How to Intentionally Create An Inclusive Environment with Yolanda Evans | Mediavine On Air Episode 42

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Content creators have the power to change the world from behind their laptops.

Cheesy? Maybe a little, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Unfortunately, creating a safe space for yourself and others isn’t going to happen by chance. So, how do we go about this very important work with sensitivity and intention?

For Mediavine On Air Episode 42, Senior Director of Marketing Jenny Guy is joined by Yolanda Evans, Mediavine’s VP of People Experience and Diversity.

Yolanda shares all the wisdom she’s learned from more than 20 years of experience advocating for diversity and inclusion and you DON’T want to miss it!

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Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] JENNY GUY: Hello, everyone. Welcome. Grab a seat. Grab your favorite beverage. It is the middle of the day, but we are not here to judge. It is 2022, and we’re still in a pandemic. So we need to take our moments of joy whenever we can have them. Mine today was a iced dirty coconut chai and a cheddar and spinach scone, and I have zero regrets about it.

YOLANDA EVANS: Man, that sounds amazing.

[LAUGHTER]

JENNY GUY: It was so– it was one of those things when I’m like am I going to take the time to do this. And then I thought, yeah. You know, I am going to take that extra 10 minutes, and I’m going to get this, and I’m going to have it.

YOLANDA EVANS: That beats my water and bagel any day.

JENNY GUY: You reward yourself post live.

YOLANDA EVANS: There you go.

JENNY GUY: Mm hmm. Reward yourself post live. That’s good. How is everybody out there doing on this Teal Talk Tuesday? I want to take this moment to say thank you for being here. Truly it is my privilege to come here every couple of weeks to talk with industry experts and all of you. So thank you.

And I should say who I am. I am your host for Teal Talk. I’m Mediavine’s Jenny Guy. It is February, which means it is Black History Month. One of the ways we’re honoring the occasion is by sharing some of the incredible Black content creators and Mediavine team members that we are so lucky to work with. So make sure that you’re following us on all of our social media platforms, including LinkedIn, if you do that, and YouTube, to catch them and more things that we’ll be doing throughout this month.

While we are excited though at this opportunity to share a light on these talented individuals, our goal is to ensure that we’re pushing for awareness, equity, and inclusion year round. As content creators, we’re in a unique position of influence and can affect real change, but sometimes we might not be confident in how to provide support sensitively, which is why I am so excited for my conversation with our wonderful guest today.

Yolanda has joined the Mediavine team in the Summer of 2021 and has already proven herself a maker and educator at our organization. I’m going to read her impressive bio. Yolanda Evans serves as Mediavine’s VP People Experience and Diversity overseeing the people operations department and department staff. In this role, Yolanda leads the overall strategic direction of all people-related programs within the company, including talent acquisition, talent management, and all diversity and inclusion initiatives. She brings more than 20 years of experience to Mediavine. In her most recent position at Syniti as the VP of talent acquisition, she played a key role in the company’s growth as the business scaled from 400 to 1,400 employees during her tenure. In her leadership role at Syniti, she also helped to initiate the company’s Diversity and Inclusion Council and launched the Black Employee Network, BEN, & Friends as the executive sponsor. Yolanda, thank you so much for making time for us.

YOLANDA EVANS: Absolutely. No, thank you for having me.

JENNY GUY: Welcome to Teal Talks for the first time. I know it’s been– you’ve only been here six months, but I honestly, it took me too long to get you on. We’re so glad we’re so glad you’re here.

YOLANDA EVANS: That’s all right. I’m glad to be here. Thank you for having me.

JENNY GUY: Of course. If anyone has questions for Yolanda related to the diversity and inclusion space, today we’re going to be talking about– while Yolanda has a lot of expertise in workplace environments, she also just has general expertise in navigating the world. So our conversation today is going to be focused on how we can, as content creators, intentionally exhibit allyship and keep this going year round, as opposed to just focusing on a month. So if you have questions in that vein, please drop them in the comments. I will get them to Yolanda.

In the meantime, I’m going to start here. There is no doubt that the bio I just read for you is very impressive. But I would like to start out by going beyond that bio. Tell us what brought you into doing DEI work and why it’s so important to you, particularly now.

YOLANDA EVANS: No. Thanks again, Jenny, for having me. So who I am and how I fit into the world has always mattered to me. Personally, I am the oldest of four siblings, so growing up with a sense of responsibility was just natural. I knew I had people watching me. I knew I had people that were either going to model good behavior and become good citizens, or not model good behavior, and in part, that would be on me. So that’s always mattered.

But I think the single most important thing that really drove me into really digging into this space, more so even before it became a popular thing and more commonplace, was becoming a mother. And becoming a mother, your perspective on life changes. You start to think more so how external things impact your children, the fact that you can’t protect them from everything and everyone.

So you start to try to figure out how can I influence the outside? How can I influence my community? How can I influence in ways to help provide a positive environment and community for my children? And I became a mother very early. I became a mother at 21. And so at that time, I really started to dig in.

Growing up, Jenny, I wanted to be a civil rights lawyer. My parents know this. They still tell the stories to this day. My number one role model was Shirley Chisholm. I absolutely loved everything she stood for. I loved how she was a powerhouse. When she spoke, I loved her courage. I would genuinely get jazzed up any time I would look back at old footage of Shirley Chisholm.

So I said, I’m going to work for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Somehow, I ended up in HR. So I didn’t. You know, it happens. I think you’ve said before, some of the best things in life happened by accident.

JENNY GUY: Oh, my gosh.

YOLANDA EVANS: So somehow I ended up in HR some 20 years ago. But what’s been beautiful about the experience is how much of an impact– similarly, it’s slightly different, obviously. I’m not in law. But how I’ve been able to make that impact in the roles that I’ve had, being in HR, being in a position within organizations where policies are shaped, culture is shaped, where the types of opportunities that we are going to make sure that people have oftentimes come out of programs that are initiated out of HR. Now, obviously, we call it people operations. So over the course of 20 years, I’ve been able to make an amazing impact.

And so as diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, all of those things, became more and more important– they’ve always been important, for most of us, but they’ve now become more mainstream– it’s really enabled me to dig in even more, and to be able to focus on those things and bringing opportunity, education, things like that to people in this space.

JENNY GUY: So much that I want to dig into further on that answer. First, Shirley Chisholm, you are a powerhouse. I would say having known you only for six months, you achieved that, potentially on a different stage. But I don’t think that diminishes the impact, or your impact, and your powerhouse. Yes, for sure.

Two, I would say that I think probably everyone who is a content creator experienced that shifting of where they were, where they started out, where their degree is, where they don’t have a degree, that all those things, none of that matters. It’s where you are. You bloom where you’re planted and where you see the greatest need.

And finally, I loved the distinction you placed between wanting to shape the individuals that are within your immediate orbit, the people that are placed in your path, and how that is an important aspect. But then, that’s not enough. It’s about shaping a larger conversation and people who aren’t in your immediate orbit. And I think that’s what we’re going to dig into today. But I want one more follow up thing, which is what is the distinction between HR and people ops? How does that– I’d love to hear the answer to that question.

YOLANDA EVANS: Yeah. Well there’s– a lot of people have different definitions of that, first of all. So there’s no right answer. I’m going to answer it for me, not just for the industry. HR is an aged term. Whereas people operations is– our focus is to make sure that the human capital, the people, in the organization are resourced with what they need to be successful, and that the organization is also focused on what it needs to do for the people.

So obviously, our biggest resource in any company is our people. So everything that we do needs to operate with the intention of making sure that all of the people and talent in the business can be successful. Because when the people are successful, then the business is successful, then the customers are happy. And so really, it’s just honoring that shift in focus to the people and not just the business first.

JENNY GUY: Feels like proactive as opposed to reactive. HR kind of has that feeling of, there’s a problem, and I have to fix it. It’s an HR situation. As opposed to people ops, which feels like going at it from the other direction. I love that.

YOLANDA EVANS: Oh, absolutely. And because people operations really is involved with everything. Every aspect of what we do, we’ve been involved in. And so it’s definitely much more inclusive.

JENNY GUY: And people are involved in every aspect. So it only makes sense that people operation is at every step of the process. Love that.

YOLANDA EVANS: Absolutely. Yep.

JENNY GUY: So just to give everyone full disclosure, myself and our junior digital designer Blake got the opportunity to pencil in just a little bit of time on Yolanda’s calendar last week to talk with her about some of the topics so she could guide this conversation even before we started, before we had it, which was really appreciated by both of us. And one of the things that we talked about was allyship. And you define allyship as a crucial step of being intentionally exclusive– inclusive, excuse me. And although the term has been in the public conversation for several years now, can you talk about your definition of being an ally and what it means to you? We’d love any examples, too.

YOLANDA EVANS: Oh, absolutely. No problem. So first of all, an ally is typically a member of an under– they are not a member of an underrepresented group. So this is now going to be someone who’s not African-American, who’s not a person that’s differently abled, who’s not LGBTQ. So it’s someone who’s not a member of an underrepresented group, but who takes action in support of that group. So now your actioning.

And that’s something that I definitely want us to dig into more, is the fact that it’s not just the notion of allyship, or oh, absolutely, I’m an ally. I believe in being an ally. I have x friends, fill in the x. It’s really actioning it. And so it gives opportunity to people who may not have those lived experiences that folks that are in underrepresented populations do. It allows them to get involved, and to engage, and see what they can do to help change the status quo.

And so that’s one thing that’s really important. It’s, in fact, something that I’ve benefited from over the course of my career. So I definitely wanted to spend some time talking a little bit about this.

One of the most important things, and I already alluded to it, is the fact that allyship has to be active. It has to be actionable. It cannot just be about optics. If it’s about optics, it’s going to fail. I think we’ve all heard about performative diversity and inclusion activities, performative allyship.

So it’s really important to make sure that it’s not just, I feel compassionate toward x community, and so therefore, I’m an ally. It’s I feel compassion and empathy, and therefore, I’m going to leverage my privilege in order to make a change and make a difference for the folks that are disenfranchised in one way or the other. So certainly it has to be actionable. That’s one of the main things that I wanted to share.

JENNY GUY: Love hearing that. Yeah. It goes beyond– I’ve seen a lot of this on– there’s talk about thoughts and prayers, the concept of thoughts and prayers when things go wrong with all the things happening. And yes, of course, that’s part. But it needs to go beyond that. It needs to turn into an action item. To help someone really, really get there and help someone, it needs to involve action items. And we are all about action items on this program. We’ll be talking more about them as we go.

And the key point that you brought in about being an ally is oftentimes, these allies, whereas– I feel like, somewhat during COVID, it has felt a little to me like we started focusing on what impacts me only, the thing that is most important to me. And this is about looking at just because it may not directly impact you, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.

YOLANDA EVANS: Absolutely. And one of the most important steps in activating allyship is educating yourself. So if you find yourself, if you feel as though you’re an ally, and you want to check yourself to see if you’re doing these things, and one of those things is educating yourself. It’s really not the responsibility of the folks that have been marginalized to educate the folks that have not been.

Of course, many of us take up that task. And we do it. That’s a part of what this DEI initiative and all of that has been about. But one of the things I love is when I see practitioners in DEI that are not representatives of an underrepresented group, when I see people that are involved, actively involved, actioning their allyship, and they’re not a representative of one of those communities.

But you do have to educate yourself. You want to learn about the history. Learn about the experiences. Talk to people so that you can understand a little bit more and have some empathy around the things that are affecting them on a regular basis. A simple thing to do– I’ve had someone say, Yolanda, everyone says educate yourself, but can you tell me one thing I can do, because I really want to be able to just do something and feel like I’ve grown a little bit. And one thing is simply learn some terminology. Very simple. There are so many things that are easy to access.

My little sister, Tammy, always says Google it. So she’s a millennial. Anytime someone asks a question, she says Google it. Well, Google it. No one has an excuse, these days, to not know what it means when someone’s referencing pronouns. There’s no excuse. Look it up. Understand the context by reading, so that you have a little bit more information to leverage when you’re trying to work in this space, when you’re trying to act as an ally.

There is actually– I know Jenny you had asked me if there was any resources I wanted to share. So there is a website you can go to called the Safe Zone Project. The Safe Zone Project is really awesome. And there’s a lot of LGBTQ terminology in there. I think this is an area where a lot of people get tripped up. They actually genuinely care. They want to make sure they’re saying the right things, which is the first step into doing the right thing. And so certainly, take the time to go look it up and educate yourself.

JENNY GUY: As a creator, the hope is building out our brands to the point where you’ve cultivated a following who looks and thinks and acts differently than you do or might. When there are members of your audience who come from different backgrounds, ethnicity or sexuality or religion, what are some of the ways you can ensure from the audience members that you can include them in the conversation and then be an ally for them, show up for them?

YOLANDA EVANS: Yeah. So first thing is, you need to step outside of your comfort zone. And again, what’s wonderful about some of these things we’re talking about is we have these conversations at work every day, which is one of the things I love about Mediavine. Nothing is off the table. So step outside of your comfort zone. Diversify your network. Connect. Make new connections intentionally. That word, Jenny, I know that’s a word you like so much.

JENNY GUY: I do.

YOLANDA EVANS: Be intentional. Recognize that the likelihood is that if you’re in the content creation space, your community is probably more like you than they are different from you, because you’re vibing on the same topic area. And so just recognize that. And that’s fine. But step outside of your comfort zone, and see if you can find other content creators that may be in the similar space that look different than you, that come from a different background. Reach out to them, connect with them, perhaps collaborate with them.

We’ll talk about sponsorship a little later. This is also where, for example, you may be a content creator that has a huge following. You have an opportunity to use your audience, your platform, to then reach across the aisle to someone else that’s in an underrepresented group and share the light with them a little bit. But in doing so, you’re going to open up your own community. You’re going to expose your followers to people of diverse backgrounds, diverse thoughts, ideas, and things of that type of thing, but you’re also going to expose yourself to more of that diversity, which is really important.

But then also consider the content you consume yourself in your own private time. So you’re not working. You’ve taken your hat off for what it is that you do every day. But you’re doing your own reading. Think about that content. Because obviously, as we know, the way social media works, the more you read about a thing, the more you’re going to see that thing.

So that starts to limit us in how much we are actually going to intersect with other types of people, ways of thinking, experiences in life. So you want to challenge yourself. Ask a friend, ask a colleague, what blogs do you read? What things do you follow? What websites do you go to? Who are you subscribed to? Ask those questions, and make sure you ask them of people that are different from you. You’re going to find and open yourself up to an amazing variety of content that’s going to help inform you, open your eyes– remember, we talked about education. That’s important– open your eyes, but also it may help you in how you curate your own content so that it is more inclusive itself.

And then, Jenny, you mentioned earlier about asking questions. There’s really never a bad question. So ask it. If you are curious about something, most time, people are open to that curiosity, especially if at the other end of that discussion, you’re a better person for it. So those are definitely things that I would encourage.

JENNY GUY: And very much appreciate you saying the last thing you said, because I think that sometimes fear can get in the way of asking a question, fear of looking stupid, or truly fear of getting out of that comfort zone. It can be scary. And so then we don’t. And that’s just not a way to live.

I was actually– when you were talking about sharing the spotlight with other creators, there are so many ways to do that. We actually we had a social media post earlier, where, we were talking about Black History Month, and we had some of our content creators share that they’re participating in a Black History Month virtual potluck, our food bloggers. So it’s a way of tying that in.

And there are ways to celebrate that, regardless of niche. Your niche, I guarantee, whatever the niche is, there is a way to celebrate inclusion, to ask questions, to share the content that does celebrate things other than your own perspective and worldview. And so I think that that is something that’s just a quick way of doing it that you can– even if you’re a food blogger and you think, well, food isn’t– you can’t really talk about diversity or inclusion when you’re talking about food. You can.

YOLANDA EVANS: Oh, absolutely.

JENNY GUY: People are doing it. There’s a way to do it.

YOLANDA EVANS: Oh, absolutely. Just another example for you, I remember myself, just as someone who consumes all kinds of information, I was following– it was a travel blogger. And she had really good information that she was sharing. And she was talking about one specific region in the world. And she was giving tips about how to make the most of your trip. And this was, in particular, she was speaking about the Middle East at that time.

And it was interesting, because I read it, and then I thought to myself, are those tips, or would they be different for me, because I’m Black? So then I started searching to see if there was someone who was talking about traveling in x location while Black. And it was.

And how amazing would it be if those folks collaborated more. Because for every person like me who then takes the next step to go look for content that speaks to me, there’s another person who doesn’t do that. Not because of laziness, or anything like that, maybe they just didn’t have the time. So they’re missing out on that additional information. So the person who didn’t necessarily write the tips that might have included the nuances of being a Black person traveling in this space or a gay man traveling in that space, those opportunities can be picked up on when people collaborate, or just have their eyes open by reading other content.

This month, the Weather Channel is actually doing a whole segment bringing more focus on African-Americans in that particular space. And they actually just recently put together a piece. And it was actually a woman by the name of Rue Mapp, And her segment was about Outdoor Afro, which is the name of her company. So anyway, it’s just about how to encourage people like her, people like me, to experience the wilderness, to go hiking, to experience nature and things of that sort.

So this is an example of the Weather Channel using their platform, taking their audience and sharing it, so that someone else– she started out as a kitchen table blogger. When I saw that, I was like, oh, I want to see if she uses Mediavine.

[LAUGHTER]

JENNY GUY: Always.

YOLANDA EVANS: But anyway, from that, and just me listening to that, I shared it with probably no less than 20 people. So this is a way that different folks that have larger audiences can use it to pass the mic, share their space with other people.

JENNY GUY: Love hearing that. And I love the Weather Channel, because you wouldn’t necessarily think of that being a natural fit. But it’s an incredible way to use that platform tangentially to what their topics are. So another thing that you had mentioned in our conversation last week was the importance of consistency in everything that you’re doing when using your platform. And it is one of the most crucial attributes to being a successful ally. Can you talk about what it means to be open and intentional and, most importantly, consistent?

YOLANDA EVANS: Oh, yeah. Well, consistency speaks for itself. So we don’t want– there’s nothing more insulting– and I’ll just speak as an African-American– then for people to be focused only in the month of February. There’s nothing more insulting than that. So certainly, you want to make sure that if this matters to you, which it should, if diversity, inclusion, equity, belonging, all of these things matter to you, if antiracism matters to you, if that matters, you want to– you should be thinking about it on a regular basis. You should almost self-audit yourself to make sure that when you see certain comments come on your content that are just outside of the fray– there are things that really someone should not be saying– don’t ignore it. Address it. Even if that means you directly message that person. You want to make sure that you’re consistently doing that to the best of your ability. That’s a way to stay true to things.

But also be accountable for your own privilege. So recognize when you come from a place of privilege. And in recognizing that, first of all, when you do recognize it, then you can take inventory of how you can turn that around and help someone else with it. But if you don’t recognize your privilege, then you start at the starting blocks not knowing what to do.

But if you recognize that you have a privilege, then in recognizing that specific thing, you can say, well, how do I leverage the fact that I have access to x to help this group. How do I leverage that I have this type of audience, and I have credibility in this type of audience, to influence x? So it forces you to be accountable when you acknowledge and check your privilege.

But then also, you have to move from feelings to action. So just feeling bad, watching the news and seeing yet another African-American male be shot unjustly, just feeling bad about that really isn’t enough. Talk to your children. See if your children also saw that news coverage and have a conversation with them about it. When you share openly that you are also against various things, anti-this, anti-that, you grant them comfort to express openly to you that they may feel the same way.

Oftentimes, children are held back from saying some of those things. They have friends of all colors, of all backgrounds at school. But not all the time do they feel equally comfortable when they come home to share how open they are to people that are different than them. And it may not be because you are closed to that. They just may not know. So address the feelings. You feel sad about something, perhaps they feel sad about it. Talk about it. That’s definitely a way to make sure to action how you’re consistently addressing whether it’s racism, sexism, homophobia, anything like that.

JENNY GUY: I love hearing that just creating space and an open environment where you can say the things that may make you uncomfortable, even with your own children, with the people we’re working with, all of that. It’s OK to say the thing. It’s OK to have the feelings.

YOLANDA EVANS: Oh, absolutely.

JENNY GUY: All of that. Very helpful. So it’s not just about, as you said, it’s not about– its words and action, but also putting out the work. And the work that– because what content creators do is they create a lot of amazing things that they put on their blog, on their social media channels, all of that. So if you have any advice on– and you talked some about it with the collaborating with other content creators– how can we share content for change? How can we make content for change?

YOLANDA EVANS: Yeah. So first off, be comfortable taking risks. Certainly, measure your risks, and everyone has their individual personal and even professional threshold. But if you’re not taking any risk, you’re likely not going to change anything. If you think about the world and where change has come, especially in light of any type of discrimination, it has always started with someone, people, groups of people, taking a risk.

So use your platform and pick something that is meaningful to you. Maybe it even makes sense in your particular space. And set a goal for yourself. I’m going to address x this year. I’m going to address x this quarter. Hold yourself accountable to doing that. And in doing so, make sure you leverage your network, because you’ve already diversified it. You’ve reached out. You’ve gotten outside of your comfort zone. And now use your platform to do just that.

So I encourage everyone to definitely– you’re already content creators. This is something that you already do. So leverage that content to do something meaningful that benefits people that are underrepresented.

So Viacom, CBS, and BET, which is owned by Viacom, has a really great initiative which is entitled Content for Change. That’s something that I encourage people to go to their website, check it out, see what they’re doing, all the way down to their supply chain, making sure that there are diverse companies, minority-owned businesses, LGBTQ-owned businesses, disabled businesses, things of that sort, they’re using in their supply chain to make sure that they’re actionable. The things that they’re saying they stand for, they actually mean it.

So I definitely challenge content creators to take this moment, and if it matters to you, leverage your space. You have real estate, virtual real estate, unlike most people. Leverage that real estate to see what you can do to use your content to educate, to make statements about anti-this, or anti-that. And it really will be meaningful, and it’ll go a long way.

JENNY GUY: To start the conversation, even, just something that somebody might not even be thinking about. You have that power. It’s an incredible thing.

YOLANDA EVANS: Yeah. Making sure you’re also not fueling the narrative. Think about stereotypes. We’ve all learned about stereotypes. Think about them, and when you’re putting your content together, make sure you check it against ensuring you’re not fueling any narratives that are out there, those stereotypes. Sometimes that’s unintentional.

But if you’re not making yourself do that last check before you post something, before you post a video, before you post some other content, if you do that, that’s going to help. Because oftentimes there’s a lot of negative stereotype that’s just fueled organically in the creation of content, in the sharing of content. But if more people take responsibility for that, then you’re going to have– more of that will be scrubbed out before it begins to be shared.

JENNY GUY: Part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Just with an extra step of the awareness. And like you said, does it take a little more time? Yes.

YOLANDA EVANS: Yes.

JENNY GUY: Yes. Is it going to take an extra whatever to do that? Yes. But it’s an important step.

YOLANDA EVANS: Oh, absolutely.

JENNY GUY: In our conversation last week, you also brought up the concept of sponsorship. And this was used in a way that I had not heard it as often. I hear sponsorship in a lot of ways. But I would love to talk about the way that you use the term sponsorship.

YOLANDA EVANS: Yeah. So oftentimes, sponsorship and mentorship are conflated. I think that’s the big thing. And what the difference is, with mentorship, you’re coaching, you’re giving guidance, you’re advising, you’re kind of in the trenches with the person. And that’s very, very valuable. So we want to make sure that we’re still doing that.

But sponsorship is when you literally are pushing up and shining a light. You’re using your audience. You’re using your resources, your reach, your credibility, and you’re allowing someone else to leverage that. You’re pushing it in their direction. So that is you literally passing the mic, giving someone an opportunity to leverage an hour worth of time that you have– similar to what we’re doing right now– and hour’s worth of time that you have in front of executives, so that they can present something.

Having someone lead or run a meeting when they ordinarily would not have been able to do that. Sponsoring somebody by recommending them into a organization, or into a company that would be beneficial to them. So sponsorship carries a little bit more weight. It’s literally you taking everything that you have access to and pouring it into for the benefit of someone else. And that’s something that I certainly encourage people to do.

And again, with us talking about content creators, this is no better space. You own your space. You literally can take that space that you own and give it to someone for a moment for them to share things that are going to be amazing for them, an opportunity that they may never have had. And you can sit back and know that has been your contribution. So I definitely encourage– you all have an amazing opportunity to easily just flip the switch and give your space and time to someone else, if only for a moment. One post is a good way to sponsor.

JENNY GUY: But y’all, it’s also amazing for your audience. It’s not just amazing for the person that you’re sharing it to. You’re exposing your audience to something that they wouldn’t have seen. If you have a seat at the table, look at the table. See who’s sitting at the table. And how can you make it a more equitable, better table. It’s all–

YOLANDA EVANS: Exactly. Absolutely.

JENNY GUY: Now that we’ve defined sponsorship, passing the mic, sharing the spotlight, giving the spotlight, what actionable steps can we take to ensure we provide these opportunities? As you said, giving them to somebody else for 30 minutes, giving them your space to write a blog post, anything else that you have that would be–

YOLANDA EVANS: Yeah. I mean, especially since we’re specifically talking to mostly content creators. Right now, I encourage you to take on some of those other steps that we talked about earlier at the top of at the top of this conversation, which is educating yourself, because you’re not going to know who and how to sponsor if you don’t know what’s going on in this space. So you want to make sure that you’re educating yourself.

Then you want to broaden your network. Again, like I said, you want to do that so that you can start to connect with, collaborate with other people. And it’s through those actions you’ll be able to then take a further step at sponsorship, similar to even, like I said, what the Weather Channel did. They literally put Outdoor Afro on the map. And now she’s probably has many, many more people that are reaching out to her that are interested in what she’s doing.

So the focus is on actioning with everything, whether it’s allyship, whether it’s sponsorship, you have to action what you’re doing. So if you go back and audit yourself, oh, I’m an ally because I feel this. I agree with that. But if you’re not doing anything about it, this is the time to make that change to action your allyship or to actively sponsor someone.

JENNY GUY: And as you said, audit what you’re putting out. Audit your feeds. Look at them. Could someone tell that you were an ally from your feed, because you may have all these great feelings inside, but if it’s not a demonstrable thing that somebody could come up and see it, there’s a disconnect. There’s a disconnect there.

YOLANDA EVANS: Absolutely. I love that you said that. I love that you said that, because there are a lot of people who think they’re allies, like I said, because of the way they feel, but no one else would know. So if you have a platform, if you have an audience, and if someone came in and looked at it, and they were not able to see that you were antiracist that you were anti-homophobic that you were xyz then you’re not actioning your allyship.

So that’s a really great way– Jenny, I’m glad you brought that up. That’s a really great way to cross-check yourself to see if you actually are doing something about the way you’re feeling.

JENNY GUY: And not just in February for Black people, and not just in June for LGBTQ, and not just like– year round.

YOLANDA EVANS: Absolutely. Yep.

JENNY GUY: Because you’re Black year round. People are gay year round. It’s not just in February and June.

YOLANDA EVANS: Black every day, I’m a woman every day.

JENNY GUY: Same.

YOLANDA EVANS: No choice in the matter.

JENNY GUY: That is what it is. Yeah. I wanted to talk about the seat with the table to go a little bit further, because I’ve been reading a lot of literature lately talking about brands’ work with influencers and how there is such a pay disparity happening between Black and Brown content creators and white content creators.

And I think that the first– I just wanted to say, first of all, if you are privileged enough to be working with the brand, and you walk in and you look at this campaign that you’re on, and you are– there’s only one type of face in the room, ask why. Go to the brand and say, not disrespectfully, you just say I have a question, can you explain to me why this is the way that this is, and why isn’t it better? I mean do you have words? Your words are impeccable in all sorts of scenarios like this, so can you give words? How would you encourage somebody who was on a campaign to go, I just want to check. Can we check this?

YOLANDA EVANS: Oh, absolutely. Number one, you should do what you shared, but you should bring people along with you. So they should already be a part of your entourage. So you should be bringing diversity to the table. If you have the opportunity to work with brands, and you already are collaborating with people from underrepresented groups, you bring them with you. It’s a part of your contract. It’s a part of your deal. They’re a part of your team. That’s one of the easiest ways to start to bridge that gap.

So it starts with you and your actions that you’re taking for your own brand, for your own business. So then when someone else comes to you, you’re just bringing them along with you. And now they’re at the table. So that’s an amazing way to do that. But you’ve got to do the work ahead of time. And again, this is about actioning. You’re using this word so much. So you have to– if you’re going to say it, you’ve got to be about it. And so we definitely– that’s an easy way for you to do that.

Oftentimes, even when I joined Mediavine, when it comes down to who are we going to use for this? Who are we going to use for that? When we had our retreat, one of the first things my team heard me say is who are our vendors, and did we make sure that we had diversity on the map? If we didn’t, go back out.

If that means– and Matt, one of our co-founders that I work with– if it means we’re paying 10% or 15% more, that’s fine. That’s fine, because we’re actioning our commitment. And we’re going to make sure that we bring that diversity there. So again, me being at the table, and it allows me to leverage what I know is important and what I know to be true is that bringing diversity to the table is going to make all of us better for it, then this is also a way as content creators. Have that diversity as a part of your entourage already. They’re a part of your vendors already. So that when you’re at the table with the big brands, you’re bringing them with you.

JENNY GUY: Love hearing that. One of the biggest, loudest voices in any room is often green. It’s money. So if you want to know– that’s where the buck stops a lot of the time. If you want to really show that support, it’s financial. Because as much as all the feelings and the actions and all that matters, where you spend your money, where you invest or promote, that’s huge. You’re going giving business to somebody.

YOLANDA EVANS: Oh, absolutely. And I know that, again, our focus here has been content creators, but I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about this also from a workplace standpoint. You know it’s really important. We have a responsibility to make sure that have a diverse supplier network. It’s extremely important. That’s the way that we open the door. There’s so much power in the purse. And when we share that, then we’re actually actioning what we say that we stand for in the first place.

JENNY GUY: Yep. Talk the talk, walk the walk. We actually had a question from the Mediavine Facebook group. Nava said, I have– and I want to make sure, I think I’m saying it right– she said, I have a very specific example of diversified content. One of my websites is about women’s classic literature, and from the get-go, I’ve covered Black and Latina authors in the past. Any ideas of how I can expand even more upon this platform about the literary contributions of women of so many backgrounds?

YOLANDA EVANS: Wow. First of all, I would love to know what the site is again, so that I can–

JENNY GUY: Share the URL. Please, put it in the comments. We’d love to see it.

YOLANDA EVANS: Yes, please. First, one of the things that you’re doing that’s the right thing, is joining a talk like this. Find more of them. Definitely leverage LinkedIn. There is a ton of content that’s shared on LinkedIn. Tons of speakers. You could listen to someone every day if you wanted to. Even on the weekend. There are a couple of them that have lives on the weekend.

So what you’re doing is the right thing. Participate. Get involved. The more you hear things like this– just on this show, I’ve already shared a couple of different links, some of which you can leverage there, more that I’ll share that will post afterwards. But do exactly what you’re doing. Participate. Ask questions. You’re going to pick up all kinds of other tips. And you’ll start to hone in and even get tips from people that are doing similar things as you are. So you’re already on the right track with what you’re doing. And definitely drop your URL, because I want to follow it.

JENNY GUY: She has it. It’s Literary Ladies Guide. I’m excited to check that out. That’s awesome.

YOLANDA EVANS: If you saw the books on my– that’s definitely one I’m going to follow. I have all kinds of also feminist books and things of that sort.

JENNY GUY: OK. Off the cuff question, can you recommend one or two books that– antiracism or feminism or favorites for you?

YOLANDA EVANS: Right here. So it’s ready to share. So How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi. Number one. I’ve read this book three times. This is not just about I don’t like racism, or racism is wrong. This is about being antiracist. This is about actioning the fact that racism is wrong. Please, if you can pick this up, this is an amazing read. Thank you for asking.

JENNY GUY: It’s available on Kindle two.

YOLANDA EVANS: Yes.

JENNY GUY: You can have it downloaded in 30 seconds.

YOLANDA EVANS: And he still he still is on the speaker circuit as well. So you may be able to find him speaking on a topic, especially this month, actually.

JENNY GUY: Turn that back on. OK. What are some ways– we’ve talked a lot about content creators, but I’d like to talk a little bit about workplace. And what are some of the ways that we, as a company, encourage diversity and inclusion? And what actions, how do we put it into action as a company, as a corporation? Because there’s a difference. There’s individual, and then there’s structural, corporate, all that sort. So it’s different.

YOLANDA EVANS: Yeah. So I think this is going to take me back to why I joined. And even my time beforehand. I had an amazing, amazing seven-year stint at Syniti. Have just amazing things to say about my time there. And toward the end, we stood up the Diversity and Inclusion Council, and then was really proud to kick off BEN & Friends, so Black Employee Network & Friends, which was really great.

But what attracted me to Mediavine is what I saw that already existed. It wasn’t anything I had to build. Not that I didn’t want to build again, but again, this is about inclusion and belonging. And very early on in the process, when I was speaking with Farryn, who’s on my team, Matt, who’s on my team, Jacob, Heather, several other folks– Renee– that I spoke to, I felt it already. There was evidence there. I saw the diversity within the company. I could tell that there was a sense of belonging there. I saw inclusion in action, not just a statement on a website.

And so I think that that was just the beautiful thing that attracted me. And again, being an African-American woman, it spoke to me. And that’s why I’m here. And I don’t see myself leaving at all. So you guys are stuck with me.

But other things that we’re doing, and actually it’s something we’re kicking off this month, is our very first official employee resource group. So more to come. I’m not going to spill the beans on all of it, because we’re announcing it internally. But we will be starting our very first employee resource group.

But what’s interesting about it, and the different step that we’re taking, is we’re not starting it with a specific affinity group, where it’s about Black employees, or Asian employees, or LGBTQ. It is a group that in and of itself is focused on our differences, but how we can work together with them. It’s not despite our differences. We want to embrace them. So it’s really going to be a collection of all of us.

Someone had asked me, will I be able to join? And it was a person that was not of an underrepresented group. And I said, absolutely. We don’t want to kick off what we’re doing with D&I by having the division initially. So this group is going to be kicked off very soon, and I’m really excited about it. It took me a little longer to get it kicked off than I wanted it to, but I’m excited to get it going.

So also, within recruiting, one of the things– and this is something I was really, really big on, even in my years prior to joining Mediavine– is the notion of hiring for fit. And certainly, you want to have people that you feel as though will flourish in your environment. But all too often, we mistake ourselves by thinking the people who will flourish are all the same. Well they’re not. And so you have to challenge the notion of hiring for fit, and you had hire for add. What is a person going to add to the environment?

Because obviously, you’re always going to hire and make sure you have quality, that the person is qualified for the job. That’s a given. But you also want to make sure they’re bringing something to the organization. And oh, how amazing is the value when a person brings something different. And so just encouraging people and pushing the envelope and making sure my team is empowered that if they see anything that is the opposite of making sure that we’re open and that we are really hiring for add, that they stop it, and they challenge it, and they point it out for what it is, so that we can make sure that we’re building a company that’s representative of the community that we’re in, as opposed to all of the same types of people.

And I’ll give one other example. There’s so many things that we’re doing. But one other example is when you are trying to initiate something new, a new campaign, maybe introduce a new benefit. Take the time to do it right the first time. All too often, there’s this kind of scrappiness to– oh, we’ve got to do something new for D&I. Oh, we’ve got to do something for Black History Month. Oh, we’ve got to do something in June. And as a result, we’re going to roll out this new benefit, this new perk, this new program. And you missed the mark, because you’re really just trying to check a box.

So my motto is just do it right the first time. If it takes a little while to get it done, but you’ve done it right, you’ve now respected the people for whom– the people that are going to get the most value out of whatever it is you’re giving. So an example is, we’re really looking into– and our founders are very supportive of it– of putting together fertility benefits. We have employees that would be interested in it. We’re a smaller company. This is something we’re looking into doing.

And we could have pulled the trigger really quick and just rolled out something x amount of money as a reimbursement for whatever type of fertility treatment. But instead, we’ve taken the time. A member of my team has gone to training to understand how to make sure when you’re setting up any type of fertility benefit program that you’re doing it the right way. To make sure that it’s inclusive, to make sure that we don’t just pay for egg freezing, but we see what we can do about surrogacy as well. Because families look very different today, as they should. And oftentimes, things are adopted and rolled out, and they really only benefit one sector of your population.

And so, again, the motto is just do it right the first time. Be intentional. About what it is you’re trying to achieve. And if what we’re trying to achieve is to have total rewards and benefits that are good for everyone, let’s not be blind and just try to quickly roll out things just to say we did something new and take the time to do it right.

JENNY GUY: Well, I had told myself I was not going to get emotional, and you just made me emotional, so thanks a lot, Yolanda. My team is also messaging and saying, I did not have crying during Teal Talk on my bingo card, but here we are. So, thanks. I thought I was going to make it all the way through, and we got all the way to the end.

YOLANDA EVANS: It’s all right.

JENNY GUY: So you got me you got me. No, it’s good. I love hearing that. And I love hearing to make sure that– even a great idea, if you’re not taking in feedback and listening to people and really going about it the right way, sensitive– because these things are important, and they’re also hard. They’re scary things. They mean a lot to people. So delicacy and listening. Again, thank you for sharing that. And also making me emotional. It’s great.

YOLANDA EVANS: Absolutely.

JENNY GUY: We are almost towards the end of our time, which is tough, because this has been such a wonderful conversation. But we always like to finish out every episode with key takeaways and action items. So I was going to ask you if you will define a couple of things that any and every content creator could do this month in support of year-round Black allyhood and sponsorship. And I’m going to pause you on that while I make a couple of announcements. Give you a chance to think on that, and then I’ll just come back and ask you.

Right. Guys, while we’re here, our next episode of Teal Talk is Tuesday, February 22. We are going to have Brandi Crawford on, and another one of the founders behind Black People’s Recipes. We’re going to talk about how they came together for that website, what its importance is, all the different things that go into starting a website, particularly this website and this month. They’re all incredibly successful content creators in their own rights but have come together to create this the site. So we’re excited about that.

Also here is your official reminder that Galentine’s and Valentine’s Day are less than a week away. So honestly, whatever your feelings are on relationships or holidays at this moment in time, I honestly don’t think there’s any of us who wouldn’t enjoy receiving something nice that shows us we’re loved at this point in time. Who couldn’t use that. So could you be that person for somebody else in the next week? That’s just a little food for thought.

But now, let’s go back to Yolanda and a couple of actions that we can give to our content creators.

YOLANDA EVANS: Yeah. Number one, educate yourself. Absolutely. And remember that there are no excuses. Excuses are gone. The time is over. It’s past. Educate yourself. And if you don’t know where to look, Google it. There’s so much information there.

Secondly, expand your network. Diversify your network. These two things will go hand in hand. As you educate yourself, you’ll be able to connect with more people in this space. In connecting with them, you’ll be able to follow content that’s relevant to this space that you may not have had access before, because you weren’t engaged with it.

But expanding your network and educating yourself are the two most important things you can do, and they will constantly refill your tank constantly. Whether it’s Black History Month, whether it’s June, no matter what it is. You’re going to be privy to a wealth, an unending list of content that you can consume to just be a better human, be better in what you do every day, enhance the content you share, be accountable, checking your privilege, leveraging your privilege, and sharing your space.

JENNY GUY: All wonderful things to aspire to. We are actually going to share the resource guide here in a moment that has links, what Yolanda was talking about, and a couple of additional things. Start there. And then again, there’s always our friend Google. That is pretty easy to find, whatever it is.

Yolanda, thank you, so, so much–

YOLANDA EVANS: You’re welcome.

JENNY GUY: –for taking the time for this conversation. It’s been wonderful.

YOLANDA EVANS: You’re welcome. Glad to be here. Thank you.

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