Our guest this week is a multi-hyphenated powerhouse. She’s the Founder of Diversability, host of Tiffany & Yu podcast, sits on the San Francisco mayor’s council, co-chaired the 2020 world economic forum, and is a 3 time TedX speaker.
Her work is centered around amplifying the voices of people with disabilities – a mission that hits home as she has lived with a disability since the age of nine. She educated us on prioritizing diversity, dismantling ableism and call out culture, and reframing disability in the workplace.
I’m so glad we got to dig in with Tiffany Yu this week, we left the conversation more aware and with new tools to be allies to those with disabilities.
Tiffany and I met while she worked at Diddy’s then budding new company, Revolt, in 2014. The job was everything 25-year old Tiffany wanted – a seat at the table, a voice at the table, and freedom to be some form of her authentic self. She says working at such a racially diverse company made her see what success could look like when you prioritize diversity. Though the job was “perfect on paper”, she left to pursue her company, Diversability, full time. I was curious to know her why. She shared two turning points that prompted her decision:
Her internship in investment banking – “It was the first time I felt people weren’t giving me the easy button for life. They didn’t care how I got my work done as long as it was done. They really pushed me because they saw me at my potential but I wasn’t operating there. I became curious to know what life would be like for other people with disabilities if they too had that “tough love” experience.”
She was fired – I left Revolt and moved to San Francisco for another opportunity that didn’t work out. I decided to work on Diversability full time until my next opportunity came along – and now it’s been four years!”
When addressing sensitive topics I usually err on the side of caution out of fear of being offensive.
Learning to do your best by a marginalized group can take some time. I liken it to a toddler learning to ride a bike, they don’t go straight from a tricycle to a bicycle without falling a few times! Making room for mistakes is part of the process. Many of us share this sentiment – even Tiffany was “called out” for the way she previously addressed people with disabilities. Her solution is ‘Call In Culture’. Here’s how she says it makes a difference.
“Call out culture says if you say something that may be offensive to certain groups you get reprimanded then and there. Call In culture says you pull the person aside, explain to them what they did wrong, and give a solution to how it should be handled next time. This will remove the fear of being cancelled or feeling like a bad person which in turn opens the floor for more open discussion.”
Tiffany’s work is centered around educating others on and advocating for the disabled community.
She addressed ‘ableism’ frequently in our convo, a word many aren’t familiar with but may have experienced. Ableism is placing value and worth on a person’s body and or mind over another. For ex. choosing me over Tiffany to perform a task because I don’t have a disability and she does.
More (publicized) examples of ableism are choosing men over women, Whites over another race, etc.
If you’re all in to support Tiffany’s work but have no idea where to start, she suggests you “start with vulnerability”. For those with disabilities that would include asking nondisabled allies if they have any questions. For the allies that would be taking them up on that invitation.
Vulnerability in the workplace is intimidating. Tiffany recommends we follow Brené Brown’s method of vulnerability with intention. That means first asking yourself, ‘Why am I being vulnerable?’ If it’s because you’d like greater personal support, maybe seek it elsewhere first. If you’d like to lead by example for your team in opening the floor, that’s a great place to start.
A pressing question I wanted to ask Tiffany was ‘How?’ How do we change our structures in the workplace to accommodate and include people with disabilities?
We start by changing our mindset. “Many are still viewing disability through ‘charity and tragedy model’ or the idea that we should have low expectations of people with disabilities and work to take care of them instead of them working to care for themselves. The issue with that is it creates a power dynamic that puts disabled people at the bottom and abled people at the top.”
Don’t view employing people with disabilities as a handout, instead acknowledge that they’re bringing their disability lived experience to the table, ask how you can create a company culture that embraces them and allows you all to build.
Kids are so innocently curious. We’ve all been asked ‘Where do babies come from?’ a time or two! There’s an unspoken change that happens as we age that causes us to shy away from curiosity. I wanted to get Tiffany’s take on when and why she believes that shift happens?
“Our parents’ influence.”, she said. For example, her mom often encouraged her to hide her disabled arm, gave her a note to get out of gym, etc. She never used her voice and she learned to hide her disability, don’t talk about, and that she shouldn’t try new things.
Open conversation is the antidote.
“When we tell kids ‘don’t point’ or ‘don’t ask about xyz’ we’re actually telling them not to ask about others’ differences. A more educational way to handle that would be to tell your child to ask the person they see if they feel comfortable answering their questions.”
What is the best thing you’ve started using lately? Diff Eyewear Blue light glasses and Clubhouse
What’s the best gift you’ve given yourself in the last year? Unlearning my money mindset. I’m the daughter of immigrants and they always emphasized the importance of saving money. When Diversability won a grant from the Facebook Accelerator Program last year, I had to spend the money by December 18 and it was really hard for me to do so – I cried actually haha
What’s something you’re excited to learn in the next year? More about myself and how I can be better for my community. Also, I want to learn how to cook! Please share Instapot recipes
Who are the brands or people you follow that you love?Disability Reframed, Kim Kaupe, Drea’s Doodles, Courtney Ahn Design
Homework: Watch Stella Young’s Ted Talk, and Crip Camp
Matt Higgins is joining us. If you haven’t heard of Matt you’ve got a lot of google stalking to do this week. He’s gone from high school dropout to recurring guest Shark on Shark Tank. He’s sharing with us some of the secrets to pitching, investing and manifesting a life you’re proud of. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this one.