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Uber diversity head put on leave over workplace event on "Karen persona," report says

Uber seeks to avoid tech layoffs
Uber CEO says company is "in a good place" as layoffs mount in U.S. tech industry 04:43

A series of corporate events aimed at promoting diversity, equity and inclusion at Uber appear to have done just the opposite, resulting in the company's diversity chief being placed on a leave of absence. 

Top executives at Uber last week asked Bo Young Lee, the company's head of diversity, "to step back and take a leave of absence while we determine next steps," Uber's chief people officer, Nikki Krishnamurthy said in an email to employees that was viewed by The New York Times. The upheaval stems from an event Lee moderated titled "Don't Call me Karen," the Times reported

Uber did not immediately reply to CBS MoneyWatch's request for comment. 

In recent years the name "Karen" has come to be used as a pejorative term to refer to White women perceived as entitled, and sometimes racist, who use their privilege to police the behavior of others. 

The word gained traction after a White woman in New York, Amy Cooper, was dubbed the "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. 

The Uber employee event focused on the "American White woman's experience" and was meant to invite White female Uber employees to discuss their perceptions. Specifically, the event centered around "the 'Karen' persona," according to the invitation, the Times reported. 

According to the Times, employees said the event devolved into a lecture on why the term "Karen" is derogatory. The effort to be inclusive was perceived as insensitive by employees of color, who said they felt it trivialized racism, the paper said.

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