Uber puts Asian diversity chief on leave over 'Don't Call Me Karen' sessions exploring 'white women's experience'

Uber employees said the sessions were "triggering."

Joshua Young North Carolina

Uber's Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer, Bo Young Lee, was recently placed on leave after she moderated an event for employees titled "Don't Call Me Karen," which employees complained was "triggering."

The New York Times reports that Uber’s chief people officer, Nikki Krishnamurthy, and chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, sent an email Thursday to staff and announced they had asked Young "to step back and take a leave of absence while we determine next steps."

The first "Don't Call Me Karen" session happened in April and was billed as an opportunity to explore "the 'Karen persona'" and dive "into the spectrum of the American white woman’s experience." The second session took place via Zoom last week.

Lee, who started working for Uber in 2018, arranged the sessions to foster an "open and honest conversation about race."

Uber workers, including those from a "Black at Uber" group, complained about the sessions with one black employee saying they were "tone-deaf, offensive and triggering."

The email from Krishnamurthy and Khosrowshahi said, "We have heard that many of you are in pain and upset by yesterday’s Moving Forward session. While it was meant to be a dialogue, it’s obvious that those who attended did not feel heard."

Lee responded to the criticism and said, "sometimes being pushed out of your own strategic ignorance is the right thing to do."

Via Slack messages, black and Hispanic members of the "Black at Uber" channel and "Los Ubers" channel said, "I just don't even understand the premise of the meeting."

"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.

The employees praised Krishnamurthy and Khosrowshahi for placing Lee on leave, with one saying, "You deserve a pay raise and/or time off for all this unpaid emotional labor."


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