Karen Fleshman is a mentor, activist, entrepreneur, attorney, author, educator, proud San Franciscan, and a single soccer mom. Building on a career in the immigrants rights movement and preparing young adults of color for careers in tech, In 2014 she founded Racy Conversations, a workshop facilitation company, to inspire the antiracist generation. Her first book White Women We Need to Talk: Doing Our Part to End Racism, will be published by Sounds True in 2021 and is available for preorder here.
As a white woman, Karen experienced sexual harassment, wage gap, and glass ceiling from white men in the workplace, but she noticed the most harmful workplace behavior came from white women who viewed her as a threat to their proximity to white men in power. She worked for diverse organizations leading diverse teams, largely reporting to women of color, who were excellent mentors and role models. Emulating them, she learned how to relate across difference as equals and build relationships based in trust.
Mentoring young adults of color launching corporate careers in tech, Karen came to understand that racism is the underlying problem in our society, everything she had learned growing up about race and racism was harmful and inaccurate, she was part of the problem, and she needed to change.
Inspired by Mike Brown, Black Lives Matter, and her mentees, in 2014, Karen vowed to stop preparing young adults for the workplace and start preparing the workplace for young adults by sharing what she had learned. This was the genesis of Racy Conversations,
Karen’s passion projects are police accountability activism, building interracial sisterhood and raising antiracist children. She serves on the workgroup overseeing implementation of the US Department of Justice recommendations for ending bias at SFPD. She hosts interracial sisterhood events throughout the United States. Her 2018 video Dear White Women: No More Permit Patties received 7MM views. Alongside her Women’s March sisters, she was arrested five times disrupting the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. In June 2020 he was featured on Nightline speaking to other white moms about how she talks with her kids about race.
Karen is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, the University of Texas at Austin, and New York Law School, Evening Division cum laude, and is admitted to practice law in New York. She resides in San Francisco.
Prior to starting her consulting practice in the Bay Area, Karen was a founding team member of Year Up New York. She served in the City of New York Department of Youth and Community Development in a variety of capacities, including Director of Special Projects, Assistant General Counsel and Director of Internal Review. She is a cofounder of Citizenship NYC, a city service that assisted 50,000 New Yorkers to apply for naturalization, and of Ladders for Leaders, a city service that connects low-income high school students to corporate internships and college.
Karen began her professional career as an immigrant community organizer in Austin, Texas.