Uber executive on leave after hosting ‘Don’t Call Me Karen’ panel
May 22, 2023 | 13:08
Uber has put its head of diversity, equity and inclusion on leave after employees shut down a panel discussion she hosted called “Don̵[ads1]7;t Call Me Karen,” which was meant to “dive into the spectrum of the American white female experience.”
DEI CEO Bo Young Lee — who was hired by Uber in 2018, according to her LinkedIn profile — was reportedly behind an event called “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 managerial and C-suite levels at Uber and Uber Eats. Lee, an Asian woman, moderated the conversation.
“We will delve into the spectrum of the American white female experience from some of our female counterparts, specifically how they navigate the ‘Karen’ persona,” the panel discussion invitation reads.
“Karen” is a derogatory term on social media for entitled white women who find themselves in conflict with minorities, usually ending up in videos that go viral.
The incident 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’ concerns, 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 entire meeting,” one worker wrote.
The next day, on May 18, Uber CEO Nikki Krishnamurthy shared in an email that Lee had been asked “to step back and take a leave of absence while we decide on our next steps.”
“Although it was meant to be a dialogue, it is obvious that those who participated 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.
Uber confirmed to The Post that Lee was still on leave as of Monday, although it was unclear how long she will remain on leave before a decision will be made on next steps.
The San Francisco-based company declined to comment further on the matter.
“You deserve a raise and/or time off for all this unpaid emotional labor,” one worker wrote to Black at Uber members, who reportedly escalated their concerns to management.
Another worker in a Slack channel designated for Hispanic Uber workers blamed Bo for creating an event with programming that had anything to do with the K-name, sharing a screenshot of a tweet calling Karen “a racial slur” who are “accustomed to dismissing and degrading white women.”
“I think when people are called Karens, it implies that these are people who have little empathy for others or are bothered by other minorities who don’t look like them. Like why can’t bad behavior be called out?” wrote another.