Uber Technologies, the technology platform for transport, has placed its diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) chief Bo Young Lee on leave following complaints from employees that her employee event, “Don’t Call Me Karen,” was offensive to persons of colour, according to The New York Times.
Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, and Nikki Krishnamurthy, chief people officer, last week asked Bo Young Lee, head of diversity, “to step back and take a leave of absence while we determine next steps,” according to an email from Mr Krishnamurthy to some employees that was viewed by The New York Times.
“We have heard that many of you are in pain and upset by yesterday’s Moving Forward session,” the email said. “While it was meant to be a dialogue, it’s obvious that those who attended did not feel heard.”
The news outlet further wrote that the employees’ concerns centered on a pair of events-one last month and another Wednesday-that were billed as “diving into the spectrum of the American white woman’s experience” and hearing from white women who work at Uber, with a focus on “the ‘Karen’ persona.”
They were intended to be an “open and honest conversation about race,” according to the invitation. But workers instead felt that they were being lectured on the difficulties experienced by white women, why “Karen” was a derogatory term, and that Lee was dismissive of their concerns, according to messages sent on Slack, a workplace messaging tool, that were viewed by the Times.
According to the CBS News, the word “Karen” gained traction after a white woman in New York, Amy Cooper, was dubbed “Central Park Karen” for calling the police on a black man who was bird-watching in the park, falsely accusing him of threatening her life when he asked her to leash her dog in compliance with local laws.
Cooper was subsequently fired from her job at the investment management company Franklin Templeton, with her former employer saying at the time that it did not “tolerate racism of any kind.”
Other names, including Ken, Chad, and Steve, have also been used to refer to white men who are perceived as behaving in a privileged, racist manner.