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In My Shoes With Yuisa Pérez

A Consultant and Advisor of Diversity and Inclusion, and a member of Clarks’ Every Move Matters Advisory Panel, Yuisa Pérez is a force to be reckoned with. Proudly Puerto Rican, Yuisa was appointed Chief People Officer at the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts in 2021, tasked with helping the iconic institution build an inclusive culture and foster greater equity.

We sat down with Yuisa to discuss life as a woman of colour and how she’s using her position and power to shape important conversations around representation and instigate change. From breaking down barriers to the challenges that still exist when it comes to ensuring diverse voices are heard where and when it matters, Yuisa talks about her hopes for a fairer future and how, together, we can get there.

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Tell us a bit about your work.

I joined the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts because of President Tim Ritchie’s dedication to the true meaning of belonging. The museum is a magical place filled with fun, innovation, and generosity, but I didn’t join it for the science; I joined to continue my equity work alongside a fearless leader. It’s not about the museum, it’s about opportunity.

We can certainly disagree on how we’re getting there but the dedication impressed me; it allows me to do the work that’s needed to transform the museum. Here, we’re having courageous conversations. It’s hurtful, enlightening, and uncomfortable as it all should be for a 192-year-old organisation that’s striving to create a space where science ultimately belongs to everyone.

What was your experience growing up as a Latina woman from Puerto Rico?

I understanded what it means to be marginalised in the workplace. I know what it means when people say “I’m colourblind” or “I care about all people” while ignoring facts. I’ve been mistreated, I’ve been fired, I’ve been discriminated against. And yet, I still work hard for better experiences for others.

How important is it for communities and companies to engage in open and honest conversations about diversity and race?

Creating space for a sense of belonging isn’t easy IF you truly want to be honest and do it with integrity. If you’re in a meeting and a colleague states “yes, of course everyone belongs here”, and you look around the room to see that the faces all look similar - you know, not everyone belongs. That’s simple. The challenge is to look at each other and ask the question “who’s missing?”, “why are they missing?” and “how do we bring more diversity?” Once you openly discuss this, then you can tackle how to be more inclusive and create a sense of belonging.

“My big brother used to wear Clarks as a teenager. I idolised him and would try his shoes on, even though they were about 5 sizes too big!”

Do you have any advice/learnings for people looking to grow conversation in this space? And what would you like to see from companies?

Too often we simply make statements that are empty, performative, or simply ignoring facts. You can’t say you care about everyone when not everyone is at the “table” - as in the table where people make decisions that impact us as a community or as a business. Of course, it’s not enough to just invite people to the table; they must be included and participate with agency. It’s not a box to be checked off for either compliance or performative outcomes.

A big question I get asked a lot is “how do you convince leadership that the ROI for diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and belonging is important?” My short answer is that I’m no longer in the mindset of convincing leaders or board members of the importance of this work. Don’t get me wrong, many organisations still need convincing and it’s still important to our DEI work, but I also know where my energy is. Well into my mid-forties and doing this work since the early nineties, I know the equity work around belonging needs commitment and not just lip service.

What role does Clarks play in your life? How has your perception of Clarks evolved over time?

Understanding humans is hard work but taking care of yourself can be simple. And for that, I love fashion and dancing - salsa, merengue, bachata. I love combining comfort and style and adding a little flair to it all. That’s why I love Clarks; I can work, dance, and relax in my Clarks shoes. I’ll have a day full of stressful meetings talking about peoples’ livelihoods, their families, their health and then, to relax, I’ll go out dancing in my Clarks! I’ll have been on my feet most of the day and danced most of the night, all while wearing Clarks.

I didn’t always know about Clarks. I knew it was a staple in peoples’ lives and heard of the shoes and saw the stores around but never thought it was for me. It wasn’t until I noticed Clarks was taking initiatives to be more inclusive in advertisements that my perception changed. Representation matters, and it certainly matters to me.

“I can work, dance, and relax in my Clarks shoes. I’ll have a day full of stressful meetings…and then, to relax, I’ll go out dancing in my Clarks! I’ll have been on my feet most of the day and danced most of the night, all while wearing Clarks.”

Photography credit Ana Maria Cardenas & Jefferson White