Tiffany Yu is CEO & founder of Diversability LLC, an award-winning social enterprise to rebrand disability through the power of community, and the founder of the Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter, which awards monthly micro-grants to disability projects ($58.5k to 59 projects in 9 countries).
Below are the highlights of the interview conducted between World’s Leaders and Tiffany Yu:
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in this industry?
I believe some of us in the disability community have two “disability origin stories.” The first is the story behind our disability and the second is when we decide to take ownership and pride in our disability identities. My mission is to empower as many disabled people as possible to get from that first disability origin story to that second disability origin story. A win for one of us is a win for all of us. For companies we work with, our impact is on bringing a disability-inclusive lens to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) space. A lot of times, when people think about diversity, they forget about disability. They forget about the fact that there are a billion of us, or one in four in the US. I also approach my work through an intersectional lens. I’m disabled, Asian, and a woman. I also have experience working in the corporate world at places like Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg, and Revolt TV before running a social justice-oriented company full-time. This allows me to bring a unique perspective into this work.
What challenges did you have to face to get where you are today?
One of my mantras is, “How can I turn this obstacle into the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me?” At the age of 9, I became disabled as a result of a car accident that also took the life of my dad. Becoming disabled, losing a parent, and experiencing trauma at a young age presented many challenges in my adolescence. What I learned is how resilient we are as humans and how creative, adaptable, and innovative I have to be as a disabled person navigating a world that wasn’t made for me. I’ve been able to bring these lessons and perspectives into how I navigate the business world.
Describe Diversability’s offerings that address the needs of your customers.
We have two audiences with Diversability: the disability community and our corporate partners. We see ourselves as a Disability Employee Resource Group (ERG) that exists outside of a company. We have a large digital network of about 60,000+ that consists of disabled people and non-disabled allies. We run a community business because we know that isolation and exclusion are not atypical in our community. There is a Harvard study that says one of the keys to longevity, happiness, and well-being is through social connection and healthy relationships. For our corporate partners, we’re able to bring in our disability lived experience and expertise to help them tap into this talent pool and give their brand exposure to our disability-centered community.
What people, what books, what life factors have influenced and impacted you.
A book that has influenced me is Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. It is a book about the courage to lead with vulnerability and build shame resilience. I spent a lot of time feeling shame around my story and not showing vulnerability. After I read that book in 2016, I changed how I lived my life and started to be more vulnerable. Leading with vulnerability has enabled me to show up as my most authentic self and feel liberated in that.
Where do you envision yourself being in the long run?
My personal mission is to create as much access and opportunity in the disability community as possible. And I have done that through the team that we built with Diversability. I’ve started a couple of other initiatives, like the Awesome Foundation Disability Chapter, which invests $1,000 in different disability projects around the world. I’ve also seen my personal brand grow during the pandemic as a content creator to an audience of almost 160,000. I reflect on, How I can lead by example for other people who look like me and let them know that they’re not alone? How can I show others that their stories matter? And how can I do that in a way where my life is balanced? I want to make room for play, fun, joy, and laughter, and do that while also being an impactful disability thought leader and a business leader.
What are your future goals for Diversability?
I want to continue to be a talent incubator for and invest in disability talent. I want to continue to build our leadership in the disability space and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) space. And I want as many disabled people to find a community like ours and feel pride in who they are.
What would be your advice to budding business leaders?
First, understand that you have influence whether or not you see yourself as a “leader.” Very early on in my career, I was mentoring students who were interested in breaking into investment banking. I had disabled college students shadow me during my job, reviewed resumes, and did a lot of informational interviews. Second, never forget the journey that got you to where you are. I have been thinking about ways to continue to pay it forward to my community because I wouldn’t be where I am without others paving the way for me. And finally, remember that you being you, as authentically you and unapologetically you as possible, is opening up the door and pathways for so many others to potentially follow in your footsteps, and in the possibility of who they can become.