DIVERSITY- This spotlight series features T. Howard Foundation (THF) alumni working in Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion.
Ren Yoon (THF ’20) (THF ’21)
Inclusion Strategy Coordinator, Disney Theatrical Group
Please describe your role.
I am the Inclusion Strategy Coordinator at Disney Theatrical Group (DTG). In short, I would describe my role as Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) work that sits between the live creative, production, and strategy spaces at Disney. Every day at work looks vastly different, but some highlights to capture are: producing musical performances with our employee resource groups to air live on platforms such as the View, GMA, etc., strategizing on DTG’s EDI commitments and planned executions for initiatives, leading cross-departmental discussions with top leadership regarding EDI-related topics, creating partnerships and outreach for DTG to expand on external EDI work.
What do you enjoy most about your company?
Disney Theatrical Group exists in the unique in-between of legacy media and live theatre. We have a large amount of autonomy since we are based in NYC, rather than headquarters in Burbank, yet can still lean on the resources and outreach of The Walt Disney Company. Theatre has also been one of my favorite kinds of media- there is something so unforgettable about every live performance of a musical. At this point, I’ve seen The Lion King about 6 times, and I find something new to love about the show each time. Since DTG has shows all over the world, from Australia to Korea to the Netherlands, it is also eye-opening to reconfigure EDI work within each of these culturally nuanced and specific settings.
In what way did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
When I studied abroad in Hamburg during sophomore year, I co-founded Qutie, a grassroots organization focused on supporting queer and trans+ BIPOC in Northern Germany. I hosted one of our introductory events, which was a discussion on representation across media for queer and trans+ BIPOC. Through the heartfelt conversations and experiences shared during the event, I realized how media representation can quite literally save lives. From then on, I decided to start looking into a career in EDI work within entertainment, and had my first initial start when I returned from my abroad semester, where the hiring manager for the HR Intern role at The Paley Center took a chance on me. And since then, I have continued to look towards representation in media, particularly for my QTBIPOC siblings, as my north star.
How has your affiliation with the T. Howard Foundation influenced your career?
T. Howard connected me to one of my first internships at a largely renowned company, Amazon, where I worked as a HR Generalist Intern in Summer 2020. Although this internship gradually made me realize I was uninterested in HR, it gave me a new direction as I noticed how drawn I was to EDI work at the company. In Summer 2021, T. Howard gave me the opportunity to intern at Paramount (formerly ViacomCBS) as an Entertainment D&I Intern, where I was able to blend the creative with EDI expertise. This role closely mirrors what I do now, which sits at the intersection of EDI research/facilitation and creative execution. In short, T. Howard provided opportunities for me to test various hypotheses of what kind of roles excite, develop, and fulfill me, while I still had the chance to bounce around different companies and positions as a college student.
What personal attributes have been essential to your career success?
Since entertainment is such a network-driven industry, my ability to connect with people has been the most essential attribute to my career success. Quite a few opportunities have actually come to me through networking and just knowing people in different capacities. Most notably, for one of my internships, I had actually connected with the hiring manager a few years ago on campus through a company outreach event. I sent her follow ups every few months and kept in touch with her until I was finally qualified to intern with her team. When I submitted my application, she remembered our conversations and was impressed with my tenacity in keeping her updated with my career development, so after four rounds of interviews we had a full circle moment where I was finally her intern!
If you were entering this career today, how would you prepare to facilitate entry?
I would highly encourage anyone interested in Equity, Diversity & Inclusion work to complete an internship or contract position prior to committing. The personal and emotional level of the work is not suited for everyone, as it can get extremely personal, take a lot of personal growth, and require genuine commitment to learning. In addition, I would connect with a wide variety of folks in the EDI field within entertainment to get their perspectives. It would also be helpful to gain experience in facilitation of highly sensitive discussions, such as hosting workshops or taking a class on facilitation.
Are you extroverted or introverted? How does this show up in your professional life?
I want to say I am a full extrovert, but there are random days where I feel exhausted and drained by the amount of social interaction, and need to take some time just watching the newest Disney+ show or reading books curled up in bed. Most work days, the second I wake up, I am either on calls, meetings, or coffee chats with other employees at Disney. Now that we are back in office, I usually grab lunch with one of my work colleagues or go for after-work dinner/drinks. My extroversion has definitely helped with building professional relationships and building my network within DTG, and in turn being invited to new opportunities and events industry-wide.
Are you an early bird or a night owl? How does this show up in your working habits?
Definitely a night owl. Actually, one of my largest challenges entering the workforce has been waking up at a reasonable hour (on the weekends I wake up around noon). That being said, I’ve adjusted decently well with ensuring most of my work gets done during the work day. When there is work with a tight deadline, or there are urgent scheduling issues, I may work sporadically throughout the night to ensure our team is prepared for our day ahead.
Do you have any of the following at work? a mentor, mentee, sponsor, work BF or work spouse? If so, which one(s)? What are the advantages of having these relationships?
I am one of the youngest and newest employees at DTG, so I’ve been fortunate to find mentors in my more tenured co-workers. These mentors have been so generous and sincere in their sharing of personal and professional experiences. In particular, my manager has been so honest and open about what her experience has been like to be a Black and Asian woman in an executive position, and I attribute my continued success of navigating this field in many ways to her. EDI work can be quite lonely at times, and I’m grateful to have cultivated a tight-knit relationship with my manager and immediate team, where we know we have each other’s backs.