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Breaking Down Gender Barriers and Inequities

With Tiffany R. Warren, Brooke Quinn, Danielle Silber, and Miriam Warren

29 minutes

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Despite advancements in recent years, women still encounter inequities at every stage of life, especially within the business community. This panel shared perspectives from women entrepreneurs across industries as they discuss overcoming the challenges they’ve faced in business, as well as how to support the next generation of female entrepreneurs.

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Tiffany R. Warren Founder and President, ADCOLOR
Brooke Quinn Chief Customer Officer, Carrot Fertility
Danielle Silber Director of Strategic Partnerships, ACLU
Miriam Warren Chief Diversity Officer, Yelp

Emily: This is going to be such a dynamic chat and it’s led by Yelp’s own, my dear friend and the Chief Diversity Officer of Yelp, Miriam Warren will be leading this conversation off. I’m so excited to hear what these three women have to share. And without further ado, Miriam, I’ll hand it over to you to take it away.

Miriam: Awesome. So great to see you, Emily, and so glad to kick off this conversation. I think to start us off, I would love for our panelists to introduce themselves, and I will start in the order that I am seeing folks on my screen. So Tiff, do you want to start us off? Tell us a little bit about your background and what brings you to the discussion.

Tiff: Sure. My name is Tiffany R. Warren, my nickname is Tiff. I would describe myself as a heart director and a hope dealer, and I’m celebrating my 26th year as a DE&I practitioner. It’s my life’s work and I often say it’s not a position, it’s a passion and it’s a calling. I’m the oldest of 10. If you want to get details, I have eight brothers and a sister. And I’m a ferocious, I guess I’ve been labeled a rich auntie, but I’ll just say I’m an auntie, but my niece does get all my money. And I’m a founder as well of ADCOLOR, which is an organization I started while working a full-time job, and it’s still the case, in 2005 where we started out honoring people of color in allies and marketing and advertising and media, it’s since grown to include tech and publishing and just about every industry you can think of.

And in a couple years, we’ll be celebrating our 20th anniversary, which I can’t believe it went so fast. So I’m super proud to be here as a representative for Sony Music Group where I’m the EVP and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

Miriam: Well I am so glad that you’re here and I cannot wait to hear what you’re going to bring to this discussion. Next up, Brooke, I would love to hear a little bit about you. Tell us.

Brooke: Perfect. Thanks, Miriam. Well hello, everyone. My name is Brooke Quinn. I’m the Chief Customer Officer with Carrot Fertility. I’ve been with Carrot for almost two years, but I’ve been in the benefits and digital healthcare space for 25 plus. And so I like to think of myself as a benefits nerd. I’ve been on the consulting side of the business, the TPA side and then also the administration side of benefits, and that’s both health benefits and also HR benefits as well. At Carrot Fertility, I’m ultimately accountable for both the customer and the member journey. And at the end of the day, very simplistically ensuring both are ultimately delighted and that we’re helping provide fertility care for all and helping with their family forming needs. On a personal level, I live in Des Moines, Iowa. I call myself a captive, not a native. I’m an East Coast girl at heart, so I grew up in New Jersey, did my schooling in Pennsylvania and spent almost 12 years living in the city before I took a job relocation to the Midwest, which I think shocked most of my friends and family.

But I’ve now been here 17 years so I call it home. I have three adult stepchildren. Like Tiff, all my money goes to my niece, Ada, who will be a freshman in college next year. And it’s no coincidence, she turns 18 in a month and I have lived in Iowa for 18 years. So she is really the reason I took the job relocation to be close to her. I’m incredibly involved in my community, specifically I’m on the board of directors for Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa. I’m also the event chair for an annual event called Inspiring Women of Iowa that recognizes women of courage, confidence and character. And it’s a big fundraising event within the community as well. So love being part of this conversation, especially helping to give women a voice and a position of power. And I’m just thrilled to be here with you all today. So thank you.

Miriam: Well thank you so much for being here, Brooke. And last, but certainly not least, Danielle, I’ll turn it over to you to tell our audience who you are.

Danielle: Thanks so much, Miriam. I’m so honored to be on this panel with you, Miriam, and Brooke and Tiff. I am the Director of Corporate Engagement at the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU, and I’ve been there now for almost six years, started the position and started the function at the ACLU in the wake of the Muslim ban, acknowledging that companies across the country and across the globe were starting to think about how they could be using their different resources in order to advance equity in the United States in the face of increasing threats to civil rights and civil liberties. Personally, I grew up in an LGBTQ household so have been fighting for civil rights since I was a child. And my career has taken me to work for gender and racial equity issues in the workplace, spanning work around immigrants rights and refugee rights in the workplace to looking more recently especially at gender equity in the face of what’s going on in tax against reproductive health and trans rights in the workplace and beyond.

Personally, I am also much more, I would say, close to the issue of pregnant workers’ fairness and of fairness around moms and parents in the workplace because I have a 21-month-old and a 11-year-old bonus daughter. They get a lot of my money, but I feel like I’m also still spreading the love to favorite charities and community organizations. And when I’m not working with the ACLU and spending time with family and friends, I’m also really proud to be on the board of the Center for Artistic Activism, trying to infuse just cultural artistic ways to think about how we can disrupt some of the barriers to voting rights, barriers to health access and other challenges that we’re seeing in equity across our country and across the world. Super excited to be here and really just want to also front end this by very grateful to Yelp and all of the work that Yelp has done, especially in the reproductive health and access space and in gender equity. So really, really proud to be able to be on this panel with these other amazing people.

Miriam: Well let’s kick it off. I feel like 30 minutes is definitely not going to be enough time for us to get to all the places that we want to go, but let’s see what we can do about it. So I think to kick us off, obviously there has been gender progress made and obviously the topic that we’re talking about here is breaking down those gender barriers and inequities. And so the first place I’d love to go, and Tiff, I’d love to throw it to you first, what’s some advice that you can offer women and folks that are in the early stages of their careers? What are some of the things that you wish you had known or that someone had told you some years ago?

Tiff: It’s so interesting when I get this question because I didn’t have to wish what someone told me because I had a village of women who literally told me all the things. And so I had a ferocious godmother who launched a lot of firsts in her career. And so she gave me advice about how to weather those storms when you’re the first, she knew where I was headed, even as a 10-year-old, and she was like, “Okay, I’ve got to make sure I gave her advice.” But I would say very succinctly, and I said this at… I gave a speech at the 30th anniversary of my graduation to these young 17-year-olds, and I said to them, I said, “Right now, you are trying to find your nerve, find the nerve to, I don’t know, ask that boy out or tell your teacher your paper’s late or whatever the things you do when you’re in your teens.”

And I said, “In your twenties, you have all the nerve, you go to college, you have the swag of youth and you feel invincible. And in your thirties, you have some nerve.” And I had some nerve in my thirties to warrant an award show and keep a day job, which was very unorthodox. And then in your forties, which is where I’m at, I just have one nerve and everybody sits on that one nerve. So you really have to choose your time and ask for your time back and lean into joy and all those things that people tell you you have the room to do when you’re in your forties. And then when you get to your fifties and on, you give zero F’s. You just are free. And so I hope to get to 50 quicker, which I’m just a year away from it actually, I don’t know why I’m saying get to 50 quicker, it’s next year.

But I say all that to say that in your twenties is when you have all the nerve, so do all the things. And if you’re a new entrepreneur, which could happen at any stage in life, you could follow the same mantra as well. When you’re starting a new business, you have all the nerve. You know that what you’re doing is going to change the world somehow, so you feel invincible and you also feel vulnerable at the same time. But that would be my advice for sure.

Miriam: I love that. Thank you so much, Tiff. Brooke, thoughts in this area. What advice do you have for folks maybe just starting out?

Brooke: Similar to what Tiff indicated, I get asked this question a lot and I mentor a lot of women that are early in their career. And the overwhelming sense that I hear and I feel is this trepidation and fear of asking for what they want. And I often will ask the question to them directly, “What is the worst answer you’re going to hear? If you go into that job offer situation and you ask for the salary that you want, what’s the worst answer you’re going to hear?” And they fumble. And ultimately, the answer they give me is, “Well they’re going to tell me no.” And my response back is, “No, isn’t a no, no is a point of negotiation. No is the starting point of a conversation.”

And I will tell you personally, this is something that I’ve had to learn incrementally over my career as well, to have the voice, to ask for what I believed my value and my worth is, and to not be afraid to put it out there and to demand what I feel I deserve. And so I think my biggest piece of advice is to not be afraid to understand your value and your worth. It also requires doing research, being educated and well-informed when you go into conversations like that and understanding what is fair. And taking the conversation head on and using any type of negative response as a point of negotiation,

Miriam: Spoken like a true person who is doing great at sales and all of the pieces around that. I can tell that you are obviously not only from your title, Brooke, but also from the work that you told us that you do very good at your day job, and I’m sure that it also spills out into the rest of your life as well. Danielle, I’d love to throw the next question to you first, and that is I’m thinking about all of you come from really different industries and I’m wondering what the impact of the Dobbs decision was in your day-to-day workplace. I imagine there was an impact on everyone’s workplace, what was it on yours?

Danielle: Great question. Yeah, I’ll answer that maybe a little bit less so from the American Civil Liberties perspective, because as you can imagine, protecting the right to reproductive freedom and health is a core constitutional right in our mind as an organization. So we had been preparing, sadly, for the likely fall of ROE with the Dobbs decision for several years. What we really wanted to accomplish from my camp was how can we best equip companies with the next steps and the tools and businesses of what they could do in response to the fall of ROW? And so back in 2019, we started an initiative called Don’t Ban Equality, which essentially provided a platform and a network for businesses to be able to take a stand on acknowledging that comprehensive access to reproductive health is critical for gender equity in the workplace. And so after the fall of Dobbs, we quickly realized that we needed to provide three different buckets of resources for companies.

One, helping companies to navigate how do you mitigate workforce harm in the face of the fall of ROE knowing that half the states in the country are either poised to or have already banned access to abortion and are looking to pass even more restrictions on reproductive healthcare. And part of that was making sure that companies knew that one another were resources and connecting them with the best practices on how can you provide a travel fund if you have employees who are in a state with restrictions or bans? Do you consider dependence and offering opportunities for dependence of employees to be able to access abortion care out of state? And then the other piece of this is also thinking through what are the internal communications for your business? So acknowledging that a lot of companies might have these benefits that are buried, and so how can companies knowing that, to Tiff and Brooke’s previous point, women aren’t necessarily used to asking for what they need, or we’ve had a chilling effect from being able to, or being empowered to ask for what we need.

And so what can businesses do to make it really clear what they’re willing to offer or what they already offer so that it’s not buried and the Dobbs decision doesn’t have a further chilling effect on people being able to ask for and access the healthcare that they need. Quickly, the two other pieces is just we’ve been working with companies and businesses to empower them to either A, contribute to the surround sound outcry and make sure that the crisis of reduced access to abortion care doesn’t receive from the headlines, and then finally, empowering and equipping businesses with the tools they need to be advocates, especially at the state level knowing that our federal right is no longer guaranteed. And so what does it look like for the private sector to be having a strong voice and making the business case for why access to abortion care is so critical for not just gender equity in the workplace, but for strong economies at the local level.

Miriam: That’s super well laid out, Danielle, and just kudos to you and your team on the Don’t Ban Equality’s groundswell that you’ve created because I think back and I have a copy of the 2019 letter that we signed, I think the first original one in the full page out in The New York Times, and that was a moment that was huge. And also to bring us to this moment that we’re in now, which I think many people in your position knew maybe was going to happen and I think for many of us others were less aware that this is what it could look like. And so to be at the front lines I think is so incredible. As we think about what the Dobbs decision and the impact has been on your workplaces, Tiff or Brooke, do you want to weigh in here on how maybe things have changed or maybe how they haven’t?

Brooke: Sure. I think for Carrot Fertility, we obviously became aware with the leak of the decision and we quickly needed to act to identify how we wanted to show up for our customers and also support for our members. And so we quickly came out with the option for customers to elect a travel benefit for those members needing reproductive healthcare relative to non-viable pregnancies and abortion. And with that offering of a benefit, it also required work from a platform perspective to ensure that that travel benefit also provided anonymity and security for those members that were leveraging that benefit. And so it was important for us that we provided optionality to our customers very quickly and had a resolution for those members that were residing in states that they would not have access to that care.

Miriam: Super helpful. As we think about who’s in the audience today, the majority of people that are tuning in are small business owners, and we know that being a small business owner means you’re doing a lot of different things. It also means that you may not have immediate access to legal advisors, HR professionals when it comes to reproductive healthcare access. Where would you suggest that small business owners start in this conversation? And maybe Danielle, I’ll throw it to you first.

Danielle: Sure. I definitely want to lift up Don’t Ban Equality as a resource. One of the things that we’re trying to do is a provide best practices. So similar to what Brooke lifted up, what are most employers trying to do in terms of mitigating harm for their workforce? We also are a resource in terms of the latest realities in terms of threats to access to healthcare. So namely, we were afraid in this state legislative session that we would see a lot of state bills criminalizing not only people who are pregnant but also criminalizing employers or aiders and abetters. Luckily, we’re not seeing many of those bills progressing. That being said, that’s a service that the Don’t Ban Equality coalition is providing to make sure that employers feel like they at least can be up to speed on what are the threats, and then also be part of a community to access best practices from their peers and to be able to gut check some of their thinking with pure companies and pure small businesses.

I think the other piece is the Don’t Ban Quality Coalition is working to really empower small businesses to help ensure that reproductive health doesn’t stay a third rail issue. Even though small businesses singularly are small businesses, right? But you all are part of industries, you’re part of Chambers of Commerce potentially, you’re part of business networks, and we know that state legislators in particular are very keen to hear from local business owners and business associations. And so small businesses are small but mighty. So we’ve seen in different state situations, namely an initiative we have underway in North Carolina right now. So for any businesses in North Carolina would love to be in touch that we know that policy makers that are hearing from local businesses, it’s really stemming their ability to advance anti-reproductive health initiatives in the state legislature.

So we’re also trying to equip businesses with talking points with data about how we know research wise that anti-reproductive health measures are reducing talent in the workplace in states, how it drives down interest in employers moving to certain states. So really trying to look at how can we empower businesses and business owners, business leaders to be part of that advocating force to say that reproductive health is not only important for human rights, but it’s also important for a stable economy.

Miriam: Tiff or Brooke, any suggestions on where small business owners can start on this issue?

Tiff: I’m going to defer to Danielle, she is the expert in this space. I work for a rather large company that certainly moved very quickly to action on all fronts. But yeah, no, when I’m in the room with subject matter experts, I am quick to defer, so I will defer to Danielle and Brooke.

Brooke: I don’t know that I have much more to add to Danielle’s very comprehensive response. The only piece that I would add is I think small businesses can start with normalizing conversations. I think conversations around reproductive health have often been followed with stigma. And I think the more companies talk about it, regardless of your size, the more you’re normalizing it and making it okay for people to talk about issues that they’re having as it relates to that. And I think that it’s also providing flexibility in work schedules as it relates to reproductive healthcare. So there’s things that small businesses can do if they’re not at a point of offering a travel benefit or offering a fertility or family forming benefit, I think there’s small acts to help normalize reproductive health in the workplace.

Danielle: So if I can, Miriam, just underscore Brooke, I think that’s so important. And I think just in addition to that, if you’re normalizing that conversation within your own workplace, can you also be normalizing it in conversations with business associations, Chambers of Commerce that you’re a part of? Because part of the issue is we were all caught flat-footed in a way with the Dobbs decision because we had allowed abortion to be a third rail issue when we know it’s so central to the lives and livelihoods of more than half the population. So love what you said, Brooke. Thank you.

Miriam: Yeah, absolutely. And think that this is a conversation that obviously has come into the forefront where more of us are saying, “We will not stand by and not talk about it, and we will have these conversations at the dinner table and we’ll have them in boardrooms and we’ll have them wherever we can have them, and even places where we can’t.” And I think that is so important to say. In the same vein, many of the small business owners that are on this line right now are women, and they may be thinking about family planning, they may be thinking about fertility benefits, maternity leave either for themselves or with their workers or both. And I know that there have been a number of changes at the federal level, so I’d like to start there with you, Danielle. What are the changes that are happening at the federal level? And then I’ll come to you, Brooke, on some suggestions on how they can start thinking through the benefits.

Danielle: Thanks, Miriam. Yeah, so in addition to the doom and gloom that is the Dobbs decision, and similar likely Supreme Court cases and the lack of Congress being able to move forward on certain protections, we can law to that Congress passed to really game-changing pieces of the legislation and the last Congress, both the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act passed as well as the Pump Act. And while those acts only apply to employers with 15 employees or more, they represent a really important, I would say, pivot in terms of the way that employers are thinking about how to protect pregnant employees and also employees that are pumping. And so I think even for businesses that have less than 15 employees, this is a really important piece of legislation to look at in terms of thinking about we know that over 85% of women in the workplace are going to be pregnant at some point during their tenure, during their employment.

And so what does it look like in your business to think about reasonable accommodations to make sure that those pregnant people or those nursing parents don’t feel like they have to leave the workforce, or cut their hours, or have to hide the fact that they’re pregnant or hide the fact that they’re nursing in order to be able to both maintain working and also be healthy and take care of their young ones? So I’ll end there because I know we don’t have a ton of time, but happy to answer more questions, but that’s some exciting landscape shift that we are seeing acknowledgement at least, that even though pregnancy discrimination was passed in 1978, that these laws are not self-actualizing. And so it was really important that Congress and in a bipartisan way acknowledged that pregnant workers and nursing workers were still being discriminated against and forced out of the workplace just for trying to protect their own health and the health of their families.

Miriam: Indeed. I know that we’ve talked quite a bit about the Dobbs decision, and there is actually a number of things in front of the Supreme Court right now that we can expect to come down in the very near future. One of those issues is affirmative action, where we expect that either the Supreme Court will redefine what that means or completely overturn it. Tiff, I want to come to you first on what you think the broader impact might be to business owners depending on how the Supreme Court rules and also, how those business owners can think about preparing themselves for potential state legislation and other bills that are tied to race and gender in the workplace. Oh, I think you might be on mute.

Tiff: Sorry. I was following the best practices and putting myself on mute. But no, the decision’s not even made and it’s having a chilling ripple effect already. Those that are practicing DE&I are feeling very fragile and very vulnerable because of the work and the strides that we’ve made over the last, I would say, 20 years. We’ve had ups and downs before. We certainly have been in different administrations where the specter of that feedback that makes you fragile and vulnerable was always there, certainly with the political affiliations, but it’s never been more heavy than now. And so even prior to the decision being made, there is conversations about pivoting. How do we think about DE&I so that the word is not attacked? And then subsequently the practitioner or what we do as practitioners is not attacked. And then what we think might follow is not just that decision around affirmative action, but then EEOC will be looked at, which is the very core of corporate governance when it comes to supporting people from underrepresented groups and protected groups as well.

And so there’s a lot of threads going on in my world about what it really means. I think the other layer that’s even more dangerous and just frankly mind-boggling is the association of DE&I as the reasons for bank collapse for natural disasters. I started a Google tracker just keeping track of the things that DE&I is being blamed for just so I can have, it’s only up to three now, but it’s three more than it ever was. And so that dangerous narrative is also causing that feeling of fragility. And with doing this work, you already feel open, you already feel very vulnerable. You’re already a source of comfort for those that are not only within a corporate environment, but certainly outside of it. But I think until I would say the last four or five years, what we were thinking as practitioners, as CDOs wasn’t really heard or thought of. So the plus side of this is that people are being more willing and they’re more open to talking about the effect of this. But I can tell you, it’s chilling and the decision hasn’t even been made yet.

Miriam: Yeah, absolutely. I mean as a fellow CDO and I force myself to read The Wall Street Journal every single day, and I read it over the weekend and saw exactly what you’re referring to, this idea that a focus on diversity and inclusion could somehow bring down the collapse of one of the country’s largest banks. And this representation of a board that is still overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly white just calls into question a number of things. And also, as you see a lot of these tech layoffs happening, you see a lot of the systematic dismantlement of these programs that frankly, in many companies have only been committed to in the last three years and then to be dismantling them so soon is…

Tiff: Yeah. I always say not even Silicon Valley, when these kinds of things happen, when they get a cold, not-for-profits and small businesses get… I’m sorry, when they sneeze, not-for-profits and small businesses get a cold. And so the ripple effect of what’s happening, the pulling away of resources, a lot of companies, a lot of small businesses scaled up to support these efforts. And now the pulling back of those resources, you’re leaving a lot of these companies with no way to continue to be in existence. And so I’m watching it very carefully. And as someone who runs a not-for-profit, it is a very sensitive time for all of us and a not-for-profit that’s focused on DE&I, wow. It couldn’t be more of a fragile time than right now.

Miriam: Yeah, you are absolutely right in the eye of the storm there, Tiff. Wow. Danielle, Brooke, Tiff, I wish we had two more hours to talk because there are so many more places to go, but we also have the next panel coming in. Thank you so much for spending a little bit of time with us. I hope folks out in the audience who have additional questions will think about following these wonderful folks that have been so kind to share their wisdom and experiences with us today. Thank you so much.

Tiff: Thank you.

Brooke: Thank you so much, Miriam.

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