4 min read

Leaf Group VP of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Talent Management, Tara Turk-Haynes on Developing DEI Programs

Leaf Group VP of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Talent Management, Tara Turk-Haynes on Developing DEI Programs

In this episode, I had the chance to sit down with a former colleague and friend. Tara Turk-Haynes is now the VP of diversity, equity & inclusion and talent management at Leaf Group. After we caught up, I wanted to know all about Leaf Group and her inspired work there.

“Leaf Group is a company that owns media and marketplace brands. They are active in lifestyle categories,” she explains. “We make these lifestyle categories accessible for everyone. It’s such an impactful business, because I like to tell people that what really motivates me every day is that a lot of companies focus on the consumer, but we also have this other category of people, the creative community that really drives those brands and those platforms. And we change people’s lives.”

Join us as we discuss developing DEI programs and how her roles in Leaf Group inform her decisions and help to pave the way forward.

You can also listen/share the episode directly syndicated on any of these channels: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcast | Stitcher | TuneIn.

Finding the Intersection Between DEI and Talent Management

It was love at first interview between Tara and Leaf Group, “The role opened up, I interviewed just like everybody else. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, she’s here, and she just kind of stepped into it.’ They were like, ‘You want it? Go through the process.’ And I thought that was amazing because that’s a sign of equitability.”

It was a sign of things to come. Tara now holds two roles - DEI and talent management, “I was telling someone yesterday, it’s an odd combination of talent management and DEI. Cause people go, ‘How do those go together?’ But for me, it makes complete sense because inclusion and diversity and all of those different things start the moment you apply for a role, right? Like you’re getting to know that company, you understand what their values are. You are welcome. It’s an inclusive sort of experience that you have. And then you join the company, and that should still then continue. How you integrate DEI into your business is like, a prime example of integration and not making it an add-on.”

Educators Have a Right to Tell the Truth

The social justice climate after George Floyd’s murder and the difficult conversations around racial equity has produced a lot of verbal commitments from companies without any follow-through. However, that is not Tara or Leaf Group. I ask Tara what it was like for her as a black woman to navigate and transition into this role while experiencing this moment in time.

“Sometimes those around you were wearing different glasses, and then all of a sudden they just take their glasses off, and they’re looking like,’ Oh, is this what you’ve been doing? Oh, wait, this is your experience.’”

Tara points out, “It’s almost like we’ve been trying to tell you what’s going on for so long. And like now we’re at this moment where we are having these actual conversations. So personally, that’s how I felt. And then just really day-to-day disappointment about how things were being handled in the world. You’re having this, uh, this awakening, but you’re also seeing that systems weren’t changing.”

“I threw myself into the role because I was passionate about one thing really, which is that: from an educational standpoint, we all don’t have uniform education. Like the reason why we’re in this situation is because you can curate what you teach kids nowadays. When I grew up, Detroit was nearly 90% black middle-class, and we were very clear about how black history informed American history. Was that the case when I went to college and met people from other areas?”

“No, because that wasn’t important, right? And so, a uniform educational system doesn’t really exist. And so you have people walking around with pockets of gaps and misinformation.”

“I also saw a quote the other day that educators have a right to tell the truth.”

Developing DEI Programs That See Real Results

I drilled down to the HR side of things from Tara’s perspective. How does she feel about where we are now, and developing DEI initiatives that actually work.

“I do feel like there are people who would be much more comfortable not keeping the conversation current at all because of discomfort. There are a lot of people who have defaulted back to silence.”

“From a business standpoint, it's really hard because supposedly business is about metrics and data. How are we measuring our progress? And there isn't a uniform way to say that DEI is working within business. You could do quotas, but quotas mean nothing.”

“You've got systems that you need to really dig deep into, and I hope that's the direction that we're going into, where we're diving into systems. I think small things make a huge difference. I was on a panel the other day where I was talking about our goal now with our employee resource groups is to have them on our panels for interviewing sometime soon. So if there's somebody who wants to join Leaf Group, they can ask an ERG, like, ‘What's it like really to work here given we have a shared experience?’ There were so many HR people that thought like, ‘That's an amazing idea.’ And I was like, ‘I didn't come up with it. It's not like mine. I'm trying to make an effort to push the conversation.’”

People in This Episode

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