Inclusivity and Authenticity in the Workplace w/ Sarah Yeazel & E.C. Burns
Inclusivity and Authenticity in the Workplace w/ Sarah Yeazel & E.C. Burns
In this week's episode, Cheetah's own Sarah Yeazel and E.C. Burns are here to talk about inclusivity and authenticity in the workplace. They both share what it means to be inclusive and why it's essential for everyone to be their authentic self at work. Through their stories and experiences, we learn ways to ensure our workplace is genuinely inclusive.
Sarah YeazelInternal Communications Manager, Cheetah Digital
Sarah Yeazel: Did you say swap brains or swap legs?
Julian: Legs, legs, legs, or brains.
Speaker 3: Uncaged Wisdom, Cheetah Digital's podcast for modern marketing,
Julian: Quick overview. Hopefully today we'll be having a discussion around the importance of being authentic self at work, which is it's an important topic for anyone listening to this in the workplace. And you know, for them to have the confidence to be who they are. We also open that up to what being authentic actually looks like. And hopefully through those themes, we'll also get to some suggestions on how a workplace could be correctly set up. Before we get going, could you start off by just saying hello?
Sarah Yeazel: Hi, I'm Sarah Hazel.
E. C. Burns: Hi, I'm E. C. Burns.
Julian: Both of you are prison, ERG co- leaders at Cheetah Digital.
Kayla: What is the strangest or most interesting animal related item that you own? If you can swap plates with any animal, what animal would you swap with and why?
E. C. Burns: I'm going to go with the strangest animal object I own. I was walking on the streets here in New York city. I found a USB drive that you plug into your computer and there's stuff on it. And I absolutely knew that I should not put it in my computer, but curiosity got the best of me and it has pictures of dead animals on it.
Julian: That's a great start to our show. Can I have cheery stuff? Don't you go to like a cat hat or dog ears?
Kayla: Were they like found dead?
E. C. Burns: I should have phrased this better. It was in memoriae pictures.
Kayla: I thought it was like a serial killer.
Sarah Yeazel: Important clarification.
E. C. Burns: Think of like a elementary school or a middle- schooler creating a presentation to like, remember their, dog that died.
Julian: This is so much better than what you started with, which was one of the dark introductions we've had on this show. Just to confirm the dodgy USB that you picked up from the street and then insert it into your own personal device, had an memoriam to an animal loved one?
E. C. Burns: I still have the USB drive because that's like one of the weirdest things I've ever experienced here in New York city. And I'm like, I never want to forget this.
Julian: Sarah, maybe bringing us back on, I wouldn't have never seen this, but maybe this question of which legs would you swap with an animal is the most sort of a sensible question we've had. Which animal would you swap? We'd like to move and why?
Sarah Yeazel: When I was a kid, my favorite movie was the little mermaid and my favorite character ever in Disney, ever in Disney is Ursula the sea witch. I would 1000000000000% have octopus legs. So I can just live my streams at long last.
Speaker 5: I admit that in the past I'd been in last year. They weren't kidding. When they called me well, a witch actual find that nowadays I've mended all my waves repented seen the light and made a switch.
Julian: Kayla, do you want to sort of pick Sarah or E. C. to kick us off with sort of inclusivity, one on one and sort of give an overview of what we're trying to talk about today.
Kayla: So Kind of going back to Julian's conversation around the employee resource group or our ERG here at cheetah digital, be great to understand what the LGBTQIA plus ERG is, and really walk us through this idea of inclusivity and how the ERGs are meant to really foster that inclusivity here?
E. C. Burns: Right, yeah. So I think, you know, to start off, we want to understand what an ERG really is for a company, right? So by definition, it's an employee resource group. The goal here is to provide resources for different groups of people, whether they are parts of these communities or allies to these communities or people who want to, you know, learn more about these communities and how they can foster a more inclusive work environment or members of the community. That sounds super vague, right? Going into our LGBTQIA group that is to foster an environment where community members, meaning co coworkers of mine, other employees of Cheetah Digital, who identify as LGBTQIA can meet in a safe environment and discuss issues at hand, whether that is within the work environment or just in the world in general and where they live. We also invite and encourage allies to join and other employees that want to learn more about how they can, you know, be allies to these coworkers of theirs that identify with this. ERGs exist, because there are minority groups within every single corporation, right? And ERGs exists to elevate the voices and the needs and the concerns of these minority groups.
Julian: Sarah, E. C. said that really nicely. Is there anything you'd like to add or to build on that? Cause you two are a great partnership in this.
Sarah Yeazel: One of the amazing facets of our ERG program, we have black employees that treat a women in tech players with additional needs, you know, professionals and that inclusivity, the work that's being done to keep this initiative from being siloed, that we are working, not just in tandem, but often in collaboration with different groups to make sure you know, that intersectionality is represented, that we compare with other groups to say, you know, this is a topic we're doing. We know it touches the work you're doing. Let's let's collaborate and tell a broader story, show that this isn't just an issue of X underrepresented group, Y underrepresented groups. So that's, that's a really key element of the inclusivity is that is seeing that the topics we're talking about and the, the important initiatives that are being spearheaded, aren't just being driven in one group. You know, these are just our five pilot groups. There will be more so the broader and more inclusive stories we can tell with other experts brings more people into being great allies.
Julian: What we're talk about here with the different ERG groups, they are all for everyone.
Sarah Yeazel: The move forward, isn't just a move that underrepresented communities can tweak on their own. Allies is so important because people occupy spaces that we want there are people at the table that we aren't able to sit at. And so knowing that people are out there listening to our stories, A validates, the underrepresented groups, and B empowers people to stand at our side to stand up for us in ways that we can't. And so allies are tremendously important. Allies help push things forward because they are in spaces that we don't work can't occupy.
Julian: When it comes to allies what's the best way of or have you find that approaching then what, having conversation?
E. C. Burns: An important thing to know and understand is that you can't force anyone into ally ship, right? But you can and should be completely open to answering questions and approaching conversations with an open mind. You know, we had a guest speaker recently who sparked conversation with coworkers of mine that I never expected to have conversations with about this topic, right. And knowing that, you know, there's a willingness there, and there's a desire there to learn more, to understand better how to have conversations with people, how to use the right vocabulary and verbiage when it comes to these topics, that's incredible. So that's, that's been one of the main things for me to understand is I can, as much as I want, you know, push the agenda on people, but if they are not willing or they're not interested in it, they're not going to be good allies regardless. And so that's, that's why it's important for us to take advantage of the people that do reach out and do ask questions and do have those curiosities, because it shows that they are, you know, something in them desires to be a true ally to the community.
Julian: Your blog that you wrote, which is up on cheetahdigital. com, that whole piece is around being able to feel like you can bring your authentic self to work, which is one of those sentences, that seems really easy. And like for a lot of people, actually, I don't know. I mean, I'm guessing for a lot of people, it might be easy to do that. They're like lost just me. I'm just turn up. But actually not just people in ERG groups or who are coming at it from different angles, it's not easier tool. And I just wondered if you could start to elaborate a little bit on some of the subject, matter of your blog of why that is an important point to make.
Sarah Yeazel: Kind of the part of the blog is that LGBTQIA people have really had to fight for who they are to be proud of who they are. There are still a lot of stigmas and stereotypes and bigotry that make it difficult. I mean, still today for people who are comfortable with themselves, there are still they're still attack, right? And so once someone has come to a point where the way that they have examined themselves, become comfortable with themselves have decided the best way to express themselves. Once that has become a whole piece that they have fought for, we should not ask people to put that on a shelf. So, you know, there are a lot of times like I've, you know, I've encountered where it's like, you know, maybe don't talk so much about how you're a queer person. Like maybe your gender expression is a little too much. And so it wasn't, you know what I mean, like it wasn't, but it's not, you know, it's that concept of coming out of the closet is seen as this very brave thing that we do and it's done. And then we live our lives and it's not. With every new friendship, with every new boss, with every new peer, you have to keep coming out. And if the environment isn't safe for that, you're making people go back into a traumatic place. So that is truly the important bringing the authentic self is that you are creating a safe space free from trauma where people can live their best lives, do their best work, not have to worry that, you know, putting a picture of their partner on their desk is going to get them fired. It's that's the importance is that, you know, every, we deserve that same authenticity as everyone else, and should not have to pretend where people we're not.
Kayla: Sarah, as far as your experience with coworkers and managers, companies in general, do you have any examples where you've seen organizations that have felt the most comfortable and kind of what stood out to you the most that allowed it to feel as though you were able to bring your most authentic self to work.
Sarah Yeazel: I sound like a suck up.
Kayla: But Cheetah.
Sarah Yeazel: But Cheetah has been pretty good about letting me be my full self. And not just like someone who is here and disappear, but like that it is understood that my experience in the world is different and that my respective is different. And that is both honored and, and appreciated with, with the managers that I've had. I also have a very, I don't know the word for it. Animated. Is that the word, Kayla? What word would you describe for my desk?
Kayla: Your desk? Oh my goodness. I think it would be, I don't know if I use the word animated but I think it would just be a very visual representation of your personality.
Sarah Yeazel: And there it is. Everyone gets to have this little space in the office where they spend eight hours a day. And I think everyone has like a very, like, I would love stuff on people's desks. I love it. I love, you know, people are bringing their a little bit of their lives or in my case, a whole lot of their lives it's me. And you walk in and you're like that Sarah Hazel, there they are. You feel more comfortable.
Kayla: Have either of you leaned on a specific person to help you in this world where there are workplaces that are allowing you to be your authentic self are suppressed, suppressing you, and trying to ask you to not be someone who, how did they help you? What were some things that they said to encourage you to really be your true self and stand up at the workplace?
E. C. Burns: Even more so than the things that they said it was seen by their actions and everything. So kind of even going back to the desk conversation with Sarah here, I had a job before Cheetah where I put, you know, one of those cute photo booths, printouts of myself and my girlfriend at the time. And I'll never forget, my manager walked over to my desk one day to look at somebody and that was on my computer, that I was going over with them. And he specifically called that picture out and said, oh, is that, who is that? You know? And it made me feel awkward and it made me feel unwelcome there. Right? So that was a verbal response to me that that kind of made me go back into my shell, go back into my closet in that work space, kind of like Sarah was mentioning earlier, right. And then I transitioned into like other roles at, you know, Cheetah Digital, where, you know, I could mention my partner, my girlfriend, and, you know, my coworkers in the New York office would be super supportive. And, or even just not saying anything, which sometimes that's what you want. Right? But I don't, I don't want to put you on the spot here, Julian, but you know, Julian got engaged a few years ago and invited me and my girlfriend to an engagement cookout. And that meant so much to me. Right. Julian and I have never sat down and just talked about me being gay. I don't think that that needs to happen, but the fact that Julian and his now wife, you know, we're like, Hey, let's invite E. C. And her girlfriend to this, this party. You know, that meant a lot to me because if I were straight, it would be assumed that my boyfriend would be invited to the party. Right. But as a gay or person, it's always a question, you know, is anyone comfortable with me bringing someone that I'm dating to this party? You know? And so that, that was something that, that meant a lot to me at the time and still means a lot to me. But that's a good example of when, you know, actions do speak louder than words and you know, it, doesn't, it's exhausting to be a queer person. And for myself specifically, I came out when I think I was 16, maybe I was 17 at the time, my family and my friends at the time had no problem with it. And then I went to college and I found myself as Sarah was mentioning earlier, having to come out again and again and again and again, and it was exhausting and to work in a space where I don't feel like I have to come out is incredible. And I never realized how like much of a stressor that was on me prior to working at Cheetah Digital. Honestly,
Julian: Now there's two reasons. Some people approach things. One because it benefits them. And the second, because it's the right thing to do, you know, the sort of cost benefit analysis. This is one of those subjects. And one of those matters were not only doing the right thing is important because it's the right thing to do. But this is an area where if you do the right thing and you allow people to be authentic, it benefits not just the workplace, but the business itself and the quote that I'm going to throw back at you E.C. But the wonderful thing you said, which was, we're all better off when we're all better off, which I thought was a really nice succinct way of putting it.
E. C. Burns: I definitely can't take credit for that quote. I heard it once in this random documentary I was watching on the economy and, but it really spoke to me, right. We are all better off when we're all better off and not one person is better off when the rest of us aren't right. So I take that mentality or I try to, wherever I go in the workplace, if it's working on a project and I know one team member is struggling and I have some bandwidth to help them out, it's going to help the whole team out. Right? It's the same thing. When we think about people being able to show up to work as themselves and know that they're comfortable in the workplace. So kind of how I view it is, you know, when it comes to LGBTQIA awareness and ally ship is that if you see a coworker, you know, who might be feeling kind of in that, you know, I don't want to bring up a little mermaid reference again, but you know, kind of going back into their shell,
Kayla: Are they feeling like a poor unfortunate soul?
Speaker 5: Poor unfortunate souls. In pain, in need.
E. C. Burns: A little bit, yeah. We don't want anyone feeling like that poor, unfortunate soul where they have to creep back into their shell, creep back into that closet, whatever, because the ramifications of that are that they will experience a psychological digression and that affects their work. And when we are all kind of building each other up, whatever, you know, if we all bring our troubles or our quirky newness to the table, if we all bring our quirks to the table and we all acknowledge them and we celebrate them, the team is going to perform better than if we're kind of like, oh, sometimes when we mention this thing, Sarah goes into their shell. Sometimes when we mentioned this thing, Kayla goes back into her shell. Sometimes when we mentioned this, Julian goes into his shell, right. And we want to acknowledge those things and use them as benefits. Right? Cause we're all so different. And we can't conform to this like thought that cookie cutter versions of people will make the vision of the business succeed.
Sarah Yeazel: Personally, I can't, I can't do anything, but this, this is how program, this is how, this is how I am. I'm six feet tall, kind of loud and goofy. I have weird hair. Like, I'm just, that's who I'm going to be. And not only can I not stop, I won't need to stop because that's who I am. And that's, you know, it's not okay. It might be over the top, but it's not, you know, how do I want to say it disruptively so. Right? Like it's just me. It's who I bring every day. It's who I've been living with my whole life. So to ask that I don't be myself is really constraining because I'm also creative, analytical. I have all of these skills that are entwined with that. It's how my brain works. So when you start stifling, one part, the rest is going to start to get stifled too. And so when you think about it, as you know, think about a plant, if you think about a plant and you've got it in a pot, it can kind of only grow so big. But when you plant a garden where everyone can grow, then things really start blooming. And we start, you know, working together and creating like, you know, it's, it's almost like that.
E. C. Burns: It also gives the seeds room to grow, right. As opposed to the pot.
Sarah Yeazel: Yeah. Like the roots can grow out the brent, like everything becomes more lovely and it's more authentic. You know, we're able to be able to grow and not saying like, okay, column A that you can't pick and choose what's in a person. You know, you can't say like, you know what, the way you dress, I don't like the way that you talk. I don't like the way that you articulate your opinion, you know, articulate your opinions. I don't like, what would I do like is this skillset that benefits me. So you can't, you can't pick that apart, like burrs off at log. It's all a person as a whole ecosystem. And you, you can't suppress what you don't like without damaging the whole.
Kayla: What are some good ideas that you're able to kind of bring forth that allow workplaces to really foster that sense of inclusivity and authenticity that are just so simple. And we don't understand why people aren't even putting these in place right now.
Sarah Yeazel: Listen, that's it that's the whole secret is listening because underrepresented groups will tell you, like they know what they need. They're the experts. That's really one of the best things about the ERG is launching. As now we can have these conversations and it's listening. It's hearing people say, you know, here's where the gaps are. Here's where our experiences differ in the workplace. Here's how we can bridge that. Here's how we, here's how a company can do better. And here's how a company can better support us. And just making sure that those voices are not only, you know, there's amplifying voices and there's hearing voices, you know, we can lift up stories, but they need to be heard and actionable, which, you know, we'll go back to, with the, with the Vanessa Sheraton talk, it's taking those concepts and then looking at life. And okay, now that I have these tools, now that I have a team with these meetings and listen to these stories, now that I am equipped with this, here's where I can make change based on what I've heard and what I've listened to. Listening is so key because groups will tell you we will tell you. And in a way, like not in a like, oh, we'll tell you. But like, in a way that's like, you know, we're in this together. Our ally ship is about that listening. And we're grateful for that year.
E. C. Burns: We Kicked off this prism, ERG in June, it was pride month. And the feedback we got on it, both Sarah and myself was incredible. Right? One learning I received from it that I don't know that Cheetah or managers or anything know yet. But they will soon is the breath of the impact that these ERGs are making. Right? So we've had people share their stories and it's been incredible to hear. One takeaway I have is that some of our employees, our coworkers, people, we work with day in and day out, depending on what team we're on, you know, they are stationed across the world and in different countries, Julianne. I know you're from the UK, Kayla and Sarah and I are all from the us. We work with people in different places all the time. And one thing that has stuck with me this entire time is that some of our members, the only place that they are safe physically and emotionally safe to be out of the closet is here in this employee resource group. We have employees in countries and then communities that it's not safe to be theirselves. And to be able to provide that platform for them is first of all, it's emotional for me. Right. But second of all, it is incredible that, you know, if they can be out at work and else, at least, you know, Cheetah Digital is providing that for them. That just goes to show how important it is for workplaces to be inclusive, to promote employee resource groups, to promote diversity and inclusivity in their day in and day out business practices, right? Because you don't know people's backgrounds and they don't know where they're from and you don't know what they're going home to after they log off everyday
Julian: To conclude, the uncaged or the uncaged wisdom question.
E. C. Burns: My uncaged wisdom is, if you have somehow never watched Law and Order Special Victims Unit, I've really encouraged you to do so. I picked a really weird way to watch it. And so I started watching that the most current season and watched it backwards. I am now at season one and I'm terrified for when it ends, because what am I going to do with my free time after that? It's in, it's incredible though. And my favorite is Odafin Tutuola and John Munch. And I can't believe I have spent 434 hours apparently watching it over the last, like 8 months. I feel like I can just leave this shop and become a detective like tomorrow if I need to.
Julian: They would probably have found that USB stick and solved a crime from it. Sarah, the floor is yours though just to CSI.
Sarah Yeazel: Just in thinking about our conversation. I always think about the spectrum in both sexuality and gender. And I just want everyone to commit to just dismantling and demolish binary thinking. We live in such an either or Pepsi, Coke kind of world, that we don't see the Dr. Pepper and the Mountain Dew. So when it comes to, you know, seeing human nature and seeing gender and sexuality on a spectrum, we want to put those harsh borders up and just remember that humanity is a watercolor painting and there are no boundaries and we just keep spreading and overlapping and learning and being more colorful.
Julian: Beautiful, lovely way to end.
Sarah Yeazel: Guys this has been really great. Thanks for having us and letting us talk about building inclusive workplaces.
E. C. Burns: It's always a joy chatting with you, Julian and Kayla. I'm glad you invited Sarah and myself in to chat about that stuff. So thank you so much
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