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Uber Suspends Its DEI Chief Over Workplace Events

Bo Young Lee has served as head of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Uber for the last five years. However, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and its chief people officer announced they asked Lee "to step back and take a leave of absence while they determine next steps."

Over the last two months, Lee held two events intended to dive "into the spectrum of the American white woman's experience," where employees would hear from white Uber female employees, focusing on the "Karen persona." While the expressed goal of the events was to have an "open and honest conversation about race," some employees said they felt lectured on why it was hard to be a white woman and why "Karen" was a derogatory term. (People generally use the moniker "Karen" to describe white women with a sense of entitlement who complain about and report people of color to authorities). Employees felt the Uber events minimized racism and the harm white people can inflict on people of color. A Black female employee asked Lee how the company would prevent "tone-deaf, offensive and triggering conversation" from becoming part of its diversity initiatives. Lee responded, "Sometimes being pushed out of your own strategic ignorance is the right thing to do."

The email response from the chief people officer 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.” Employees reportedly responded positively to Uber's action toward Lee, feeling that Uber listened to their concerns.