Uber’s ‘Karen’ Problem: What DEI Training Is Supposed to Look Like

While we can all agree that calling a white woman “a Karen” (which is different than someone whose name is Karen) is offensive, and we shouldn’t call women that. But, employees don’t need a presentation–or two–on why they shouldn’t do that.

Bo Young Lee, Uber’s head of diversity, held two events that focused on “diving into the spectrum of the American white woman’s experience” and “the Karen persona.” Predictably, this ruffled feathers, and Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, and Chief People Officer, Nikki Krishnamurthy, suspended Lee.

workers instead felt that they were being lectured on the difficulties experienced by white women and why “Karen” was a derogatory term and that Ms. Lee was dismissive of their concerns, according to messages sent on Slack, a workplace messaging tool, that were viewed by The Times.

This is the key to why there was a backlash. No one likes lectures, especially two lectures on the same topic that anyone working in the DEI space should have known would cause problems.

How can you make sure your DEI programs actually help rather than harm? Here’s what you need to know.

Related Posts

4 thoughts on “Uber’s ‘Karen’ Problem: What DEI Training Is Supposed to Look Like

  1. I wish I could agree with this. The issue wasn’t 2 lectures. It was the companies inability to point out and work against the white is right norm. There is no placating white tears when you do DEI work. So no, we can’t all agree that using the term Karen is offensive. The white supremacists beliefs that these types of people uphold are the issue. Pointing it out is absolutely not the problem.

    1. I’m with you, Talisa. Sometimes a Karen *is* a Karen.

      But WTH Uber? Trying to explain and defend — I can’t believe someone actually thought this was ok — “the spectrum of the American white woman’s experience” is so wrong. I am a white American woman and my problems are not the ones we need to focus on here.

  2. I’m going to disagree a bit here. The “Karen” meme is absolutely misogynistic, and it’s pretty troubling that people refuse to recognize it. Because it’s not about white supremacist ideas, but the idea of ANY woman daring to be assertive. Granted that it’s mostly used for women who are really misbehaving, but the issue that started the meme was not truly over the top behavior, but assertiveness and the dastardly idea that a woman could have the gall to feel entitled. (We’ve got other derogatory memes for WOC who are at all assertive.) Notice that we don’t have a similar name or meme for men who act this way.

    Having said that, the problem is not the people were being lectured. It’s not even that no one thought through the goals of the program or how to measure outcomes.

    The fundamental problem here is that this idea got past the very first round of brainstorming. A *DEI* series on ” the spectrum of the American white woman’s experience”?! Has this woman lost her mind?! What she seems to be saying is that misogyny is bad only when it applies to white women. And that is ABSOLUTELY gross!

    I’m really baffled here. Based on her name, I would have thought that she is of AAPI heritage, or at least seen as such. I would have expected her to understand that any non-white woman would have a REALLY hard time having a lot of sympathy for an issues that affects ONLY *white* women, especially since for the most part the Karen meme, for all it’s problems, has a lot less impact that other types of misogyny. And that’s even before you start accounting for the multiplying effects of being a both a woman and a POC. Like you would have thought that she was familiar with that little problem known as “intersectionality.”

    Which leads me to another question. How on earth did she ever land this job?

Comments are closed.

Are you looking for a new HR job? Or are you trying to hire a new HR person? Either way, hop on over to Evil HR Jobs, and you'll find what you're looking for.