Uber Suspends DEI Chief After Employees Complain of Insensitivity

Uber has long appointed its diversity, equity and inclusion chief after employees complained that an employee event she hosted called “Don’t Call Me Karen” was insensitive to people of color. I put him on vacation.

Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi and Chief Human Resources Officer Nikki Krishnamurthy last week told Diversity Head Boyon Lee, “While we are deciding on the next steps,” Uber said in an email posted on . , asked to step down and take leave.” On Thursday, Ms Krishnamurthy’s message to some employees was published in The New York Times.

“I heard many people were in pain and upset after yesterday’s ‘Moving Forward’ session,” the email read. “It was meant to be a dialogue, but it is clear that the participants were not heard.”

Employee concerns centered around two events held last Wednesday and last Wednesday. The event was purported to “dive into the realm of the American white woman’s experience” and hear from a white woman who works for Uber, depicting the persona of “Karen.” According to the invitations, they were intended for “an open and honest conversation about race.”

But messages sent to workplace messaging tool Slack said workers were more concerned about the difficulties white women were experiencing and why “Karen” was a derogatory term and that Lee ignored their concerns. He said he felt that he was being preached about what he was doing. Viewed by The Times.

The word Karen has become slang for rights-conscious white women who often complain to their managers or report blacks and other racial minorities to authorities. According to employees who attended the messages and the event, employees said that by highlighting how the word “Karen” is a harmful word, the event organizers were trying to stop racism and the harm white people do to people of color. He said he felt he was keeping it to a minimum. In the famous “Cullen” incident in 2020, Amy Cooper, a white woman, was asked to leash her dog by a black man birdwatching in New York’s Central Park, and she called 911. bottom.

The concerns raised about the incident highlighted the difficulties companies face when addressing the themes of race and identity, which have become increasingly high-profile issues both in Silicon Valley and beyond. Cultural clashes over race and LGBTQ rights have emerged in recent years, including renewed attention to discrimination in corporate hiring practices and feuds between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Disney over state laws restricting classroom teaching. , is thrust into the forefront of the workplace. Gender identity and sexual orientation.

At Uber, the incident sparked employee dissent under Khosrowshahi, who has alienated the company from the aggressive and chaotic culture that permeated it under former CEO Travis Kalanick. It was a rare case. Khosrowshahi’s efforts included stepping up diversity efforts under Lee, who has led the effort since 2018. Before joining Uber, she held similar positions at financial services firm Marsh McLennan and others, according to her LinkedIn profile.

“We can confirm that Mr. Bo is currently on vacation,” Uber spokeswoman Noah Edwardsen said in a statement. Lee did not respond to a request for comment.

The first of two ‘Don’t Call Me Karen’ events in April was part of a series called ‘Moving Forward’ and will discuss race and Black Lives Matter in 2020. It was a discussion of the experiences of an underrepresented group born in the aftermath of the protests.

A few weeks after that first event, a black woman spoke at an Uber all-hands meeting about how the company would prevent “tone-deaf, offensive and provocative conversations” from becoming part of its diversity efforts. I asked if

Responding to questions, Lee argued that the “Moving Forward” series was meant to have tough conversations, not to make them comfortable.

“Sometimes the right thing to do is push yourself out of your own strategic ignorance,” she said, according to a memo taken by an employee who attended the event. The comments sparked further employee anger and complaints to executives, according to the Slack message and her employees.

The second of the two events was run by Ms. Li and aimed at a dialogue where workers discussed what they had heard at previous meetings.

But in a Slack group for Uber’s Black and Hispanic employees, instead of an opportunity to provide feedback and interact, they’re lectured on how to respond to the first “Don’t call me Karen” event. Employees were outraged.

“I felt like I was being scolded for the whole meeting,” wrote one employee.

Another employee challenged the premise that the term “Karen” should not be used.

“When people are called Karen, I think it’s implied that this person is someone who has little empathy for others, or who is bothered by a minority of people who don’t look like them.” is not condemned?” she wrote.

Employees welcomed the news of Mr. Lee’s departure as a sign that Uber management was taking the complaint seriously.

One employee wrote that company executives were “listening to us, they know we’re hurt, and they want to understand what happened.”

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