San Francisco-based marketplace for gig workers.

During her time as C.E.O., TaskRabbit expanded rapidly and was acquired by Ikea. In making the announcement on Tuesday, Ms. Brown-Philpot said she would stay on until the end of August, allowing the company to identify her successor.

Ms. Brown-Philpot’s departure is a setback to the technology industry’s halting efforts to improve its diversity. And while she serves on the boards of HP Inc. and Nordstrom, Ms. Brown-Philpot said she had not decided on her next full-time role.

“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 in an interview on Monday. “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.”

In addition to her work on corporate boards, Ms. Brown-Philpot was recently tapped to serve as an adviser on a $100 million fund that SoftBank is creating to support companies led by people of color.

Ms. Brown-Philpot said the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police and the ensuing global protests had a profound impact on her.

“Racial bias and injustice is something that I’ve lived with my whole life,” she said. “I grew up in Detroit and experienced racism all my life. Every time somebody asks me how I’m doing, I process either consciously or subconsciously some form of racism that I’ve experienced. It’s torn apart families and communities. I’m just deeply frustrated by it all.”

But, she added, she had made the decision to leave TaskRabbit before the protests, and she believes she could still have an impact even if she is not running a company. “I know that I still have my voice, and I don’t think it only exists as a C.E.O.,” she said.

Ms. Brown-Philpot acknowledged that Silicon Valley was still badly lagging in its efforts to foster more racial diversity within its companies.

“There’s been so much momentum in terms of creating gender equity in tech,” she said. “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.”

In the past four months, Ms. Brown-Philpot has been steering TaskRabbit through the pandemic.

Many of the workers who offer their services through the company, such as handymen and assistants, wanted to keep working as much as they could. In an effort to help, TaskRabbit provided its gig workers with free personal protective equipment, and offered instructions on how to do jobs safely.

“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. “During her tenure, TaskRabbit expanded to thousands of cities across the United States, Canada and Europe.”

With the country now reopening, demand is rising for services its workers provide.

“We’ve seen growth in a lot of areas like deliveries,” Ms. Brown-Philpot said. “People need somebody to set up the home office, their barbecue grill, their trampolines. There’s a need for what we’re doing. It’s an essential service.”

Yet Ms. Brown-Philpot said gig economy companies needed to do more to take care of their contract workers, adding that she was in favor of so-called portable benefits, which allow workers to carry policies from one job to another.

“We have a responsibility to take care of the community,” she said. “And it doesn’t stop just providing the basic P.P.E.”


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