Uber’s head – DE&I accused of being insensitive; sent on leave

Bo Young Lee apparently organised sessions called ‘Don’t Call me Karen’, where it was expressed that calling White women ‘Karen’ hurt their sentiments

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Bo Young Lee, head – diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), Uber, has been sent on leave following allegations that she had been insensitive to people of colour.

It all began with an employee event called ‘Don’t Call Me Karen’ that Lee was moderating. ‘Karen’ is the name used to refer to White women who often bring up grievances against co-workers of colour, especially Blacks, and report them to their managers. Therefore, it is a way of referring to a person who is not behaving appropriately or is insensitive towards non-Whites.

Two such events have been held over the past two months at Uber. Employees feel that although the sessions were aimed to encourage genuine and honest discussions pertaining to race, they were actually given a lecture on the challenges faced by White women. The discussions reportedly focused on why ‘Karen’ had actually come to be an offensive way to refer to a White woman.

In line with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaigns that gathered steam post 2020, these sessions were initiated as part of the ‘Moving Forward’ series comprising discussions on race and the experiences of the under-represented people. Media reports say that Lee had, in the past, clearly stated that these sessions were not meant to be comfortable and that they were meant to urge employees to move out of their comfort zones.

Employees of colour at Uber feel that after the first session, they were not given an opportunity to express their opinions or feedback in the second session. Instead, they felt they were being admonished for their reactions to the initial event. Also, they felt that the use of the term, ‘Karen’ was not derogatory to White women, but simply a way to refer to those who feel a sense of entitlement and discriminate against people of colour .

Lee’s termination, however, has assured employees that their voices are heard by the leadership at Uber.

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