Episode 364: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging With Yesenia Bello, SVP of Diversity & Inclusion at iHeartMedia

Summary:Workology Podcast interview with Yesenia Bello, SVP of Diversity & Inclusion at iHeartMedia talking about to make employees feel they belong.

Episode 364: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging With Yesenia Bello, SVP of Diversity & Inclusion at iHeartMedia

Summary:Workology Podcast interview with Yesenia Bello, SVP of Diversity & Inclusion at iHeartMedia talking about to make employees feel they belong.

Table of Contents

There’s so much that the HR Organization does. If each individual in charge of those roles is fully bought into the importance of DEI, let’s say equity in the compensation process, equity in the benefits process, inclusion and equity in the hiring process, and the, you know, how you basically think about compensation. If the HR team is, is not just like one DEI leader trying to push these things on everyone, but everyone is kind of moving towards the same goals and understanding the importance of equity. It’ll just drive things even faster.

Episode 364: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging With Yesenia Bello, SVP of Diversity & Inclusion at iHeartMedia


Welcome to the Workology Podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrell, founder of Workology.com, as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends, tools, and case studies for the business leader, HR, and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now here’s Jessica with this episode of Workology.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:01:11.07] Welcome to the Workology Podcast. It’s a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. I’m so excited to be talking with you today. This podcast is powered by Ace The HR Exam and Upskill HR. These are two of the courses I offer for HR Certification Prep and Recertification for Human Resources leaders. This podcast is part of an ongoing series on the Workology podcast that is focused on diversity, equity and inclusion and human resources. DEI, these are not new ideas in the HR and corporate arenas, but in recent months and years, the importance and significance of DEI in the workplace has gotten leaders throughout corporate America to think more about what doing the right thing in our community looks like. And for many of us in HR, this means we’re not taking our DEI initiatives to stakeholders. Those stakeholders are coming to us and they’re looking for answers. So we must be ready to respond. Before I introduce our guest for this podcast episode, I want to hear from you. Please text “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005. That’s 512-548-3005, where you can ask questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future guests. This is my community text number. Yes, it’s me. And I want to hear from you. Today, I’m joined by Yesenia Bello. She’s the SVP of Diversity and Inclusion at iHeartMedia. Yesenia joined iHeartMedia in October of 2019 as the SVP, the Senior Vice President of Multicultural Sales, where she was responsible for developing sales opportunities with key multicultural advertisers and their agencies across iHeartMedia broadcast stations, digital podcast, events and premiere networks. Her background also includes working at Telemundo Network, Hulu’s Latino division and Google, where she focused on multicultural strategy and sales for YouTube’s advertisers. Yesenia immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of 11 and received her Bachelor’s in Science and Communications from CUNY College of Staten Island. Yesenia, welcome to the Workology Podcast.

Yesenia Bello: [00:03:22.68] Thank you so much, Jessica. It’s a pleasure to be here. And I appreciate you inviting me to, to this awesome opportunity, this platform that you’ve created.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:03:32.43] Of course. Well, I love your background. And then I also want to say that I just got back from the Dominican Republic where I went for vacation and had a wonderful time. So, I want to hear more about you and your background and what led you to working in the diversity, equity and inclusion space.

Yesenia Bello: [00:03:50.97] Yes, the Dominican Republic. I was born there. I immigrated when I was 11 years old. So obviously, my, my cultural upbringing to start with, right? Understanding the cultural nuances of the Hispanic community. I ended up right after college getting my first job with Telemundo network, which is a Spanish-language TV network. And obviously, they’re learning about the Hispanic community, the audience, and kind of feeling, you know, very aligned to that environment because of where I’m from. And then I think that was kind of accidental that I ended up at a Hispanic TV network. But it was an awesome opportunity because it just led me on this multicultural path. And my entire career has been focused on multicultural consumers, which today multicultural consumers are, you know, obviously people of, of different ethnicities, races, right? The LGBTQ+ community. Now, we also are including underrepresented groups such as, like, you know, people with disabilities, the veteran community who are typically underrepresented. But again, kind of working in the multicultural space and understanding the different nuances of different groups is really what led me slowly but surely into the path that I have today as a career, which is DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion. I obviously worked in media sales, advertising sales. So back then it was about, you know, positioning multicultural audiences. It’s an opportunity for marketers to tap into, right?

Yesenia Bello: [00:05:41.82] Understanding, you know, the nuances of language, the nuances of culture. What are the those key moments of celebration? How can advertisers think more meaningfully about the multicultural consumer? And so the more I got into it, you know, the more I kind of realized maybe a path for me could be DEI. But obviously, sometimes we go through those moments of self-doubt and I thought, I’m a salesperson. Like, I don’t have the background that it takes to get into DEI. That probably will never happen for me. But then, obviously, with the 2020 pandemic and all the unfortunate events that unfolded around George Floyd, that really brought, you know, into perspective so much more about our lives and obviously our corporate identity. I kind of became that voice for iHeart that was kind of like, you know, flagging things, having conversations, pointing to how we can all drive change together. And then as my manager, Michelle Levin, stepped into her Chief Diversity Officer role, she offered me the opportunity to come in and obviously lead this change for the company. And that’s how I transitioned. It was through, obviously, deep understanding of multicultural consumers and also understanding the corporate, in the corporate setting, how can we all work together to drive the change that we need to see.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:07:10.15] I love that and I love how your background has unfolded to bring you into the DEI space, because a lot of people just think that this needs to happen only if you have had a career in human resources or you’re an academic to be able to move into, into diversity, equity and inclusion. But I think your experience and understanding of the industry, combined with the multicultural expertise, I mean, you work at iHeartMedia, it’s one of the leading media companies in the world. Makes, it’s an obvious place for you, I think.

Yesenia Bello: [00:07:49.57] Absolutely. And I think it opens up another conversation, which is like when it comes to pivoting careers, I think it’s so scary for so many of us. We kind of want to make the move that we but we hold ourselves back with self-doubt. You know, DEI is, it’s evolving. It continues to evolve. And obviously, I’m still learning in this space and by no means I know everything I need to know. I’m still learning every day and trying to train myself as much as possible because every day something new is uncovered. But for those professionals who are interested in getting into DEI, it’s possible. I think there’s places like LinkedIn have amazing training modules that you can take. You can go and get certified in different places. I mean, there’s so much, so much information out there that you can really gather and help yourself get into the space if that’s what you want. But I think when it comes to career, career pivoting careers, I think we, we need to kind of feel a little bit more confident about making those moves because for me, it’s been life-changing for sure.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:08:55.87] I appreciate your honesty. And, and I think that a lot of people see someone in a position leading or being a part of really amazing change at a company that’s such an amazing brand like iHeartMedia. And they might not think, oh, it’s, it’s normal to have self-doubt or a little bit of imposter syndrome or these kind of things. So I appreciate you sharing. It’s just a part of, I personally feel like a part of being a human being. Everybody has these things.

Yesenia Bello: [00:09:28.87] Yeah, absolutely. And we can definitely go off on a tangent on the imposter syndrome because I’ve had that my entire career. But again, I think it’s finding that confidence to just say, You know what, I’m going to give this a try. If it works amazing. And if it doesn’t work, it’s okay. At least I gave it a try, right? But yeah, there’s so much to talk about for sure.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:09:50.71] Agreed. Well, let’s move forward a little bit and talk about diversity, equity and inclusion. What does that mean to you? Because I think that it is a little fuzzy, which is why I wanted to kind of level set and say, okay, DEI, what, what is that exactly at iHeartMedia and, and for you?

Yesenia Bello: [00:10:10.02] Diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging. I mean, you know, it’s such an important term to unpack. For me, when I think about diversity specifically is seeing faces from different places that have different points of views and ideas to contribute, right? It’s just not seeing a workforce that looks the same. It’s seeing how we’ve created opportunities for people of all walks of lives, right? When it comes to equity, is understanding that the same way that I want opportunities in my career, like I want amazing benefits, I want to make a good living, I want work-life balance. I want a manager that understands me, that sees me, that values me. I know that everyone wants the same, right? So how can we provide opportunities for everyone to thrive? For everyone to have those benefits that they need? You know, that off vacation time that they need, you know, the, the, the psychological safety to be able to raise their hand and raise a concern is that, you know, if I want those things, we all want those things, right? Let’s not forget that we all want the same things to be seen, to be heard, to be appreciated, to be valued. And then when it comes to inclusion, I have so many examples where I felt excluded and that is, you know, feeling excluded can have really significant, it can really disrupt your career in so many ways. You know, when you feel like you’re not seen, like you’re not valued, you’re less likely to feel confident doing your job. To want to show up to company events, to want to kind of go the extra mile because you don’t feel like you, you belong, you’re included. And so to me is kind of like holding someone, someone’s hand and saying, you belong here. You are welcome here. I want to know more about you. Let’s have a conversation. And so it’s like understanding that all the things, all the needs that I have, we all have them in different ways, obviously, but we all kind of want the same things.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:12:43.43] Thank you for sharing. I think it’s important to level set because we have a lot of things we’re going to talk about over the course of our time together in this, this podcast. I wanted to move forward and talk a little bit about cultural sentiment and maybe have you talk about what that is and how you are measuring it at iHeartMedia.

Yesenia Bello: [00:13:03.83] So cultural sentiment, you know, it’s, it’s so important to, obviously, to track, to measure. There are various ways, you know, you can measure cultural sentiment through employee surveys that you conduct on a frequent basis quarterly, you know, every six months, every year. Onboarding surveys, when people leave the company, you can kind of you want to understand why that person left. Is there something we can do better for other employees? But I think most importantly, it’s very important for every leader at the company, every manager who is in charge of managing a team, every employee to be so engaged in the culture of the company, to, to pay attention, to have that emotional intelligence. When you walk into a room, you’re having a meeting and someone’s having a really tough day because something happened in their house with their family to say, Are you okay? You need to be in this meeting. Go take care of what you need to take care of. Like kind of paying attention from an emotional perspective standpoint in every setting that you’re in within your teams, if you go to a, let’s say a team breakfast or a team event or a client meeting, just to kind of pay attention to that cultural sentiment, how are people talking about their direct teams, their managers, the experiences that we create as a company, even like the stuff that we do for our audiences, are our employees going? How do they feel when they are there? Are they sharing that back with you? What is the engagement? If you put out training, new training for employees to take, are people actually taking them or they’re kind of like completely disengaged? I think there’s so many ways to, to track. And obviously, it’s great to have these surveys in place and to create metrics around that. But I think for every leader, every people manager to pay attention on a daily basis that really has the potential to drive the needle significantly and really kind of get people to engage and to appreciate the company culture on a different level.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:15:31.07] This is so important right now and I think it’s going to continue to grow in importance as we become more self-aware and executive teams and leaders think more about the importance of DEI and just, I think it’s more like about an open dialogue because sometimes you just don’t know that something you’re saying or something you’re doing or an activity in the workplace is making people not feel included or they feel excluded for, for some reason. So I think we’re going to see more conversations and a focus on this topic.

Yesenia Bello: [00:16:13.44] Absolutely. And I think, again, going back to, you know, companies need to provide those tools and resources for employees to learn more about DEI, how they can function, how they can be more inclusive. But there are so many things that we can do ourselves on a daily basis. There are, such as listening to a, this podcast, looking at articles that are published, looking at training that you can take for free. There are so many things that we can all do. I think is really empowering ourselves to, to have those conversations. And if we walk away feeling like that was an uncomfortable situation, I messed up somehow, you know, to feel like, okay, I messed up, but let me see how I can do better next time. What do I need to learn that I didn’t know before? So there are so many ways that we can empower ourselves.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:17:05.25] I think that cultural sentiment is amazing, but I am hearing a lot from HR leaders who are saying, Hey, I want to get started with DEI or want to bring somebody in, but I’m, I’m getting some friction. And how do I create a business case for DEI programs? So maybe walk us through kind of your approach and maybe what the team has done at iHeartMedia.

Yesenia Bello: [00:17:33.56] Yes. You know, it’s, I think, deciding to start your DEI journey for any company is very intimidating. The leadership team may feel like we haven’t really invested in this space. We’re so behind, there’s no way that we could ever catch up. So it is an intimidating process. I think the beginning of the DEI journey starts with a lot of honesty and transparency. Understanding, you know, we are, let’s say, for example, we’re a company that hasn’t really focused on DEI efforts before, hasn’t really thought about the importance of DEI in our culture. Where do we start? It starts with understanding. So what is that employee’s sentiment? Have people been openly sharing feedback with you over the years in terms of things they experience that may be, you know, excluding a few folks, maybe career progression has been, you know, as, as, as easy for some groups, you know, understanding with where you’re starting from and having that open and honest conversation with your leadership team, I think that’s the beginning of a powerful journey. And then from there, you know, there’s tons of research that shows that when you do have a diverse company culture where you have different perspectives in the room, your ideas will be stronger, your marketing strategies will be stronger because they will include people that come from different backgrounds and that may be listening to your radio stations in a different way than you thought they were. So diverse ideas, diversity drives business results that creativity. And you know, let’s not talk about like, let’s say the tech space, for example, having diverse group of people building new products for you, building the technologies for you, and having that diverse perspective, it’s only going to make your product even stronger.

Yesenia Bello: [00:19:41.93] So I think looking at it from the perspective of we need to understand how DEI can drive business results, yes, of course, it will drive business results. But first, we need to kind of authentically and genuinely understand we want to do this because we want to attract good people into our company, people who are going to help grow this company, people who are going to come in and foster talent. People who are going to create that place of equity and belonging, who are going to improve our culture, like, from a genuine, like, being genuine about it, right? Not just looking at it from, like, dollar signs. Business perspective but thinking how can we strengthen the culture here? And for us, kind of going back to iHeart, we have an incredibly fun brand, it’s music, it’s entertainment, it’s concerts, it’s media, it’s radio stations. We have such an amazing external brand and it’s been about how do we bring that life that we have externally, internally. And, you know, learning from our employees and what they, they want to see from us. How can we double down on these resources, on training, on education, on, you know, career opportunities? So it is, it is a five-year journey, I would say when you’re starting from scratch. Even longer, you just have to be able to, you just have to be willing to, to just be open and honest with yourself and know, listen, we don’t, we don’t know. We don’t have all the answers. We’re going to get there. But we’re, our heart is in the right place. We’re going to get this done. And we are going to enlist employees to come and help us do all of this.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:21:30.38] I love it. And I’m going to link to some, to some resources in the transcript, audio transcript or the transcription of this particular podcast episode. There is a new research report from UNC Chapel Hill and some professors there who talked about a values-based approach to advance DEI but still looking at making the business case. This was recently published in June of this year in MIT Sloan Management Review magazine. So I’m going to link to that in the transcription. I just feel like sometimes it’s, it’s great to hear from, from experts like you, but sometimes it’s really nice to point to a stat that says other people feel this way to maybe help just executives really kind of wrap their minds around the, the benefit, the anticipated benefit in terms of dollars and cents for the business, too.

Yesenia Bello: [00:22:29.96] Absolutely.

Break: [00:22:31.13] Let’s take a reset. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell. And you were listening to the Workology Podcast powered by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. We’re talking today about diversity, equity and inclusion with Yesenia Bello, SVP of Diversity and Inclusion at iHeartMedia.

Break: [00:22:49.07] Before we get back to the podcast episode, I want to hear from you. I need you to text 512-548-3005. 512-548-3005. Yes, it’s an Austin number. Text me to ask questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future podcast guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. “PODCAST” to 512-548-3005.

Break: [00:23:15.83] Personal and professional development is essential for successful HR leaders. Join Upskill HR to access live training, community, and over 100 on-demand courses for the dynamic leader. HR recert credits available. Visit UpskillHR.com for more.

Tangible Traction and Accountability Around DEI


Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:23:31.52] So we talked a little bit about the business case. I want to talk and hear from you about tangible traction and accountability around DEI. How can we help drive that? Because I think what’s happening sometimes is we bring in some really amazing team members to help lead the DEI programs and initiatives and get the organization focused. But what happens next? How do we get traction and then hold leaders, employees, managers accountable so that we are moving forward towards that bigger picture, vision, and goals that we have?

Yesenia Bello: [00:24:05.33] Yeah, I think leadership commitment is, is key, right? Understanding that our leaders are, understand the opportunity, going back to the business case, but also understand that this is something that will strengthen your company culture. But I think most importantly, looking at your HR team, for example, the HR organization is really what drives the company, right? From a, let’s say, compensation perspective, benefits perspective, recruitment, retention, pay. I mean, there’s so much that the HR Organization does. If each individual in charge of those roles is fully bought into the importance of DEI, let’s say equity in the compensation process, equity in the benefits process, inclusion and equity in the hiring process, and the, you know, how you basically think about compensation. If the HR team is, is not just like one DEI leader trying to push these things on everyone, but everyone is kind of moving towards the same goals and understanding the importance of equity. It’ll just drive things even faster. And so when it comes to accountability, you know, once you kind of establish your plan and you decide, you know, these are the four things that we’re going to focus on, four or five things that we’re going to focus on. One of them is recruitment. Let’s set some goals around what do we want to see in recruitment? How, how are we managing that interview process? How are we sourcing talent? Where are we sourcing talent, talent from? How are we trading our recruiters to have meaningful conversations with our talent? How are our recruiters managing that process from beginning to end? What is the experience that we’re providing? And then we can say we measure our recruitment practices for a whole year.

Yesenia Bello: [00:26:17.80] This is our goal, you know, to unlock new recruitment partnerships, to interview more people of diverse backgrounds. We accomplished that. But not only do we accomplish that, we also hire, you know, let’s say, putting, putting goals on different teams. Now, 50% of our sales force is of diverse background, for example, as a goal. You know, there are so many ways to have that accountability, to have that traction, is really just doing the work, right? And you could do that across if you have a focus on recruiting, if you have a focus on improving employee sentiment, if you have a focus on talent retention, you know, there’s so many ways to measure what you’re doing to, to actually make sure that everybody is kind of working towards those goals. It really does take everyone being on the same page from the leadership team, from people management to HR. It’s not just the one DEI person that you may have on board. They’re tasked with delivering all these results. Everybody has to be on board and everybody has to kind of contribute in every way that they can.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:27:33.01] I love that. It’s a, it’s a team effort. I wondered if you had an example of how one can make space for culture and diversity and maybe what that looks like at a company like iHeartMedia.

Yesenia Bello: [00:27:48.42] Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s inviting the conversation, right? Not being afraid of having those conversations. You know, I think one thing that has really changed in corporate America is the fact that people want to talk about the things they care about. It’s not just showing up to do your job. It’s understanding, you know, how is, how is the company appreciating my community? How is the company responding to things that affect my community? Can we invite that conversation? Can we enlighten people to understand what this community is going through? I think it’s, it’s really making space for culture by not being afraid of having those conversations. You know, obviously, we’ve all been in, mostly, the virtual environment, so that in-person aspect has really suffered. But, you know, can you leverage your employee resource groups to host those conversations? Can your leadership team get on a panel and talk about, you know, share their story, you know, invite employees to share their story, tackle these issues? I think we sometimes underestimate the power of storytelling, the power of vulnerability. And obviously, you know, we’re going, we’re living through a crazy political climate, right? There’s so much division. Without taking a stand, one side or the other, how can you invite the conversation so that people learn a new perspective? People kind of understand, okay, I see it now, right? I understand it. I don’t need to accept it, but I understand it now. I know a little bit more about it. And is that, like, transparency. Like let’s not be afraid to have the tough conversations. I think people want that more and more, right? They don’t want to feel like they leave their workplace and they go home and they have to do all these things. Then they go back to work and they’re in a bubble where nothing is talked about. I think people want to feel like this workplace is safe for me and they’re not afraid to talk about the things that really matter to me.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:30:08.29] I think that’s so and, so, so important because in place are talking about it, even if the leadership isn’t talking about what’s going on. So a little, a simple announcement or a message from the executive team can, or even HR, can really go a long way to just letting people know that I, I hear you or I understand. And if you want to talk more, we have resources and places to be able to have those conversations.

Yesenia Bello: [00:30:43.24] Exactly. And, you know, sometimes it’s not overcomplicating it. If what you feel like is sending a company memo versus like hosting an event or, or panel discussion, you know, doing something like that goes a lot further than staying quiet and, you know, responding to emails 101 from your from your employee. So it’s not necessarily always overcomplicating it. It’s, you have to be reactive in some cases where things happen and you we’re not expecting. But how can we also be proactive in communication, prepare ourselves for the year where we know these are the key ten things that are going to be celebrated across different cultures this year. Can we think about that? How can we help our employees feel like they can, we can celebrate with them? We can tackle these conversations together. So it’s like, what do you do when the reactive environment versus what are you do in the proactive environment where you can be more proactive and just take the lead on things?

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:31:44.65] I love that. I mean, it is as simple as a calendar that you can say like, Hey, we’re going to have these conversations, maybe we schedule a town hall or something related to these things, or we bring in an expert to talk and share and do some, do some training, or it could be an email. I mean, that’s, everybody is on their own journey at their own time, in their own, in their own space. And I think that these are all just guidelines and suggestions for how we can move forward.

Yesenia Bello: [00:32:17.47] Absolutely.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:32:19.48] You mentioned the ERGs and I love employee resource groups. Can you talk to us a little bit about iHeartMedia’s initiatives around employee resource groups?

Yesenia Bello: [00:32:32.08] Yeah. So employee resource groups are such a big important part of just creating that company culture, developing a good company culture. When it comes to employee resource groups, the approach is to first understand what our employees need, what conversations they’re having, what do they want to see from us? You know, I’m actually the one leading our employee resource group strategy and, you know, I could have basically said, This is, these are the best practices of what other companies are seeing with their employees resource groups, let’s implement that, those best practices. But my approach is to really listen to our employees and understand across different groups what are their unique needs. How can we get an executive sponsor that really will be able to understand those needs, voice and advocate for, for, for these groups. So it was really that, just trying to understand, get a small group of employees to be part of our council, first initial council and together, you know, understanding more and more and more about each of the different groups and saying, okay, so for this, let’s say for our black employee resource group, these are the, the priorities. These are the executive sponsors we should think about. This is the mission, and these are the things that we want to work on throughout the year together. And before we do, we kind of do that launch. We kind of have a really good sense of, okay, we have a good sample of employees kind of sharing their experience, telling us what they want to see, mapping out some proactive initiatives that we can lead. Now, when we launch, you know, I think we’ll be starting from a standpoint of we’re prepared and we can pivot and we can kind of make changes along the way. But at least we’re very prepared and we have listened to what you have to say.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:34:39.95] I love that. And I feel like employee resource groups really are one of the fundamental parts of starting the conversation when you’re are just getting started with DEI in your organization.

Yesenia Bello: [00:34:53.54] Yes. And I think in most companies you’ll find that if there hasn’t been a DEI strategy or focus, effort, the employee resource groups have been doing some of that work. I’ve seen that in other companies where there hasn’t been a marked DEI initiative, there’s no Chief Diversity Officer or someone like me. So the, the ERGs are the ones kind of starting to do that work because again, people are looking for community. People are looking to see themselves represented. People are looking to have a conversation. People want to be seen and heard and understood. And so if the company is not proactively doing that, let’s form a little group of people and let’s just talk amongst ourselves and support each other and again, like drive the education that we want to see. So yeah, employee resource groups are to me critical and I think a vital part of any company, especially DEI strategy.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:35:58.72] One of the things I wanted to make sure we talked about today in our in this podcast interview is internships. Because when we were chatting and kind of our prep conversation for this podcast, you mentioned that iHeartMedia is creating some really cool internship opportunities and I wanted to hear more about that and, and how it’s going.

Yesenia Bello: [00:36:20.02] Absolutely. So I’m also leading our internship initiatives. And for me, this is where I know that I kind of pivoted to the right place because I just love inspiring young talent. I love creating opportunities. I love just like investing in the next generation. And so we have several programs. One of the programs that I’m a huge fan of is part of our podcast division and it’s called Next Upt’. Is basically an internship program that enables people from diverse backgrounds to come in, produce a podcast, and promote their podcast, distribute their podcast on the iHeart platform. So the idea is to bring diverse voices into the podcast ecosystem and share, you know, unique stories from people who come from different walks of lives. That’s one internship initiative that I absolutely love. And it’s, I think it’s a six-month program. We’re actually recruiting for the second cohort in January, sorry, in September of this year for start in January. As part of that internship initiative, we’re launching eight new shows from diverse creators. And so that’s one, one internship that I’m really a fan of. I also lead another internship across our sales and marketing division, and that’s more of a short-term summer opportunity. And it’s really understanding how can we evolve where we’re sourcing talent from? How can we just think differently about the internship experience? There are so many students who have two or three internships and they just want to add more because they think that that’s going to set them up for success. But when you think about it, we, I want to bring in students who have no, who have had no internships, who have had a hard time finding internships, who maybe live in rural places where there are no cool internships available.

Yesenia Bello: [00:38:38.92] And now because there’s a remote environment, we can afford that opportunity. Those are the students that I love to bring in, those who have no experience, who haven’t had other internships, who, you know, see iHeart as a place that can really change and transform their career. Those are the type of students I love to invest in, regardless of what background they come from. It’s really understanding how can we invest in that talent and groom that talent. I also lead another internship that is more diversity, equity, and inclusion focused. It’s really just to bring in young talent into the DEI space, you know, train them on the DEI practice, have them share that knowledge, that practice with other teams across iHeart. So I take them in, I train them, and then I rotate them into different teams of strategic teams so that they can bring that knowledge, that practice to other teams and that’s more DEI focused. And then we also have another internship across our IT division, which is understanding how we can provide more opportunities for women in tech, for people of color in tech, you know, underrepresented groups in tech. And so, you know, we’re definitely still figuring it out, right? But our focus is to really just create more opportunities and again, bring diversity to our company.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:40:18.27] I love that. And I love that it doesn’t have to be a formal internship that is just about DEI to be focused on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, providing people new opportunities and different places.

Yesenia Bello: [00:40:34.29] Yeah. I want to invite your listeners to, to really think about. It doesn’t have to be a fancy internship experience. It could be as easy as, okay, who is actually interning for our company? Are those students like, are they okay, if they hadn’t have this internship, will they be okay? If they have this internship, how will that change their lives? You know, kind of ask different question, questions, source talent from different places, really dedicate time to the process to understanding who are you inviting to your company, you know, how can you just create and enable people from different places who don’t have access, as much access as those of us living in places like New York City? How can you create those opportunities so it doesn’t have to be this huge fancy thing? It could be very small steps that really drive home, you know, a lot of change.

Jessica Miller-Merrell: [00:41:36.43] Perfect. Well, Yesenia, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. I’m going to link to your LinkedIn profile on the transcript of this podcast episode, as well as iHeartMedia’s career site. So if somebody is like, Hey, I’m in the market for something, maybe working in HR or being a member of the DEI team, I want to be able to send our listeners over to those areas as well. But I really want to thank you for, for sharing with us. I love your background. I love how you, how iHeartMedia is focused on this and how they’re doing it their own unique way.

Yesenia Bello: [00:42:17.63] Yes. Thank you so much for having me again and, you know, again, I appreciate the focus on this conversation and on this topic specifically. And again, take small steps every day and you’ll definitely be able to be part of that big change. So thank you.

Closing: [00:42:35.06] Conversations about leadership and culture are extremely important. That’s why I continue to have these conversations. We everybody needs to have more of them because these conversations spark change. And as HR leaders, we can support our organizations with resources and training that can open up DEI initiatives in a way that sets your company up for long term success, while also setting the example of what doing the right thing looks like. I appreciate Yesenia showing her expertise with us on today’s podcast.

Closing: [00:43:09.74] The Workology Podcast is powered by Upskill HR and ace the HR exam. These are two courses that I offer for HR certification and recertification for HRCI and SHRM. I want to hear from you. You can text “PODCAST”,”PODCAST”, to 512-548-3005, 512-548-3005. Text me there to ask questions, leave comments, and make suggestions for future podcast guests. This is my community text number and I want to hear from you. Thank you for being a part of this podcast Workology Podcast, which is sponsored by Upskill HR and Ace The HR Exam. This podcast is for the disruptive workplace leader who’s tired of the status quo. My name is Jessica Miller-Merrell. Until next time you can visit Workology.com to listen to all our previous Workology Podcast episodes.

Connect with Yesenia Bello.



– Yesenia Bello on LinkedIn

– Careers at iHeartMedia

– How a Values-Based Approach Advances DEI | MIT Sloan Management Review

– Episode 337: The Difference Between Equity and Being Equal With Dawn Frazier-Bohnert

– Episode 325: Community Building and DEI With Melissa Marshall, VP People & Organization, Banfield Pet Hospital

– Episode 318: Building a DEI Team With Nadine Augusta, Chief DEI Officer at Cushman & Wakefield

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