Diversity and Inclusion in a Major Way

Renée Tirado Professional Bio: Renée E. Tirado is the Vice President of Talent Acquisition for Major League Baseball (MLB) and Diversity & Inclusion for MLB, MLB Advanced Media, and MLB Network. She is responsible for leading the development, communication, and coordination of Major League Baseball’s overall diversity and inclusion strategy including creating new programs and expanding existing activities that foster an inclusive culture throughout the league and its thirty Clubs. Ms. Tirado oversees the Diversity Pipeline Program, an initiative focused on improving the recruitment and development of diverse and female employees for leadership roles in the baseball operations and the front offices of MLB’s Clubs. She also leads all recruitment efforts and the employee engagement strategy for the Commissioner’s Office. In her role, Ms. Tirado advises senior MLB leadership and the Ownership Diversity Committee on all matters related to talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion initiatives, as well as oversee MLB staff handling these areas. Prior to joining MLB, Ms. Tirado worked at AIG leading the global diversity and inclusion agenda for the Americas. She also worked as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the United States Tennis Association where she still serves as a volunteer and committee chairperson for their tennis diversity initiatives. Ms. Tirado is a licensed attorney who graduated from Rutgers University School of Law, and holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Master’s degree in Education and Curriculum from the University of Rochester. Ms. Tirado was honored at the SportsBusiness Journal’s 2017 Game Changer Conference, which recognizes women who are contributing to the success of the industry.

Today we discuss her personal Journey to MLB, the MLB Diversity Fellowship Program and The importance of Diversity in the workplace

THE ASH CASH SHOW

EPISODE 66 – Diversity and Inclusion in a major way with MLB

PARTICIPANTS:  Ash Cash, Tashima Jones, and Renee Tirado. 

Start time:  08:35

End time:  28:50

 

 

TASHIMA:  Welcome, welcome, welcome.

 

ASH:  Thank you so much for being our guest.  And so, you know, we always read the bio.  But, we always want from our guests to explain or to say in their words.  Who is Renee Tirado?

 

RENEE:  She’s just a girl, a chick from Brooklyn at the end of the day.  But, that’s where it all started.  So, as mentioned, you know, Vice President of Talent Acquisition for Major League Baseball.  And I am the head of Diversity and Inclusion for our league and our businesses.  So, an exciting opportunity, a great job, I’ve been there about 18 months.  And prior to that… I’m not going to go into everything you just said.

 

ASH:  Right.

 

RENEE:  Because you covered it pretty well.

 

ASH:  Of course.  Of course.  Of course.

 

RENEE:  But, the important part is I’m a reformed attorney, you know.  I used to practice.

 

ASH:  Yeah.

 

RENEE:  And while I enjoyed it, I didn’t enjoy it enough to make it a lifetime commitment.  And I think you need to have some passion about what you’re doing, if you’re going to commit to it.  So, the universe aligned little by little and brought me into this sports world that started with the NBA Retired Players Association, transitioned into the USTA, which is where I got into the diversity and inclusion work.  So, thanks to the USTA for that.

 

ASH:  Absolutely.

 

RENEE:   They brought me full circle to be here in 2017, to have been honored by SBJ, to have the support of the commissioner and all 30 clubs is huge.  So, that’s how I got here.

 

ASH:  Yeah.  And so, talk to us a little bit about… so, anyone who doesn’t understand what diversity and inclusion means, talk to us about… what does that mean?  Diversity and inclusion for Major League Baseball, that’s major.  But, what does that mean?

 

RENEE:  Look, for us, we have always had a longstanding history in diversity and inclusion, right?  If you look at our history, it started with Jackie Robinson.  We broke the barriers.  We made the point of saying it is important to make sure that our sport reflects our society.  That we are making sure that our business and our entertainment platform is accessible to all communities.  So, for us, diversity and inclusion, if you really want to talk about definitions, look everyone in this world is diverse, you know.  It’s not just about making sure you have melanin in your skin or estrogen in your bloodwork, right.

Everyone has value.  And we look at diversity in terms of diversity of thought, perspective, experiences, as well as the traditional demographics that we default on.  Inclusion is the harder part.  Inclusion is the work around diversity. It’s how do you make sure that all of that representation is reflected in the entire part of the business, and people can feel comfortable bringing themselves to work, you know, as purely as possible. But, more importantly that they have a seat at the table when decisions are being made and they feel the value of being there.  That doesn’t happen, one doesn’t happen without the other.  So, diversity, you know, it does focus on the representation.  But inclusion, at the end of the day, is making the representation work and translating it to business results for us.

 

ASH:  Nice, nice.  That’s awesome.  And so, when we talk about, you know, sort of like diversity and inclusion, and one of the things that I appreciate about your role is the fact that, you know, you play an active roll in making sure that there are representation of, you know, diverse representation… not just in the sport, but also in the back offices or in the front offices.  Talk to us a little bit about that.

 

RENEE:  Absolutely.  So, I’m very lucky because, while I also had diversity and inclusion, I have talent and acquisition.  So, that’s like the newfound fangled word for recruiting.  So, I have an influence, direct front line on who we’re hiring and who we’re bring in.  So, when you marry that together, it’s to your point, making sure that we’re bringing in the brightest minds possible into our sport but reflecting the broadest audience as possible, right.  Because otherwise if you, kind of… it’s very easy to default to people that look like you, that sound like you, that think like you, and that ultimately results, potentially, in a groupthink type of scenario, which kind of stagnates innovation and growth.

 

So, my goal is to make sure that the slate is always diverse, that everyone’s getting a fair opportunity to get any job that they want at Major League Baseball.  They have to do their part.  You have to be qualified.  You have to be smart.  You have to be ambitious, and you have to be dedicated.  But, if you have those core components to your character, there’s a place for you at baseball.  And I just want to make sure that I’m getting the message out there that, you know, baseball is more than, you know, what it’s perceived to be, as this very homogenous and, you know to be quite candid, Caucasian or Latino because that’s the other part of this conversation, right, sport.  When in fact, you know, we have a huge legacy of African Americans and Asians in this sport, you know.  We have women who have been in the front offices of baseball for, you know, 40 plus years that we don’t necessarily see but they’re there.  So, how do we… how my job is to make sure that we continue that legacy.  We continue, you know, bringing that type of growth into our organization through the people that I recruit and tee up for my business units.  To make sure that they are saying, you know what, it’s important that Ash Cash has a seat on my team, and you know, that this young lady gives me a perspective that I can’t see absent her being there.  So, that’s what that looks like for us.

 

TASHIMA:  Definitely.  So, do you think that, I guess, there was this perception that MLB is not necessarily for all?  Or, do you feel like people… well, with that perception, do you feel like people may shy away from even applying for a position?  So, it might not necessarily be a lack of what the sport is doing.  It may just be a perception on the audience’s part to say oh, that job is not for me.

 

RENEE:  You know, that’s an interesting question.  I actually think it’s just more an awareness about what MLB is and the history of MLB.  I’ve been talking to universities and partnerships for the last six or seven months, and it’s really like understanding our business.  Listen, we’re not unaware of the fact that at the end of the day, you know, you want to see yourself reflected in this sport.  You want to see yourself reflected in the product you invest in.  And right now, when you look at the products, it’s the players.  And right now, it is not as diverse as we would like it to be.  Though technically, we are the most diverse in a lot of ways internationally.  We know what that translates.  So, I think it’s more just of the education, understanding the opportunities that baseball actually offers, understanding our business model.  I mean, we hire people who do marketing.  We hire PR.  We hire HR. Like, we’re a business like anything else in a major corporation.  And I just don’t think we’re on the short list of people just yet because they don’t really understand us.  But, I think if they spend a little bit more time, you know, taking and peeling back the onion to really understand, especially the history of baseball, it becomes a very exciting value proposition for a lot more people.

 

ASH:  And, you know, that was going to be one of my questions, you know.  Like, when you think about what type of jobs, you know, because when, you know… let’s say somebody who thinks about going to, you know, Major League Baseball, NFL, NBA, you know.  They really think coach/player, right.  And so, what you’re saying is that… no, there’s a plethora of positions within Major League Baseball.

 

RENEE:  Absolutely.  I mean, like I mentioned, we are a major corporation.  We’re a big global brand.  We have offices in, you know, seven countries.  We have marketing departments.  We have finance departments.  We have an advanced media group.  We have our own technology company through our, MLB, advanced media group.  We have a network.  So, that’s camera people.  That’s people, like yourselves, who know how to produce shows, you know.  We have a baseball operations, which a lot of people think about, again, coaches and players.  But, we have a baseball off scene that consists of some of the brightest minds in baseball because all of it is analysis, data, analytics, and statistics.  And really trying to, you know, understand the science of building a champion.  That’s an exciting proposition, again, if you understand our business.  So, part of this being here, and I thank you again for inviting me, is to let people know that, you know, we’re an organization that’s hiring across the board like everybody else.  So, you know, it may not be your first sport of choice.  But, I promise you when you get there, it will become your sport of choice because there’s a culture there.  There’s a history there.  And once you really start to understand the game and the team, as clichéd as that sounds.  The entire team that puts this product together that has this crazy history and long legacy in our culture, as a country, you can’t help but, you know, get vested.  And all of sudden, it will change your perspective about the game.

 

ASH:  Absolutely.

 

TASHIMA:  Definitely.  I mean, I ran into that when I was in undergrad not realizing, you know.  I was an assist in buying, you know.  It’s like, who would have ever thought that there were people who purchased the clothes to sell the clothes.  So again, it’s about that awareness and it’s about being just being openminded and looking for the information, as well as receiving it when it does come across your way most certainly.

 

ASH:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  And so, I want to jump in to a fellowship program that you guys have.  But, before I do that, I want to talk about, you know, just like in general as a whole, you know, why is diversity important in the workplace?  Like, why does it even matter?  Like, why, you know… why if, you know… if I , you know… people say they, you know…. people do business with people they like and, you know… so, if I like the… if I want to do business with people I like, why does it matter?  Why do I need diversity in the workplace?

 

RENEE:  Well, let’s just go to the science of it, right.  Let’s just go to the data.  I mean, there are numerous studies that have shown the direct correlation between having a diverse workforce and a diverse team in the bottom line.  So, let’s talk about the business case of diversity and inclusion. It’s not about the feel good.  It’s the right thing to do.  We need to get some brown and black kids here and some women.  No, this is about business.

 

So, again as I mentioned earlier, if it’s easy to default to people that look like you, sound like you, think like you, it’s very comfortable, right.  But, it starts to foster a type of group think.  And everybody starts to think and say the same thing.  And yes, I agree with you, but you need somebody else from the outside who doesn’t look like you.  A different perspective to say you know what, well what about this?  And you only get that when you have diversity at the table, you know.  So, that’s the value proposition to the organization.  This is about the business.  The feel good is just the, you know, bonus point.  At the end of the day, it’s about moving the needle and the bottom line.  It’s about creating future leaders in the business, whatever business you’re in.  And you could only do that if you’re exposed to a variety of thinking.  And also understand that you only get to that place of greatness by knowing what you don’t know and bringing people that do.

 

ASH:  Oh, no, I love that.  I love that.  I love that.  All right.   And so now, let’s talk about this new initiative, The Diversity Fellowship Program, you know.  What is it, and how can people get involved?

 

RENEE:  Great.  Yes, we just launched our 2017 Major League Baseball Diversity Fellowship Program. So, this is new for the Office of the Commissioner.  And I’m happy to say for our clubs.   We got a lot of support around this and the idea.  This is to really create a pipeline of talent in the front office and baseball operations departments of our clubs and the commissioner’s office, the track to creating our future GMs, our future heads of scouting, our future heads of analytics.  This is what we’re trying to do with this program.

 

So, we have two components of the fellowship program.  The first one is 18 to 24-month rotation at one of 20 major league clubs around the country.  And you will be placed in a front office or baseball operations position.  You’ll be, you know, coached.  You will be supported but it’s a full-time job.  You will be a full-time employee.  So, you will get a full-time salary and benefits that come with that.  So, that’s the first part.  So, if you want to build a champion on the ground locally and really kind of feel what it feels like to be a part of a major sports enterprise, that’s the one track.

 

ASH:  Is the salary close to what the player’s make?

 

RENEE:  No, perspective.  We’re going to get there.

 

ASH:  Right, right.  Okay, okay.

 

RENEE:  Baby steps.  Let me get the fellowship off the ground first.  Then, we’ll tackle some other challenges later.  Diversity of income.

 

ASH:  Right.

 

RENEE:  But that’s another thing.  And, in the second track, it’s a club.  It’s actually a fellowship with the Office of the Commissioner.  That will only be three slots because it’s a three-year commitment.  So, essentially you have to be able to say I’m going to be in New York City grinding for three years.  But, a tremendous opportunity because it will be two years in our baseball operations department under two of our fearless leaders, direct reports to Joe Torre himself, Kim Ng, and Peter Woodfork.  And the third year would be in our labor economics group.  So, for those of you that may not be as familiar with baseball, baseball ops, you know, really is about the rules, the regulations, of the game, how you’re picking players, etc., the data analytics that I talked about.  Labor economics also goes into the analytics.  But, this is where you’re talking about the economics of the game, you know, the arbitration, the collective bargaining and agreements, and the implications of that.

 

So, again, another track to become a future president or GM, and ideally one day, right, an owner of the game so… or of a team.  So, that’s that track.  So, total 23 spots.  Three in New York City.  20 around the country.  You do have to have some flexibility on the 20, right.  You don’t get to pick which club you want to be a part of because we’re also trying to make sure we match candidates with the right clubs.  So, clubs are giving us their job descriptions because I just don’t want to pluck somebody somewhere and setting them up to fail.  There has to be some type of synergy between that person’s skillset and the culture of that club.  So, if you have that flexibility, if you want to break into sports, and you really want to understand how to run a franchise and be a part of this business and, again, building a champion, there is no other program that I know right now that’s doing it at this level.  So, I’m really proud that MLB’s the first.  And I anticipate this as, you know, going to be my legitimate pool of talent that hopefully in a couple of years you’ll be interviewing them.

 

ASH:  Right.

 

RENEE:  To talk about what was their experience in the fellowship and where they’re going to go next.

 

ASH:  Wow, wow.

 

TAMISHA:  So, what would the candidate look like, as far as on paper rather?

 

RENEE:  Sure, but we have a criteria.  There’s no questions.  So, this fellowship is open to people of color and women, 3.2 GPA, 2018 graduates or alumni no more than two years post-graduation, right.  Well, we’ll ask for some essays.  There is a baseball essay.  Don’t worry.  We’re not going to ask you to do a metrics, saber, a metrics type of analysis.  But, we do want to get a feel if you have some affinity for baseball.  It’s not required.  You can learn the game.  If you’re smart and you’re really passionate, we’ll get you there.  But, we just want to get a feel of where you are.  So, there will be two essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc.  And then they’ll be an interview process.  They’ll be the first round of screens that will happen at the Office of the Commissioner.  And the goal for me is to tier up anywhere from two to six candidates per club.  And then, we will bring them to the clubs.  And the clubs will do the final round of interviews and pick their candidates.  And hopefully, if we stay on calendar, we will be announcing them by the beginning of the new season.

 

TASHIMA:  Nice.

 

ASH:  Nice, nice, nice.

 

TASHIMA:  This is exciting.

 

ASH:  This is huge, especially like… man, no pressure right.  But, especially at a time where, you know, there’s a lot going on in sports, right.  There’s a lot going on in sports.  There’s a lot of, you know, people, especially black and brown people who are feeling sort of disrespected and things of that nature.  So, you know, the fact that, you know, Major League Baseball is taking a proactive approach in making sure that, you know, you guys are setting up future leaders, people in the front office.  I think that’s huge.  That’s big.

 

RENEE:  Yeah, it’s… you’re right.  It’s an interesting time right now in the sports world.  There’s no question.  But part of it is… Look it’s two parts, right.  Things we cannot control.

 

ASH:  Right.

 

RENEE:  With regard to our culture.  But, there’s other parts that which we can control.  So, part of that is, you know, making sure we get to the table.

 

ASH:  Absolutely.

 

RENEE:  You know, making sure we’re being heard.  We… and part… the biggest part of that is making sure we take advantage of these opportunities, right.  So, there’s a natural inclination for us for obvious reasons to go to all the obvious things all the time, right.  We may want to go to baseball or we may want to go to Goldman Sachs.  And everybody wants to go to Google, you know.  But, sometimes you have to color outside the lines to find your real opportunity and your launch pad, and kind of go outside your comfort zone.  And that might be baseball for you and I welcome you.  If that’s the case, if baseball’s making you a little uncomfortable, I don’t know.  I don’t think that’s my thing.  I don’t… maybe, I don’t even like this sport.

 

ASH:  Yep.

 

RENEE:  Then, that’s why I need you there.

 

ASH:  Right.

 

RENEE:  That’s exactly why we need you there.  Because, again, it gives us another perspective to think about the sport in a different way.  And once you’re at the table, that’s when you change the conversations.  So, you can’t complain if you’re not putting yourself out there to be at the table.

 

ASH:  Absolutely.  And, you know, it’s bigger than baseball though.

 

RENEE:  For sure.

 

ASH:  Because, man, like… so for me, you know, my background is banking.  And, you know, I would not, you know…. even though… as I grew in the business of banking, I finally said man, I don’t want to do this.  I want to become an entrepreneur and do my own thing.  But, the valuable lessons that I learned.  Like, 10 years of learning PNLs and how to run a business and, you know… like, I ran an eight million-dollar prof… like, all these things that I would have never been able to do on my own as an entrepreneur.  And so, anybody listening, I think this is bigger than baseball.  This is an opportunity to get access to how it’s done, how it’s done on a major level, right.

 

TASHIMA:  Yes, it is.

 

ASH:  Like, this is not, you know… this is not…

 

TASHIMA:  This is MLB, yeah.

 

ASH:  This is it, right.  This is it.  This is the creme de la creme, you know.  I just wanted to say that.  But, you know, this is the big lead.  So, I appreciate that.  And so, you know, if someone wanted to apply or gain more information, where would they go?

 

RENEE:  Absolutely.  So, we are live right now.  Our application process is open.  We welcome you to participate.  You can go to www.MLB.com/fellowship, lower case f.  Now, it is case sensitive.  So, fellowship, f-e-l-l-o-w-s-h-i-p.  And you’ll see our application there, more details.  Everything that I discussed there will be on the website.  And, you know, we’re on social media, you know.  Just apply, even if… I guess, I’m imploring people that even if you think this is not for you, what do you have to lose?

 

ASH:  Absolutely.

 

RENEE:  You definitely lose if you don’t try.

 

ASH:  Yep.

 

RENEE: But, you know, give it a shot.  Give us a shot out.  Come through the fellowship as the primary thing.  So obviously, there are some criteria around that.  But also, for those of you that are current students, rising seniors, that this might not be… you might not be eligible or etc.  We also have a summer internship every year for 10 weeks in the summer time at the Office of the Commissioner.  We’re looking for diversity in that space.  We offer yearlong internships, again, in our labor economics groups, our baseball ops groups.  So, if you’re graduating in December, you know, that’s usually when a lot of those internships come up.  So, look at the club websites.  Look at the MLB website.  We have jobs.  And if you have no interest in baseball ops whatsoever, again, we are a regular business.  So, we have other opportunities from operations to PR and communications, corporate social responsibility.  There are so many opportunities at baseball.  So, I just ask, you know, definitely apply for the fellowship.  Definitely keep us in mind across the board and remember that baseball is ready for you and we want you here.

 

ASH:  Man.

 

TASHIMA:  Wonderful.

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