This episode, originally recorded as a DEI Community Call, features a conversation with Claude Silver, as she discusses her role as Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia. Discover how to create sustainable change, and how organizations need to evolve during these times. Claude reveals how she works to infuse her organization with empathy, and how to create a workforce culture where everyone feels like they belong.
In this episode you’ll discover:
- How Claude came to her unique role and job description at VaynerMedia (13:00)
- How to enlist partners within your organization to create positive change (22:00)
- The importance of training and education (24:30)
- How VaynerMedia looked at diversity within their suppliers (28:00)
- The growing importance of DE&I within organizations (33:45)
- The importance of looking at people as individuals (38:30)
- How to address “Zoom burnout” and fatigue (42:00)
- How every buying decision can be a strategic one (49:00)
- The need for psychological safety within organizations (57:00)
Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:
JENNIFER BROWN: So without further ado, Claude, I would love to jump on in here. Introduce yourself to the group and tell us a little bit about your role and your very unusual job title. I always like to invite you to talk about that and anything you’d like to share about how you ended up where you are. And then we’ll jump into the questions that we have gone over in our preparation call.
CLAUDE SILVER: Amazing. Well, thank you for having me. Hello everyone. My name is Claude Silver. I am the chief heart officer VaynerMedia. I work with a prolific person named Gary Vaynerchuk. Some of you may or may not know him. He’s very outspoken on social, wonderful, wonderful person. I have been in the world of advertising for gosh, almost 30 years. Somehow I was on my way to get my master’s in social work a long time ago in San Francisco. And in 1998, I took a left turn somewhere and ended up in the world of digital and just knew in my heart of hearts I would continue being a people person and a mentor and a coach and a guide for anyone that I came in contact with just because I love people. And I was a strategist as they call them in advertising agencies for a very long time.
When I met Gary, I was living in London. I was running strategy for Publicist London, which is an advertising agency, and he and I met, and kind of just fell for one another immediately. It was obvious that we were two sides of the same coin. Anyone not know Gary, just raise your hands.
JENNIFER BROWN: Good question.
CLAUDE SILVER: Yeah. Great. And I started at Vayner as a head of client service and I was running the Unilever accounts, a lot of big accounts that I had already done in my life. And on my year, Vaynerversary we called them. I went to him and I said, “Thank you so much. This has been a wonderful ride. I love it here and I’m done. I no longer want to work in advertising.” I just was, I was so done. It didn’t matter to me if the package of Coca Cola or Trident was blue, green, yellow. I didn’t care.
It was killing my soul. And he said, “What is it that you want to do?” And I said, “I only care about the heartbeat of this place. I only care about the people.” And by that time, he and I had enough of an understanding of each other that we were really two sides of the same coin. And we created this role, which is very much a mixture of chief people officer, chief culture officer, inspiration officer, somewhat of a therapist some days, definitely a coach, a mentor and I oversee everything that is people. In other companies, it’s called HR. I changed the name to people and experience for obvious reasons. We’re dealing with people and their experience. And I said to Gary when I took this job, I said, “Great, how do we know if I’m successful? All right, there’s no job out there like this.”
And he said, “You will touch every single employee and you will infuse the agency with empathy.” So that continues to be my job description and I love it. It means that my job is never done, which is fantastic. And as we are now here, we’re beyond the precipice. We are inside of a new day in terms of the black lives matter movement and where we are with COVID and working from home, this role has never been more important. And the role I’m looking for in terms of a chief diversity officer really has never been more crucial than it is today. I’m really looking for that partner to really fly wingtip to wingtip with. So that’s a very long spiel, but I’m thrilled to be here and see all of these great faces and the chats that are coming in.
JENNIFER BROWN: They’re coming in and people are offering open positions too as well and then we will make sure we share the job description that Claude is going to be talking about here as well with everybody. But I was really fascinated how a chief heart officer that is so oriented to DNI as you are Claude, comes to the realization, and with Gary as well, that you need to actually dedicate a role to this, that you are at that point in your evolution. And that not that you ever wing it because you don’t, but there’s so much you realize at some point that you’re not the specialist, and that it to be a dedicated specialist.
And then talk about what you’ve learned maybe as you formulated the initial scoping, and what has changed, what you’ve realized, because I think that this audience will find that really interesting. Because we’re always thinking about what are the gaps in my own qualifications and what are clients going to be looking for in me, and then where do I go to close those gaps? Which is I think an even harder question, because so much of this field is made up as I’ve believed anyway… of sort of proximity to actual… like the actual work. Like I did this here, or I participated in this, or I led this, or I supported this effort.
And so when we come to the table often, it’s about having seen how things play out and having understood what made things successful, what didn’t make them successful, how we would do it differently. And the number, we’re almost… our currency I think as practitioners is so much around this experience based foundation, not really book learning at all, really. And then it’s also married with identity, right? So if I can speak to my identity, my lived experience, and that can be a lens that I then lead this work through, that’s powerful. And then the whole skill set, I think around change management and organizational design and technology more and more than ever. So it’s really, it’s very dynamic. You’re discovering this Claude. You’re discovering, like, how much of a grab bag it is. So tell us about what this has been like so far.
CLAUDE SILVER: It’s a miracle I’m not full of gray hair yet. Oh my gosh. It’s been such a learning experience and a humbling experience. I think not only taking care of and working for 850 people every single day as we are in this world where emotions are high, where my job literally is to hold the emotion, not take it on. Empathize remember, infuse the agency with empathy. Empathize with what’s going on in all of our communities, but really spring into action. And so the actions that I’ve taken thus far, and I’ll go into some of those have gotten me yay far, but I really, we really need someone who lives and breathes DE&I day in and day out and day in and day out in a different way than I do. I do because I’m a human. I do because I love humans. I am interested in not only the pain of human beings, but really helping people unlock so that they can thrive.
That’s fantastic. That’s terrific. That’s why I would have been a great psychologist, but that’s very different than specializing in DE and I, as it comes to the employee experience and what’s needed there from soup to nuts. And really, what we’re looking for. I mean, you started to talk about the grab bag, but we’re looking for someone who not necessarily has done this tried and true at all of the big major companies in the world because they haven’t because it just hasn’t been around. We haven’t been awake for that long in this world of DE&I. Right. But we’re only now using the word equity. We were using equality 18 months ago, thats a big jump, right? How do you explain that?
But I’d love to find someone who as I was explaining to Jennifer earlier has done bits and bobs of this so that they can come to me and Gary and say, “You’re baking a bread. I understand you’re baking bread. I know that these five ingredients are needed for the bread, and there are other ingredients that are needed, but I can tell you, because I’ve made this bread other places, these five you must have.” And then we can say, “Great, well, we’ve got these other three and we’re going to go, we’re going to build the pan together and get the grease together and put it in the oven.” So I like to talk in analogies a lot and metaphors because it makes sense to me. And so what are those five ingredients? Well, I can tell you what I think they are on paper, but I haven’t done those things. I haven’t merged. I haven’t looked at the entire employee experience and candidate experience with a fine tune lens on DE and I. I have looked at it in places. I certainly know what our ratios are.
I know where we’re lacking. I know where to go in some cases to find diverse candidates, but boy, oh boy, I know that much of the pie. So anyway, I don’t even know if I answered a question there other than really getting into the nitty gritty of how necessary this role is today more than ever, and how necessary this role is to have a, it’s not a seat at the table. It’s to have a real major seat at the table. It’s a C-suite role. We are an independent agency where everyone really does have a voice. There’s enormous amounts of autonomy at our company. I get to make up my job every single day. That’s what I’m talking about. And so this person in this role needs to really have a passion and a purpose, and really a love of discovery and a love of people and wanting to find right with us. There is a right I’m sure in the universe when it comes to DE and I, and there’s going to be a right that works for the culture at Vayner. And I’m interested in doing that with someone.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s so awesome. What a beautiful way to describe the opportunity. You’ve got a white male leader in Gary that is a really … breaks the mold in a million ways. So I know that it comes up a lot on these calls how do we influence our leaders, who most often, maybe unlike Gary, have not been on this journey. And so I don’t know if you can speak … I know pre Gary, I know you probably tried to influence a whole lot of people around these values that we’ve been talking about. So is there advice for folks on the call about influencing those kinds of leaders who have … who really lack a lot of I think the lived experience that many of us draw from, whether we’re LGBTQ, people of color, et cetera. And I think because of that, it takes a lot more work to kind of meet us and meet us in these conversations.
And I’m sure Gary had an evolution since knowing you and also sort of inflecting through these times of great change. You’ve probably seen him maybe who knows, I would imagine that had a lot to do with the fact that you decided to dedicate a position. And so how has this experience of these last four months or five months been for all of you, but for him in particular and can you describe any shifts that have happened and help us understand how we enlist our very powerful partners in this work.
CLAUDE SILVER: Yeah. I love the question because it really is such an authentic one and it’s so necessary to help all of us, myself included, look at what our biases are and the fact that what we need to remember is when you say, I don’t see color or I don’t see sex, that’s actually not, that’s not going to be helpful.
JENNIFER BROWN: It’s not helpful.
CLAUDE SILVER: I think that all of us at leadership positions at one point in our lives might’ve thought that that was the right thing to say because it was kind of like a common denominator thing to say, and it was politically correct. We thought we weren’t stepping on anyone’s toes. And now I think what we’ve understood, and I’m speaking for now the experience that we went through, what Gary and I have gone through is that you actually need to see color. You need to see gender, you need to see everything. And when he and I recognized that we had a gap where not only are leaders not knowing what to say, they were very weary of stepping into conversations, sensitive conversations, courageous conversations as I call them, hard conversations. It just became so apparent that he and I aren’t going to be in every place at every time.
I can’t be in every single conversation. I’m not on the account side. I don’t know what’s happening on the Budweiser team today or on the Chase team today. So we needed to get some education and training and pronto. And we did bring in a phenomenal consultant who trained all of the leadership. So that’s 85 people on not only unconscious bias, microaggression, racism, anti-racism and allyship. And I had that the two weeks after the protest after George Floyd’s death, I brought that person in so that we hit the ground running pretty much. Obviously it’s not one and done. You then need to become a practitioner of having those courageous conversations and understanding what it’s like to actually hold space and not have all the answers, because I don’t know who has all the answers today.
But know what it’s like to at least hold that conversation with empathy, with non-judgment, checking your bias at the door and really help navigate as best you can the raw emotion that is happening right now in the world, and especially in our agency with our black and brown communities, it’s been transformational. It’s been humbling. And it’s been, I don’t have another word other than intense as you can imagine. We’re a microcosm of the macro. So it was just very apparent to us that training and education was extremely important and now it had to start at the top. I had to bring it in at the top, top, top, and now we will bring it through the entire rest of the organization, which is over 850 people now.
Yeah, so there are so many … I mean, it’s almost, and I mean, this in the best way, it’s a game of whack-a-mole and that’s what it was like for me for a while, which is, I’m only as good as my … as fast as I can go. And I need to go as fast as I can authentically and be taking care of people as I do that. So we need a lot of support and really everyone having their eyes wide open to the incredible time that we’re all living in right now.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah. You know, I want to ask you a question about the agency role you play. I wonder if there’s any pressure being applied from your clients inwards or whether you have a seat at the table to influence them. You just mentioned Budweiser and others. It just made me curious about… I’m fascinated always to think about the sources of change, right? Where does the appetite come from? And there is often a mismatch everywhere, right? Between where an agency is that’s serving clients and those clients. And it can be either way, right? It can be, one is more ahead of the curve and the other is hesitant or the other is very ahead and saying, you need to catch up to where we are in order to be our agency.
And so I wondered if that played any sort of role in how you’re looking at it now. And do you think there’s an accountability or have you experienced an accountability that flows back and forth between you and your clients? And maybe are you in a teaching role for some of your clients? Are you guiding them or maybe not yet, but as soon as this person comes on board, it would be something that’s more overt perhaps.
CLAUDE SILVER: I love, love, love the question. And it’s the right question to ask, because we very quickly had to remind our clients in the best way that we could, that we are not activists for them. We’re advocates, but we are not activists. We cannot tell them what to do on Juneteenth. We cannot tell them if they’re going to boycott Facebook and social in the month of July. We can advise, but we are not going to be activists. That’s really, really important. We can be activists in our own personal lives, whatever we do on our personal accounts, great. But we can literally just advise. And so that was very quickly, we had to come to that understanding, and it was Gary that really helped us come to that understanding.
And there has been a nice flow now and he’s had enough conversations and we’ve had enough conversations with people at the tops of those the brands that we all know and love, with their CMOs and their VPs and directors and even in some cases, their internal HR teams to really help guide them with what our POV is. Our point of view is one of a thousand, right? But I feel like we’ve been on the right track there. The other thing that we’ve done is, and something we did starting four years ago is we started to look at the diversity of our suppliers. So our vendors, we’re an advertising agency. We use production companies, we use film companies and all of these things, and I’m happy to say we did get ahead of that four years ago, thankfully.
And so we do have a really wonderful mixture of diversity when it comes to our vendors and our suppliers. That’s also something that we’ve been asked to measure and report on. I was working with J&J the other day, and they are actively asking all of their agencies and there are many agencies that they work with to not only report, but also tell them what we are doing, what we are hand on heart and doing internally for our people and what we will always do. And so I was really happy that we had, again, gotten ahead of that very quickly. As I mentioned right after George Floyd, the murder of George Floyd and the protest, that was a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we came into work and got all the CRGs or community resource groups, similar to ERGs together, held the emotion, which was a lot.
And everyone was asking, “What are you doing? What are you going to do about this? What are you going to do about this?” And literally what I said is, “I’m going to partner with you on all of this. I’m not going to be the driver. I’m not the right driver for this, but I can partner with you so that you have the voice and I am literally your champion. And I will take this through the end zone with you, but I don’t want to be the one holding the ball because it’s not my ball, it’s our ball to take forward.”
So we quickly figured out what were the initiatives that we wanted to create in the work streams. And we have project managers assigned to each work stream, whether or not it’s recruiting, it’s transparency of reporting, it’s speakers and bringing speakers internally. It’s resourcing, it’s oh my gosh. It’s mentorship. It’s that you can imagine that it’s the whole gamut of this topic that we are digging into now. And so I was able to share that with J&J and corporate, I let them know what we’re doing. So I’m giving you a lot of information here just-
JENNIFER BROWN: People are loving it. No, this is great. Did you add any CRGs? Did you feel you had the right ones in place given all the change and what do you foresee, maybe creating that you didn’t have before going forward?
CLAUDE SILVER: Well, the first thing I want to say is I don’t create any of these. These are self-created and self-governing, and they are autonomous, and they named themselves. So Vaynoire is the group for people of color that identify as black. There are the Vamigos that are Latino, and they identify as Latino, whether or not there’s a crossover between amigos and noire it’s up to them. There’s another group of Asian, Asian Americans called Vasians. There’s the LGBT pride group, which I’m in. So all of these groups have sprung forth. They get a budget and I literally am their executive sponsor.
So they are doing their … they are really in the heart of all of this. If a group wanted to spring up tomorrow because they felt that they were not represented, then they literally would. So I think that’s the first thing I want to say is that they are all … that’s the autonomy that people have at Vayner to create what they believe needs to be created. We are also creating a multicultural marketing center of excellence as we speak. Literally, I think the plans are going to Gary tomorrow. The fact that we have to call it multicultural is an issue because all marketing needs to be for everyone. But I’m at least glad that we are putting our money where our mouth is and we will have the center of excellence which will literally be a repository of how to market to different cultures and intersectionality of cultures.
JENNIFER BROWN: There’s a couple of questions. I don’t know if you’d be willing to share what your funding is for your CRGs. No pressure. I know that’s probably proprietary Claude. There’s other questions around recognition for those who are leading CRGs. Boy, I think now more than ever, CRGs are adding a reputational value, a professional development value. They literally are a talent pipeline that I think is often unrecognized, maybe not at Vayner, but in larger companies. One of the value propositions I embrace so much is that CRGs put talent on the radar screen. And in a virtual world, this gets a little more complicated because the radar screen, so to speak, is different when you don’t have the bumping into each other in the hallway or getting introduced spontaneously to somebody. We’ve lost some of that, but how are we recognizing the tremendous important contribution of the CRG voice to literally helping the enterprise navigate these tricky waters right now?
CLAUDE SILVER: I love that you brought that up and I’m trying to think of the right, how to really actually say what I want to say, which is they are everything right now. They are the brain. They are the knowledge center. There is not one conversation. Okay. Maybe out of all my conversations in a day, maybe one does not revolve around diversity, equity and inclusivity, and maybe one. This is what we’re doing. They are the brain trust. I bring the leads, the CRG leads, who I’m meeting with at least three or four times a week, to meet with Gary once a week. We just did our meeting on Tuesday, where it was just the best brainstorm in the world. And he literally was like, “Claude, I need another meeting like this 45 minutes this week.” I mean, that’s awesome because he’s riffing off. Gary is such a creative and so you bring him something, he reacts to it.
The next thing you know, he’s talking about how we can get Beyonce in to talk to our company, whether or not we can or can’t doesn’t matter, but apparently he was going to a panel with TI. And it’s just, it’s pretty amazing having someone like that leading our company. So they, as far as I’m concerned are the center of excellence and it is based around intersectionality. I’m making sure, as we are interviewing the CDO candidate that they are understanding that we need to be discussing and our hands need to be in everything, not just black lives matter movement. We really need to be understanding where we are today with the world of intersectionality on a global level. What are we doing about …
We ran a wonderful pronoun campaign last year. So now everyone pronouns in their signature. That by the way was brought to me by someone in the pride group who just said, “Why aren’t we doing this? Well, write it up. Let’s do it.” So the recognition I think is pretty major. When I was in one of our C-suite meetings, I don’t know, four or five weeks ago, I said to my fellow partners, they’re like, “It can’t just be me in these meetings because A, I’m already a part of a diversity group because I’m lesbian, but we need more senior leaders.” And we have people that are people of color in our senior leadership. So what’s been great is that there’s been a really nice cross sectionality of all different people from all different parts of the agency now in these major CRG meetings that we have on Fridays. Anyway, I really just want everyone to come in and check it out. I’m like an open door, like please come into our meetings. I know, I can’t do that but-
JENNIFER BROWN: I wish we could do that. I think this group would show up honestly.
CLAUDE SILVER: I’m just, I’m proud of what our people have done and all they needed was a yes. All they needed was to be told that they’re not alone, that we are here and yes. What do you … like yes and, yes and, yes and.
JENNIFER BROWN: Always, love it. There’s a question here around CRGs that represent all demographics, each demographic versus multiple ones that have folded together. So that’s one piece, and then should we include white males as members or limit their participation to being allies. And I did sort of tagging onto that, I wonder if all of the focus that you all have has made some others feel kind of like, where do I fit or that whole kind of, I don’t call it backlash, but I think it’s this tension that they’re probably navigating right now.
CLAUDE SILVER: Yep. So the first question, the CRGs are open to everyone. So you can be whomever you are, and you can be a white male and you can be a white female and join the Amigos or noire. They’re open to everyone. So that’s the great thing. You don’t have to call yourself an ally. You can just be John and want to be part of the Vasians group, because you want to be, not because you’re forced to be. So that’s the first thing. I think the second question is one that Gary and I have been talking about, I will say since the Me Too movement, which is our white males and ensuring as best we can that we are not segregating them.
We are not making them feel any less than. We are bringing awareness to them and thus the greater agency that, we’re all going through our own things here. We can’t just say all white males are X. That’s not right. You can’t say all black people are Y or all gay people are Z. That’s not how we’re going to get anywhere in this world. So we’ve been very vocal that we never want the pendulum to swing too far to the right or too far to the left. And our eyes are always on that I have to say. So I think there was another question about CRGs, but I spaced on it already.
JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, it’s okay. Let’s see. Let’s see. Well, let me pause. Does anybody like to come off of mute and ask Claude a question as we’re reviewing the chat?
CLAUDE SILVER: Some great questions here.
JENNIFER BROWN: I know.
SHAZIA:I have a question.
CLAUDE SILVER: Hi.
SHAZIA: My name’s Shazia. Thanks for being here, Claude. I actually heard Gary Vee talk about you on Lattice’s podcast. So I checked you out online. I was really excited that you were going to be on Jennifer’s call. So I heard on the podcast that he mentioned that you were doing 12 by 12s with employees. So it was like 12 minutes with 12 employees. So I wanted to hear about that. And also you mentioned like everything is self-generated. So how are you inspiring the team or how is that going? Because I think the novelty of working from home for our company has worn off and we all work really hard.
And in office, we were incredible. People would come into our office and say, “This is like a shot of adrenaline.” And now it’s tough because we’re all remote. Everyone seems like kind of overworked. And I’ve been leading the DNI initiative, rolled it out, rolled out the strategy, but I’m like very new at this. So I was wondering if you had any thoughts.
CLAUDE SILVER: Great. Well, it’s lovely to meet you. Thank you. And that was a great podcast. I caught some of that. Okay, so let’s take … I might have spaced out on the first question because I was so involved in the second part of the question. Can you repeat the first one?
SHAZIA: Yeah. The first one was just around the 12 by 12.
CLAUDE SILVER: That’s right. Yeah. So, okay. Two weeks into us working from home, maybe it was the end of the first week, Gary and I were on the phone and I just said, “Gosh, I’m missing the energy of everyone. I just miss the hallways. I miss the office visits. I miss everything.” And he said, “You have to bring it online.” He said, “Why don’t you just call it 12 by 12?” Because he likes to brand things. So really it’s around 12:00 or 12:30 every other day. It’s usually 12 to 20 people. It’s about 20 minutes long. And it is literally just bringing people together, very loose. We’re chatting about how’s it going? I’m doing an icebreaker. We might do a quick scavenger hunt and that’s it. And that’s literally it. And so it’s literally, I’m looking at everyone on the screen. And what I love is that people from London are joining with people from LA, who have never met.
People who work in New York, but in different departments on different floors have never met. I’m getting, like it’s selfish. I missed everyone. So I get to really vibe off of them. And it’s just, it’s terrific. Today I was speaking to a new hire in London and what was so wonderful is I had met him on a 12 by 12. And so I had already a little bit of an essence of him, which I really liked a lot. So it’s literally just our way of connecting and it’s connecting outside of work. It’s giving people just a little bit of a break. Now, I wish we could go to the park and do it but we can’t because we all do have Zoom fatigue and that is true.
One of the things Gary and I were speaking about two days ago, Tuesday, was we want to do this. So everyone is getting burnt out. That’s just a fact. And we don’t know … we think we’re going to be here for three more months. I don’t know how long we’re going to be here for. And so he wants to now do something a little bit more formal with getting all wine lovers together, getting all people together that love to ski. He wants to … I’m a tennis player. He wants to get all the tennis players together. So he wants to change these 12 by 12s a little bit to something a little bit more niche. And I’ll see how that goes. Everything is so, it’s just so organic that we … that’s the beauty is you just get to kind of build something from the ground up knowing that because we put people first and because we really do put our money where our mouth is there, that anything really is possible because the safety is already there.
The safety of when someone sees that I put on, I hate catch up with Claude. That’s not a oh my God, what did I do wrong? They know me now that it’s like I just want to hear what’s it like. How is London today? What’s it like when you walk out of the house? Someone told me today that you can now go into restaurants and eat because they’re giving 50% off. And I’m like, “Oh my God. And eat inside? I don’t even know what to say about that.” So that’s the 12 by 12s twelves and the essence of that. And yeah, and I’m really … this is literally a 12 by 12 except I’m doing most of the talking.
JENNIFER BROWN: Thanks Claude. That was awesome. Other questions, anyone else like to come off mute? I’m checking the chat here, Claude.
LILA: Can I ask about the minority owned businesses in the supply chain? I know that many minority communities have been desperately impacted by COVID and a lot of different ways. And I’m wondering how that has, has that impacted continuing to diversify and support a wider range of suppliers for businesses? How is that challenge going?
CLAUDE SILVER: I can speak to it really only internally because I’m internally focused. One of the things that we did with the CRGs is we created a fund where the Vaynoire to be perfectly truthful, it wasn’t all the CRGs, decided on 10 small to medium size organizations that they wanted us to donate to. And we created a fund that is now the VaynerMedia black lives movement fund, where anyone can donate up to a hundred dollars and we will match that donation. There are a number of different organizations within that fund that I’m happy to share offline. I just don’t have it in front of me, but that was something that the group was very passionate about doing.
And instead of donating to the NAACP or some of the other larger organizations, which by all means need help, but this allowed us to really talk to and touch much more grassroots organizations that this group had more of an affiliation with or had more of a draw towards. So that’s how I can answer that question just because I’m not on the marketing side of the company any longer. But one of the things that we do with one of our media properties, which is called One 37 PM is if you go to one37pm.com, you can go there or go on Instagram.
That is a media company that is working with small to midsize diverse organizations that for example sell shirts or sell products like CPG products and whatnot. And they do some kind of trans editorial and advertorial type of marketing deal there. Again, I don’t speak eloquently about it just because I’m not in it, but I’m happy to find someone that can speak to … that could answer that question a little bit more eloquently than I can. But the fund is one thing that I’m extremely proud of. We’ve already made … the employees have made up to $10,000 in donations already, so we’ll match that. And this is out of, I’m just thrilled that they’re doing it. It’s global. So our London team, our London part of the Vaynoire has added in organizations that are near and dear to them too.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s so great. As a woman owned and LGBT owned firm at JBC, this is a favorite topic of mine. And remember that you can be involved in supplier diversity decisions and should be. Your CRGs should in my opinion have a pillar, a strategic pillar dedicated to helping the company, advise the company on the supply chain and the diversity in those supply chains and minority and woman owned is now required, a certain amount of spend is required with diverse owned companies if your company does work with the government, I guess, but LGBT there’s no similar requirements. But the companies that value us as an LGBT owned firm, they’re not waiting for requirements. They’re creating their own. They’re creating their own percentages that they want to diversify their supply chain with. And so I’m so grateful to all of those organizations that I’ve met many through the NGLCC, which is the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
And so it’s a really like hardcore, concrete, economic way, especially in COVID times to support your diverse suppliers who are more at risk for all the systemic inequality and equity issues that we have been learning about. So every buying decision can be a strategic one. And I think the CRGs are an amazing feeder to put suppliers on the radar screen of the company and then sort of to usher them through the somewhat arduous process of actually getting registered to do, to sell goods and services to a company, which is complicated. So anyway, I just think that’s something I’d really like to see more ERGs take on in a more concrete way. Just wanted to make that point. Thank you. Claude, other questions you see in the chat that you’d like to talk about?
CLAUDE SILVER: I have a question that I’ll just call out that’s a jump ball, which is what do you all think the number one, two, three things that I want to be looking at when it comes to hiring a chief diversity officer?
JENNIFER BROWN: Ooh, what a question for the group. Let’s hear from you all in chat. So Claude is in typical, like super humble fashion, knowing what you don’t know. And yet knowing that there’s a lot of … There’s an art and science to being an effective DEI leader and someone like Claude appreciates both of those things. And they’re so important. But what do you say, what do you say about critical expertise, skills, knowledge, experience? Do you believe it’s important to have somebody from a certain industry, from the agency world? I wondered Claude, if you had thought about and maybe modified your position at all on that. Like are you definitely constraining that?
CLAUDE SILVER: No, not at all.
JENNIFER BROWN: Not at all.
CLAUDE SILVER: No. This person doesn’t need to come from the world of advertising. I think being in the world right now is probably enough, but having the experience of working at companies is important and companies that are at least, that are, I would say we’re 850 globally right now that so companies that are at least 500 would be helpful. You don’t need to know advertising. I think that that’s something that you can pick up because you’re a human being that is interested in human beings and human behavior, but by no means do you need to know what it’s like to work on a P&G brand.
JENNIFER BROWN: Got it. Cool. There’s a lot of thoughts coming in here.
CLAUDE SILVER: Let me look here.
JENNIFER BROWN: Empathy, a balance between being a smee, a collaborator, and a pair of hands, all rolled into one. Somebody is recommending not just one CDO, there’s a lot of facets. So putting sort of all the hopes and dreams and responsibility into one person. That’s a very valid point, I think. Although, I know your intent is to have this person then kind of come in and do a needs analysis and then recommend what the team would look like. Right?
CLAUDE SILVER: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Authenticity, I just saw something that was … Oh data analytics, building across horizontally. Really, really great. I like it. This is positive action steps with a sustainability framework that allows evolution of DE and I. Yep. I like that too. I mean, we are hiring someone for today, but obviously, this person, I would like them to be thinking about tomorrow and whatever the world is going to look like in three, five and 10 years, which we’ll do that together. Being able to influence is really important. I saw that as well, demonstrated life learner. Yup. Forward thinker.
JENNIFER BROWN: I like storyteller who shares well with the board of the executive committee.
CLAUDE SILVER: I like that a lot.
JENNIFER BROWN: Really good.
CLAUDE SILVER: Great. I want to go to a question I saw someone write and I’ve never been asked this question, so I want to make sure I get to it, which is about the formation of religious CRGs.
JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you.
CLAUDE SILVER: And that’s a really interesting question. And my answer is yes. I think that micro cultures that want to create safe spaces where they can have one another is extremely important. The only sidebar I see there is that for us, the CRGs are open. And so my only request with CRGs that are open and certainly one that would be based around religion is that there is freedom of speech, of course. And there is a not only a humility, but a generosity of spirit when someone is in one of those CRGs. This is not a place to say that your religion is wrong. This is a place to further understand and want to learn and grow potentially about that religion.
So I like the CRGs because they are places where people feel safe. Psychological safety we know is the first and only thing that really we’re doing every single day as people leaders. Everything else adds on top of that, belonging and making sure people feel valued and that they matter and that they’re connecting all of that stuff, which then creates creativity and inspiration. But if people feel as though they’re creating something that then will be criticized or dug up and excavated, for me, that’s not safety. That is something that I would have a real issue with. So anyway, just wanted to get to that question because I thought it was important. We do have a … when we’re in the office, every single office has what we call a meditation room, which many, many people use for prayer. And that seems to work well thus far. It’s not a CRG by any means, unless there are more than one person coming into the room, but-
JENNIFER BROWN: Right, right. And let me add a follow up on that. There may be some resistance on the part of perhaps the LGBTQ network. And so the need for clear guidance about like what the charter is of the network and the sort of purpose that it exists. So you’re being a member of the LGBTQ community, I wondered what your viewpoint was on that and how you would ensure the right kind of psychological safety for all in that kind of scenario. Because I know maybe Vayner, it wouldn’t happen that way at Vayner, but I know that many of the companies represented here that are in different parts of the country, different industries, there’s probably a lot of tension around this discussion.
CLAUDE SILVER: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t think any of us would deny the fact that we need to constantly be educated and educating ourselves and educating the rest of our company and our cultures on what it means to feel other and the damage that can do to a person or a group of people. So I think that we need to tread into those areas with open hearts and with science in some way. I mean, I think we need to be very … with data. Data is the word I’m looking for. I think we need to be deliberate when it comes to creating safety for people and especially people that have been outcasted or that are other, or are non-binary. Things that, not things.
There’s a whole new world happening and it’s happening pretty quickly, whether or not it is through what’s happening in our country through black lives matter, whether or not it is what’s happening with our younger generations in terms of their sexual fluidity and the freedom that they feel internally at their house, in their schools, but creating this type of psychological safety is something that we need to infuse all of our organizations with. And whether or not that’s by having your CEO and leadership look at Amy Edmondson’s work or Jennifer’s work or reading up on what the lack of safety does to a human being.
I just, I feel like soon enough the economy will right itself one way or the other. There will be an enormous amount of talent out there. There will be an enormous need for all of us to retain our high performing employees. And so they’re looking for more than candy bars and foosball tables as we well know. And who knows when we’re going to go back anyway to an office with candy bars and foosball tables, but they’re looking for purpose and growth and development, and they want to work at a place that makes them feel proud and seen and recognized, and that they do matter.
And so you can double click into anything I just said. How do you make someone feel seen? Well, you have to understand who they are. And that takes us moving a little bit out of our own comfort zone to study what it is to be non-binary. That takes us out of our comfort zone to understand what it is to really look at our own whiteness or our own racism. And these are real … they’re such sensitive times, I have chills just thinking about it. The opportunities that are in front of us and opportunities are always going to be laced with challenge.
JENNIFER BROWN: That’s so beautiful. I feel the chills. And speaking of there’s a question in the feed, believe it or not, there’s still resistance and hesitation on the part of individuals and organizations who don’t see the need to address DEI issues now. So that question is coming and I feel like you just elegantly made another business case for this that we are literally, the world is changing. There’s so much in flux and we want to retain the best people because organizations can’t function without that. And people are diverse in all of these visible and invisible ways. And we want people to feel comfortable in order to create.
You can’t engage in creation and community, which produces things if you’re fundamentally wondering whether you belong and wondering how safe you are on a day to day basis. And we know this as LGBTQ people, half of us in our community Claude are still closeted at work. And it’s just a startling statistic that I always think about and know so you and I might be very comfortable, but it’s still happening in every single organization, even in the most progressive ones too. So anyway, I mean, I don’t know if you have any additional advice for those of us who work in places where literally DEI is like actually becoming less of a priority, which is hard to believe, but I have to say, this is not the first time I have heard about that happening right now.
CLAUDE SILVER: Yeah. Well, I will say the only thing I really know how to say is that we cannot isolate ourselves. We need to speak up about this, the lack of, or the issues that we see, because only we are going to change the culture eventually. And I know culture change starts at the top. I’m well aware. However, there is a groundswell that happens among the different layers in any organization when two or more people start to get together and jam on something that does create a groundswell. It creates a bottling whether or not you’re talking about the pop movement that Andy Warhol was a part of, or whether or not you’re talking about bringing in a pronoun campaign at work. But for us to isolate and pretend that well, there’s nothing for me to do about it, no one listens to me is not the right answer.
I think the right answer is looking at everyone’s face on the screen and seeing the heads that are shaking and nodding and knowing that it does take a village. And we need to bring attention to all of these matters, and that is going to take a great leap of confidence in every single one of us to do that, every single one of us, and it is up to us. Look, the legacy we’re leaving every single day is how we communicate with each other, is how do we make other people feel. That is my legacy. Every single day, I’m leaving my own thumbprint on this conversation and my own heart print. Right. And I want to leave people better than I first saw them and I know you do too.
And so that means I have to speak up. And by no means do I have all the answers and by no means do I feel like speaking up every day. That I can tell you. So that’s what I would say is that it takes a village. And I think that’s why this community is so important to jam with one another and to figure out what we’ve done. What do you do when your company wants to create a religious CRG and how can you provide that to them, and also protect them in that?
JENNIFER BROWN: I love that, provide and protect, and protect all, not one against the other, but all. Dominic made this great point up above around the intersections of faith in the CRGs community is a great place to start to really like shape a conversation. And just that basic education and awareness that these are the invisible aspects of our diversity that sometimes don’t get prioritized. And I think this whole movement now has made it. I think we’re making the invisible visible to an extent, and COVID began us on that journey. And strangely I’m struck by the irony that when we were separated from each other physically, and all we had is screens, there was a level of honesty actually, and transparency that we achieved with each other that I … So it was really interesting. It was such an unintended thing and unexpected thing, but beaming into each other’s lives.
And whether we liked it or not, we were on display and that I think led to a deeper connection with each other, more empathy, more awareness. And that’s something I know none of us want to lose, but it made some of us very uncomfortable because we had identities that we knew triggered stereotypes in the best of circumstances. Right. So anyway, so it’s sort of a simultaneously, perhaps a protective layer, but it’s also, I think it also had this like amazing … When we think about covering behaviors, how much is possible with covering when we’re showing up on screen and it sort of, it is what it is. I am who I am today,. And it’s a good day. It’s a bad day. It’s a struggle, whatever it is.
Claude, I wondered about your discomfort. Like you have a broad background in emotional intelligence. How do we get people to stay in the discomfort and not leave and not bail out and not opt out, but to stay in it because that’s where we need people to stay so that we can get through to what’s on the other side and we can get through together. So I know you learned that, but how do you counsel others to stay in it? And I’m sure this comes up a lot.
CLAUDE SILVER: It does. And it really, I think really depends on one’s own comfort with self and self awareness and learning about themselves, because it’s very difficult to have these authentic conversations if you don’t know yourself and you don’t know where your own issues, triggers, biases are, and you’re willing to at least talk to someone about it, whether or not it’s a therapist or your priest or whomever, because we all are human. And there’s no one that’s better than anyone. And we’re all the same. We’re all the same. So how can we encourage people to become more comfortable with themselves? Well, the way we can do that is by letting them know that we’re doing the same thing. That we are just as vulnerable and courageous stepping into whatever dark skeleton I have in my closet.
There’s no way I can be there for others if I cannot figure myself out and be there for myself. So to answer your question, I think you have to be willing to do a little bit of self work to catch your self worth and then continue to show up. This is a call. This is a calling to all of us, and we all have something to say, every single one of us. Even if I don’t like what you’re going to say, I will do my best to empathize with where you are coming from. And that’s the key. And that’s the training we need to bring one another. I might not like what you have to say, but I will do my best to understand where you have come from and why you were saying that.
JENNIFER BROWN: Beautiful. Claude, that’s such a good thing to wrap up on. How would you like people to send you appreciation notes and ideas, et cetera? How would you like to do that?
CLAUDE SILVER: What I would love is first of all, all the chat has been fantastic. So I really can’t wait to read it all. Hit me up on LinkedIn for sure. Here’s my email address if you are interested in the CDO role. And I will absolutely get back to everyone. It might take me a little bit of time, but I would love to be a part of this community. I really want to thank you all for your time and for just showing up and wanting to be part of the change with us.
JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you for the work you do. We’re going to give you virtual love. Everybody just appreciate. Maybe we’ll meet in person someday and get a hug together, but-
CLAUDE SILVER: I like the jazz hands, someone just-
JENNIFER BROWN: Jazz hands. Yeah, jazz hands. You know it. Alright, thank you everybody. And please reach out to Claude with suggestions for candidates. Let’s help Claude get a wonderful person in that role and talk about a great opportunity to work with Claude and Gary, and really shape this. What a neat environment in which to do this initial work. So thanks Claude and everybody stay safe. Keep up the good work. Thank you for supporting everybody that you do, and I’ll see you all next week. Thank you.
CLAUDE SILVER: Thank you. Bye-bye.
JENNIFER BROWN: Bye-bye.
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