Uber has placed its chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer on leave after employees slammed a panel discussion she arranged called “Don’t Call Me Karen,” which was intended to “dive into the spectrum of the American white woman’s experience.”
The DEI boss, Bo Young Lee — who was hired by Uber in 2018, according to her LinkedIn profile — was reportedly behind an event dubbed “Moving Forward: Don’t Call Me Karen” last month, part of the ride-sharing company’s “Moving Forward” event series that launched in 2020 on the heels of the Black Lives Matter protests, according to The New York Times.
According to a leaked screenshot of the invite on Twitter, the April event promised “an open and honest conversation about race” with a panel discussion featuring white women at the manager and C-suite level at Uber and Uber Eats. Lee, an Asian woman, moderated the conversation.
“We will be diving into the spectrum of the American white woman’s experience from some of our female colleagues, particularly how they navigate around the ‘Karen’ persona,” the invite said of the panel discussion.
“Karen” is a disparaging term on social media for entitled white women who get into disputes with minorities, typically ending up in videos that go viral.
The event reportedly upset many of Uber’s non-white employees. To give Lee a platform to address concerns from the “Don’t Call Me Karen” event, Uber scheduled a one-hour all-hands meeting on May 17 that it advertised as a “dialogue session.”
Instead of listening to employees’ qualms, Lee dodged questions about how the company would prevent “tone-deaf, offensive and triggering conversations” in the future, The Times reported. Screenshots of Uber’s internal Slack channels showed one worker calling the meeting “more of a lecture” than an all-hands.
“I felt like I was being scolded for the entirety of that meeting,” one worker wrote.
The following day, on May 18, Uber’s chief people officer Nikki Krishnamurthy shared in an email that Lee was asked “to step back and take a leave of absence while we determine next steps.”
“While it was meant to be a dialogue, it’s obvious that those who attended did not feel heard,” Krishnamurthy added of the May 17 session.
A screenshot from a Slack channel with members of the company’s “Black at Uber” employee organization showed workers celebrating Lee’s leave of absence.
Uber confirmed to The Post that Lee was still on her leave of absence as of Monday, though it was unclear how long she will remain on leave before a decision will be made regarding next steps.
The San Francisco-based company declined to comment further on the matter.
“You deserve a pay raise and/or time off for all of this unpaid emotional labor,” one worker wrote to the Black at Uber members, who reportedly escalated their concerns to leadership.
Another worker in a Slack channel designated for Hispanic Uber workers slammed Bo for creating an event with programming that had anything to do with the K-name, and shared a screenshot of a tweet in denoting Karen as “a racial slur” that’s “used to dismiss and degrade white women.”
“I think when people are called Karens it’s implied that this is someone that has little empathy to others or is bothered by minorities others that don’t look like them. Like why can’t bad behavior not be called out?” another wrote.