Verna Myers Profile

  • With two decades of experience creating more inclusive organizations, Verna Myers is one of the nation's most recognized authorities on diversity and inclusion.

  • Myers is the best-selling author of the ground-breaking books What if I Say the Wrong Thing: 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People? and Moving Diversity Forward: How to Go From Well-Meaning to Well-Doing .

  • With her energizing and down-to-earth approach to overcoming biases, Myers has left lasting impressions on audiences at The World Bank, National Geographic, 21st Century Fox, NASA, SXSW, and Warner Bros, not to mention the 1.6 million people and counting who have watched her gripping TED Talk, “How to Overcome Our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them.”
  • Diversity expert, Verna Myers uses joy, humor, and authenticity to helps organizations succeed by overcoming biases and increasing inclusion. A nationally recognized and refreshing voice on a complex issue, Myers has assisted international law firms, Wall Street giants, and the 10,000-member New York City Fire Department in fostering multi-cultural workplaces where everyone has a voice and fair chance of thriving. An engaging speaker, she has presented at The World Bank, National Geographic, 21st Century Fox, NASA, SXSW, Warner Bros., and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as several tech companies.

    With 1.6 million views and counting, her TED Talk, “How to Overcome Our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them,” offers viable steps we can take to eliminate systematic racism in the U.S. Her two best-selling books What if I Say the Wrong Thing: 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People? and Moving Diversity Forward: How to Go From Well-Meaning to Well-Doing have been widely praised for their realistic and unique approach to becoming better leaders, co-workers, friends, and neighbors in a multi-cultural world.

    Myers grew up in a work-class Baltimore neighborhood and graduated from Harvard Law School. Prior to starting the diversity consulting firm, The Vernā Myers Company, she served as the First Executive Director of The Boston Law Firm Group and as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Attorney General of Massachusetts. During her tenure there, she greatly enhanced statewide initiatives regarding inclusion and sexual harassment training.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      Vernā Myers is the Founder of The Vernā Myers Company, a Baltimore-based consulting firm dedicated to eradicating barriers to diversity in the workplace. She is a Harvard-trained lawyer, activist, author and cultural innovator committed to making the most difficult conversations around bias, cultural competence, and inclusion accessible to all. Vernā is an expert facilitator, motivational speaker, and strategic advisor to for-profit and nonprofit organizations. She has delivered keynotes at The World Bank, National Geographic, 21st Century Fox, NASA, Warner Bros., the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and tech companies such as Qualcomm. Notably, Vernā was a recipient of The Network Journal’s “25 Influential Black Women in Business.”

      Vernā’s appearances and message of power and possibility have touched millions of lives, including her TED talk, “How to Overcome Our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them,” which has been viewed over 1.6 million times. Vernā is also the author of two best-selling books, a contributor to Refinery 29 and Huffington Post, and a cited expert for The Atlantic, Forbes, the Harvard Business Review, and TED NPR Radio.

      Currently, Vernā lives in Baltimore where she serves on the board for two organizations – The Center for Urban Families, which addresses workforce development and family services, and UC Hastings College of Law’s Work Life Law Program, which advocates for gender and racial equality in the workplace.

      In all, Vernā is a visionary who teaches people how to understand, respect, and include others so each person operates at his or her fullest capacity in society. As Vernā puts it, “Diversity is being invited to the party, Inclusion is being asked to dance.™”

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    Verna Myers's Speech Descriptions

    Riveting and real, Vernā Myers helps companies overcome bias, embrace differences, and create a more socially just work culture. With two decades of experience working to increase inclusion in the corporate world, non-profits, and public institutions, Myers quickly connects with audiences while offering them simple concrete tools to handle diversity challenges that arise at work, home, and even the supermarket. Refreshingly open about her own implicit biases, diversity gaffes, and how she’s managed them, Myers inspires people to evaluate and transform the way they think of and interact with others based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.

    Through carefully crafted words and meaningful messages that are impactful on a personal and professional level Vernā will deliver a Keynote to your organization that is powerful, authentic, clear and meaningful. By weaving together recent data, historical facts, current events and personal stories Vernā’s message is often considered the starting point to a journey for the individuals and the organizations that join her.

    Keynote sessions are a maximum 90 minutes. The average keynote will be 60-75 minutes with 15 minutes of audience Q&A assuming the audience is under 250 participants.

    Whether you are looking to impact the entire firm, senior leadership/executive/managing partners teams, intact teams, associations members, affinity groups, church, students, faculty or staff Vernā offers a variety of Keynote topics.

    C4Ward​ ​to​ ​Move​ ​Forward

    Best​ ​suited​ ​for:​ ​All audiences

    Our society is at a crossroad. Political views, race, class, gender, and geography are dividing us
    more than ever. We are pulling back from one another, drawing the idea of family and
    community too small, clinging to people who are “like” us, and being afraid of, or angry with, the

    But separation and retrenchment are not the way forward. To overcome the epidemic of
    hatred, bigotry, and oppression, we need to expand and reimagine a more inclusive community
    and society. We each need to act - we need to commit to reaching across our differences
    instead of giving in to isolation, fear, and hostility.

    In this compelling talk, Vernā shares her vision of how we can all move forward, using her four
    Cs of progress - Cultural Curiosity, Compassion, Consciousness, and Courage. Participants will
    leave energized and with practical tools for connecting in small and large ways to people who
    are different.

    What​ ​if​ ​I​ ​Say​ ​the​ ​Wrong​ ​Thing?
    Best​ ​suited​ ​for:​ ​All audiences

    Every day in the media we see people “stepping in it”- trying to explain how some offensive thing
    they did or said wasn’t meant to be derogatory or disrespectful of a group of people. Even in
    meetings, at work, in the classroom and around the dining room table things get said or done
    that cause great pain, confusion, and disengagement.

    Some of us blunder forward, but many
    more of us withdraw from interacting across differences, fearing we will make a mistake. This
    paralysis makes it hard for us to work in diverse teams and live in diverse communities.

    In this provocative and instructive keynote, Vernā will help the audience learn not only how to
    address the verbal, written missteps and negative actions of others, but what to do if they “step
    in it” themselves. This is a must hear Keynote for any person who is in a position where they can
    lead by example, even if they “stepped in it” themselves.

    Why​ ​We​ ​Miss​ ​Talent
    Best​ ​suited​ ​for:​ All audiences, especially talent development professionals, hiring managers
    and team leaders.

    It is said that seeing is believing. But what about what we don’t realize we are seeing?

    Despite all our good intentions and our desire to be fair and merit-based in our assessments of
    others, our unconscious biases create blind spots. Decades of research by social scientists
    make it clear that our brains take short cuts to conclusions without telling us. They rely heavily
    on schemas- ideas and things that go together- to make evaluations. It can be an efficient
    system, but it can also be a faulty one, and cause us to misjudge and exclude people based on
    old societal stereotypes, preferences and our personal belief system.

    This is not because we are bad people; it’s because we are people. If an organization wants to
    attract, retain and advance diverse talent and better understand and serve a diverse customer
    and client base, its people can’t be in denial. Instead they must get curious and start looking for
    the implicit biases that are undermining their explicit beliefs, values and goals.

    This disarmingly humorous and content rich keynote explains how important it is for leaders,
    managers, teammates and colleagues to identify the biases in themselves and in the workplace
    and learn specific ways they can begin to counter their own behaviors.

    Inclusive​ ​Leadership:​ ​Culture​ ​Matters
    Best​ ​suited​ ​for:​ Leadership/executive/managing partners

    Cultural Competency isn’t just a catchphrase, it's a critical characteristic of any successful
    leader. As organizations look to diversify their workforce and remain competitive and relevant in
    a constantly changing world and global marketplace, leaders must learn how to create inclusive,
    enriching, respectful environments for those around them.

    Effective leaders have honed the skill
    to motivate and manage a heterogeneous group of people, to get the best out of them and to
    allow their differences to positively impact the enterprise. This skill is called cultural competence
    - the ability to understand, recognize, and utilize knowledge and skills to engage effectively
    across differences.

    This interactive, energetic keynote will help leaders see themselves and those they work with as
    cultural beings, helps them to identify areas where culture may be affecting team effectiveness
    and gives them tools to build the type of culture and environment that will bring out the best in
    the people they are leading and serving.

    Why​ ​Women​ ​Matter​ ​-​ ​How​ ​to​ ​Move​ ​Gender​ ​Equity​ ​Forward
    Best​ ​suited​ ​for:​ All audiences or female centric
    Decades of women in the workplace and graduate schools across many industries have proven
    that women are smart, capable, hardworking and committed to their families and their
    professions. Yet, gender inequality still prevails in the C-suite, boardrooms, on teams and in

    We have evidence that bias, explicit or unconscious, are still alive and well and creating
    barriers to opportunity and advancement every single day in most organizations. When women
    are well represented, respected and reflected in decision-making roles, studies suggests they
    bring certain invaluable qualities, approaches and capabilities that strengthen their
    organization’s performance.

    For organizations and our society to thrive, women must thrive. If women are not allowed to
    realize their full potential, our businesses, families, communities and society as a whole will

    This candid and motivational keynote makes clear the value women bring to their organizations,
    what biases and structural barriers prevent their advancement, how women can use their power
    to overcome barriers including their own sometimes self-limiting behavior, and best practices for
    organizations moving women forward.

    What People are Saying about Seeing Verna Speak

    Rating Entries

    “Verna is a total rock star! She is one of the most engaging speakers I have ever had the opportunity to enjoy. Her presentation was invaluable, and all of the almost 300 women that attended were talking about her energy and message as one of the best they have heard!”

    -Heidi Goldstein, Partner, Thompson Hine and Firm-wide Chair of The Women’s Initiative

    “Parts of her speech were like, when you attend church and the choir sings a song or the pastor gives a sermon that’s so good, it hits your SOUL, not physical body, your SOUL? Well that’s how it was for me at times.”

    -Cynthia Witherspoon, Modica Law

    “Vernā Myers is one of my all-time favorite conference speakers and thought-leaders.”

    -Jolie Blanchard Brown via Google+

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    Books by Verna Myers:

    What if I Say the Wrong Thing?: 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People

    In this compelling new tip book you’ll find innovative and surprising ways to keep your personal diversity journey moving and the diversity commitment of your organization. Written to make this information bite-size and accessible, you’ll find quick answers to typical What should I do? questions, like: What if I say the wrong thing, what should I do? What if I am work and someone makes a sexist joke, what should I say? Purchase copies for everyone at your organization to make sure everyone knows the culturally effective way to approach diversity situations. With this book they can be prepared and practiced at moving diversity forward!

    Moving Diversity Forward: How to Go from Well-Meaning to Well-Doing

    “If you believe that your organization has done everything it can to enhance its diversity, and if you are still frustrated at how little progress you have made, Moving Diversity Forward is for you. It is an instructive read for all of those who wish to live and work in a multi-cultural world where everyone has a fair chance to succeed and contribute.” — Frank P. Barron, Chief Legal Officer, Morgan Stanley

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