Vernā Myers: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion | E108

Vernā Myers: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion | E108

How can diversity and inclusion help your company?

The bottom line: it motivates people and is shown to have a positive financial impact!

In today’s episode, we are chatting with Vernā Myers, VP of Inclusion Strategy at Netflix, Harvard-trained lawyer, and founder of the Vernā Myers Company. Vernā is a best-selling author and is known as a cultural change catalyst, influencer, thought leader, and social commentator. Vernā has been featured on CNN and cited in numerous publications including The Atlantic, Bloomberg BNA, Business Insider, Forbes, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, Refinery29, and TED NPR Radio to name a few.

In this episode, Vernā and I talk about her transition from Harvard Law to her focus on diversity and inclusion, defining equity, and sorting through unconscious biases. We then talk further about how you can be an ally, understanding microaggressions and micro-affirmations, the financial impact of D&I for companies, and the difference between sympathy versus empathy.

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Check out our website to meet the team, view show notes and transcripts:


01:10 – Vernā’s Shift From Law to Diversity & Inclusion

03:39 – How Vernā Uses Her Law Skills Today

05:45 – Verna’s Definition of Diversity and Inclusion

08:46 – Understanding The Concept of Equity

10:46 – Imposter Syndrome and its Relation to Diversity

14:31 – Experience with Unconscious Bias

17:28 – Improving Your Unconscious Bias Over Time

19:20 – Social Hierarchy Framework: Prejudice to -isms

24:24 – How to Lift Up Marginalized Groups as Leaders

27:23 – How to Support with Balance

29:41 – How to Raise Children in a World Full of Biases

34:25 – What is a Microaggression?

37:53 – What are Micro-Affirmations?

40:28 – The Financial Impact of D&I

45:09 – Sympathetic vs. Empathy/Compassion

48:27 – Continuing this Conversation

51:40 – Vernā’s Secret to Profiting in Life

Mentioned in the Episode:

Vernā’s LinkedIn:

Vernā’s Twitter:

Vernā’s Website:

#108: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with Vernā Myers

[00:00:00] Hala Taha: [00:00:00] You're listening to YAP young and profiting podcast, a place where you can listen, learn, and profit. Welcome to the show. I'm your host, Hala Taha, and on young and profiting podcast, we investigate a new topic each week and interview some of the brightest minds in the world. My goal is to turn their wisdom into actionable advice that you can use in your everyday life.

No matter your age, profession, or industry. There's no fluff on this podcast and that's on purpose. I'm here to uncover value from my guests. By doing the proper research and asking the right questions. If you're new to the show, we've chatted with the likes of ex FBI agents, real estate moguls, self-made billionaires, CEOs, and bestselling authors.

Our subject matter ranges from enhancing productivity, how to gain influence the art of entrepreneurship and more if you're smart and like to continually improve yourself, hit the subscribe button because you'll love it here at young [00:01:00] and profiting podcast. This week on YAP, I'm speaking with diversity and inclusion expert Vernā Myers, who is currently the VP of inclusion strategy at Netflix, as well as a founder of the Vernae Myers consulting group.

Vernā  is a bestselling author of two books, Moving Diversity Forward and What If I Say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People. In addition to being a bestselling author Vernā is also known as a cultural change catalyst thought leader and social commentator. She's been featured on CNN and cited in numerous publications, including Business Insider, Forbes, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, and NPR radio

to name a few. In this episode, I'll be talking with Vernā  about how we can overcome the unconscious biases that we all have as individuals. We'll also lay out the different oppressionisms out there, like racism and sexism and the one up and one down groups related to them. And lastly, we'll discuss microaggressions and how we can [00:02:00] combat them with micro affirmations and we'll uncover the difference between sympathy and empathy and so much more..

Hi, Vernā! Welcome to young and profiting podcast.

Vernā Myers: [00:02:11] Hey, how you doing? I'm so happy to be here.

Hala Taha: [00:02:14] Likewise. I think this is such an awesome discussion we're going to have. So you are the VP of inclusion strategy at Netflix and it's black history month. So I figured what better topic to cover then inclusion and diversity this month.

So welcome to the show. I'm very excited to dig into all the stuff you have to offer. We do a lot of research here at young and profiting podcasts. So I found out that previous to this role at Netflix. And before you had a consultant agency on DNI, you were a lawyer and you graduated from Harvard Law and you practiced law for over 10 years.

So talk to us about how you made that shift from law into diversity and inclusion and what first sparked that passion.

Vernā Myers: [00:02:55] I arrived at Harvard Law School, where there were more people of color [00:03:00] that I ever gone to school with because prior to that, I was at Barnard College, Columbia University. So it was really positive.

But then I got a job in a corporate law firm and I was the first and only black person they've ever had. And they had no one who was like Latin, X, Asian, you name it. I was like breaking the color line, which kind of blew my mind because even though I'm old, it was still the eighties. And I'm like, what?

So what happened? And as I started to recognize that there was just this paucity of black lawyers, especially in the Boston area, because, Boston had still that reputation of being inhospitable to people of color in particular black folks who don't have the bustling thing, it was all bad. And so I started really with

just a project with a bunch of other black lawyers. I'm trying to think about what it is that we could do to increase the [00:04:00] representation. And ultimately after practicing for a while, we went and created an organization with a bunch of other people who are concerned about this issue, including many white leaders in those law firms.

And we started a group that was a consortium of all of these different law firms, trying to work on the issue of representation when it came to race. And then it started to expand from black to Asian, Hispanic, indigenous, Latin X. I went back there, we would call it Hispanic, whatever we've we moved back and forth on these words.

So that's how it all started. And I became the executive director of that organization. Then I went to the Attorney General's office and really spearheaded a, an initiative there. Then I decided to go out on my own.

Hala Taha: [00:04:53] That's so cool. And so I often talk about something called skill stacking, where from all your different [00:05:00] experiences, you take these skills and then, one day you can put them all together and then offer something unique to the world, which is what it sounds like you did.

So talk to us about your skills as a lawyer and how that relates to what you do now and how you use those skills today.

Vernā Myers: [00:05:14] Yeah. It's so interesting. Cause I was talking to one of my colleagues from Harvard Law School yesterday and I was talking about what the good and the bad of illegal training.

So the nice thing about legal training is that you're constantly looking for your, you've got a critical mindset, which is not to say negative, but it means that you're asking questions. You're looking for what isn't fair. You're also trying to figure out what are all the arguments, what are all the perspectives?

And that's like really good training for how to examine issues, how to problem solve, et cetera. The downside for me was that so much of it is adversarial. And so much of it is critical that, and it's so much of it is in the head and it's rational and it doesn't [00:06:00] allow for some of the other skills that are about empathy, listening, inviting, difference.

All of those things are not what you do in law school. And one of the upsets I had in law school as well as practicing law was where is the compassion? Where is the ability to see yourself and someone else rather than see yourself as against someone else. And certainly the work of inclusion requires you to develop many skills that are not just about your intellect.

And not just about your head and so ultimately, I could take all the sort of critical thinking that I had been schooled in, and I could also add what comes actually much more naturally to me, which is collaboration and listening and building things together and looking for commonalities. That kind of thing.

Hala Taha: [00:06:56] I love that. I think that's great that you were able to take some of your [00:07:00] experiences from law and then add onto them those soft skills that you were talking about. So let's lay some foundational context for our listeners. You have a unique definition of diversity and inclusion. I've heard you say before that diversity is being asked to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance.

So tell us about that. Expand on that more and your definition of a DNI.

Vernā Myers: [00:07:23] Yeah, how would go into these companies? And they would be so happy to see me initially. And then I would tell them what I discovered by talking to their employees. And then they would say something like, so yeah, so the black people, they're not having fun.

Really. The gay folks are upset. The women really, we thought they were doing so well, Barbara seems to be enjoying it here. And then I would say, yeah, but what they're saying is they're here, but they're not in the lifeblood of the organization. They're not on the sexy [00:08:00] projects.

They're not at the highest levels. They aren't feeling a sense of belonging. And the response would always be ultimately thank you so much, but we're not gonna change anything. I was dealing with very successful companies and there was a real fear that if they were to do something differently, that they wouldn't be as successful. Somehow they thought they were going to invite difference and stay the same.

So I thought to them, I kept saying to them, look, if you're serious about this, you're going to have to do something different. You're going to have to get folks off the wall. It's like a bad middle school dance. You remember those mixers where you would like, just hope someone would invite you to dance.

You just lingering around the bathroom with your girlfriends or whatever, or the plage bull or whatever. But the leaders are in the position, to really create true opportunity. Not tokenism, not having one Barbara, who [00:09:00] is more like them than anyone else, not just looking for themselves and trying to duplicate and replicate themselves, but really leaning into the power of difference and inviting that difference onto the dance floor.

So somehow we came up with that particular analogy and it resonates across the world. And now that we're talking more about equity, I'm thinking about adding another piece, which is equity is leveling that playing field, right? Because ultimately we want to share that power. We want to all together say, what's the music going to be?

Where is it going to be, for folks who have disabilities special physical disability, can I even get into the party? So there's still a lot of work to be done, to get everybody on the floor and to get the value and the power of that fabulous cocktail of difference.

Hala Taha: [00:09:49] See, it's so interesting how this space like keeps expanding and expanding because to your point, now everyone's talking about equity, help us understand this concept of equity even further, you [00:10:00] alluded to it, but I'd love for you to expand on that.

Vernā Myers: [00:10:02] Yeah. I mean, equity is like the, finally we are going to tell the truth about the playing field and it's not level, and I'm not the one who says there's no meritocracy, but I am the one that says some folks are in the meritocracy for sure. But a whole bunch of people don't even get to play in the meritocracy.

So this is about an acknowledgement of a lot of institutional and systemic barriers. To success for people who are super capable, but they just haven't had exposure or opportunity or they're run into bias or discrimination, or they don't even know a job exists. That is what blows my mind. That especially like now in the entertainment industry, there are so many fabulous opportunities and jobs, but folks don't even know or they haven't seen themselves behind a camera or they haven't [00:11:00] seen themselves as a director or they haven't seen themselves as their story represented.

And so their understanding about what's possible is very limited because of seriously long-term exclusion. And in many cases, purposeful exclusion, not just unconscious bias, which I talk a lot about, but consciously trying to maintain dominance and power in a set of a group of people.

Hala Taha: [00:11:28] So what you're talking about now really just worked my recollection of imposter syndrome, right?

So a lot of people in this world, a lot of people who are often discriminated against we're the first ones to have imposter syndrome and think we're not even qualified to have these jobs that you're talking about. So tell us about imposter syndrome and how it actually relates to diversity.

Vernā Myers: [00:11:51] You know what? I was like new to this concept. Cause I kept saying to people, what are y'all talking? They were like, you know how you feel like you're like not supposed [00:12:00] to be there. And I was like, oh yeah, I'm fact, I just did a piece on this where I do remember arrive in at Harvard Law School and thinking that it was just a matter of time when someone was going to be knocking on my door and oh, sorry.

That was actually a mistake you're supposed to be here. Because you're each time and this is the truth. Each time you go to another level in your life, every time you're courageous enough to say, I'm going to try something. You are going to have to reckon with the fact that you are in a place you've never been before. You with people who are good and maybe even better, but you have actually done the work to get there.

So one of the things that I realized is no, nobody made a mistake. You're here. You worked to get here now, do what you know how to do so that you can go to the next level. So that's one thing I really want people to recognize. The second thing is it's a whole bunch of people suffering [00:13:00] from this white men suffer from this.

Some people would say not frequently enough, I'm going to, but it's like all of us, depending on your personality, your background, you'll live together experience it doesn't just visit folks who have like traditionally excluded groups or whatever. However, there is a way that racism and sexism and other forms of bias and institutionalized kind of systemic bias that suggests that maybe we're not as good.

So then we start internalizing that we start internalizing that, and then we don't even need racism because we already put ourselves in a position of not being able to be our best selves. We have our own limitations. So much of the work we have to do is to take the limitations off of ourselves.

And to not believe that we're not as good. The counter to the imposter syndrome is to stand up in your fullness. [00:14:00] And I think sometimes people don't realize that.

Hala Taha: [00:14:03] That is extremely powerful because a lot of the times, like you said, we think that everything is just like against us. And it's external when really sometimes part of the problem is internal, but it's because of these external experiences and environments that we've been in the past.

And we just have to always start with a clean slate, I think. Really just not going to turn out.

Vernā Myers: [00:14:22] It's not that we. It isn't out there. It's not that people haven't tried to box us in. It's just that they don't have to try if we box ourselves in. So we got to just keep pushing it.

There are ways that we cope really important. So we don't have to deal with a lot of nonsense and trauma and stuff. But then there are ways that we can keep pushing. We got to keep testing. How much space is it? Cause folks talk about like the dog that's chained up in a yard for a while. And then all you have to do is do that for awhile.

And then you can take the chain off of the dog and they'll stay in the yard. And it's just because they're accustomed to that. And so I want to [00:15:00] encourage people to take the limits off no matter who you marked, no matter what your identity is, no matter what your lived experiences like, really think possibilities because that's the thing that motivates us to be our best selves.

Hala Taha: [00:15:11] That's very inspirational. So thank you for sharing that let's move on to unconscious bias. So this is something that a lot of people think that maybe only racists have unconscious bias, but you told the story during your Ted Talk that you in fact also suffer from this from time to time. And you told a story about you being on a plane and having a female pilot, and how you realize that you have your own unconscious bias.

Would you share that example with us?

Vernā Myers: [00:15:37] Oh, my goodness. Yeah. So on a plane and initially thrilled to hear a female voice come over out of the cockpit and thinking, oh my God, women are moving up and feeling and then it started getting turbulent and bumpy. And I was like, Ooh, I hope she can drive. And I have to say hello.

I didn't even know. I knew that was a problem until I came back on the leg that night. And it was a male pilot, it's always a male pilot. It is [00:16:00] often turbulent and bumpy and I'm like, oh no, I have never questioned the competence of the pilot. You might be over there praying, but you're not saying, is he qualified?

I wonder how many years he's had and you don't do that. And so I was like, oh my God, I'm a woman. And I am biased against women. That's a thing. And like I said, in the talk is because all of us I've been out here getting the corrupted message, the misinformation, the ways of looking at who's better than who Supreme.

So it filters out on top of all of us, and then we have to be rejecting it consciously. So the solution to unconscious bias is to know that everybody has it. Because the science is saying basically, it's just how our brain has to work. It couldn't possibly deal with every piece of stimuli. So it's got to take [00:17:00] shortcuts.

It's got to do associations quick associations. And when things are high risk, you go way into your, what you think you already know, like big tube in the sky. I want a guy like that. Like your brain has that pattern. Like men drive by the way, men who can't drive and, women who can, and even though those different experiences still doesn't check the bias sometimes because it's so embedded.

So you got to go looking for it. You got to get out of denial and nobody who has a brain, everybody he's got this issue and then you need to go and say, how do I get conscious? About these areas in my life that need attention so that I'm not just constantly unconsciously doing this work.

Hala Taha: [00:17:51] Do you think that gets better over time?

You're basically saying like it's going to happen and you've got to catch yourself and tell yourself, oh, this [00:18:00] is unconscious bias. What am I doing? And walk backwards from there. Does it ever get better in terms of getting better at not having unconscious bias.

Vernā Myers: [00:18:08] Is a good question.

You work on it, right? So you say, okay, who am I? Outgroups who would have folks who just go immediately into the less than pile for me? Or I have some stereotype. Cause then you start focusing on that. But here's the thing, all of which is so by good and bad, which you can get good on race. And be incompetent on disability, right?

You could be great on Latin X, but terrible on Asian Americans. And for example, what's happening right now with xenophobia and like this horrible violence against Asian Americans, you could be clueless to that. You can be one of the people who are like mimicking. People who have accents, right? You don't even know that you're doing that.

So it's a journey. Your brain is going to do what it's [00:19:00] going to do and be much more conscious. You got to slow down, you got to ask yourself questions. You got to invite folks to tell you because all of us have friends who are like, you're just like, I know you didn't just say that's not right.

That's not right. And so we have to tell each other when we see it, because we just haven't gotten so used to trafficking in this kind of bias.

Hala Taha: [00:19:25] So I want to move on to a really cool concept that I read about in your book, What If I Say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People, it was a fantastic book and you break down all the different isms and then you also classify each group of isms into a one-up group and a one down group.

And I thought this was so cool. And I'd love for you to share this framework with our listeners and how we can use it.

Vernā Myers: [00:19:51] Thank you. Thank you. I actually got this really great framework from Visions Inc. Org. They're really great. They do this work, but it's all about how do we [00:20:00] think about the social hierarchies that are existing constantly?

And how does something move from like a prejudice? To an ism, like how do you go from, for example, racial prejudice to racism, because people are always like, I'm not a racist, I'm not a racist. And I'm like, all the racist I would stay home and we would still have racism because the ism is that there have been years and years of privileging one group over another, and therefore we know their history or better, or were there more opportunities available, et cetera.

And when you have that year after year over and over again, that privilege that benefit of the doubt. And all the benefits that go with it, get systematized and repeated and embedded in everything we do and how our organizations are shaped, et cetera. That's how you get to the ism. And so we have heterosexism, we have CIS [00:21:00] sexism where we're just always centering the norm around cis-gender people, or we might have people who have English as their first language. And if you're in the United States, that's going to just pick up, would you in a particular way now, let me just say that. Most people don't believe in this structure anymore, but it doesn't matter because it's on automatic. And so that's why people keep talking about anti-racism anti sexism, right?

Because you've acted gotta be proactive to get rid of the status quo because the status quo is racism. And so in this chart, you say, which is the group that has been targeted as not as good less than, and which are the groups that have been given the benefit of the doubt and the privilege. And that group is called the up group.

And then the group that has been excluded marginalized is called the down group. And the reason we say that is to [00:22:00] talk about power because these positionings make a difference. From dominance representation and power, including the power, not to pay attention to the inequity. And to maintain the dominance.

So that is a framework that I think helps people pay attention to where folks might be experiencing less opportunity, even though you personally love those people. And I put it in quotes. I love those people. It's really fun, but where are they positioned? So one of the thing I wanted to say about that is this is low guilt because for the most part, people don't believe it.

We didn't create it, but it's high responsibility to try to level these things out.

Hala Taha: [00:22:49] Yeah. And so just to, by listeners really understand this let's just take an example. Let's take a 60 year old, black woman, age-ism she's got a one down, right? [00:23:00] Sexism, she's a female, another one down she's black, so racism another one down.

And if you're a 30 year old white male, you've got three ups. So it's you've got to treat people differently because people are facing different circumstances. And Vernā said, it's not because somebody is mean or bad. It's just the reality of the world.

Vernā Myers: [00:23:20] Absolutely. You just described rebuy the away.

So that's interesting. And I also came from a working class background soul on number of one downs. But the cool thing about this awareness is that you start realizing what your one-ups are. Cause we all have multiple identities. So I was educated in the most, one of the most prestigious schools, I don't have any disabilities.

I make a good amount of money. So I have, I was eating I'm English first language U S born. I worked a lot in the U S that works real well, even around the world. That works real well. So the other [00:24:00] really awesome part about this, you get to see your privileges and your lack of privileges. And by the way, most of us have both.

Most of us have both. So even though you're like, oh, I know what it's like to be marginalized, pay attention to the areas that come easily for you because that's where your privileges and that's where your power is.

Hala Taha: [00:24:22] Yeah. And I'm definitely going to stick a link to this chart in my show notes, because I think it is so powerful and so useful for everyone.

So let's talk about as leaders. And I think that everyone is a leader in their own capacity, whether they lead teams or not, how are we supposed to challenge this idea and support people who are in the one down groups, as a manager or a coworker.

Vernā Myers: [00:24:44] Yeah. And this is where I think all that ally work that has been happening is so positive.

People are now calling it being co-conspirators or, really like just accomplice. They're all these different names. But one thing is, I would say. All of [00:25:00] us have an area where we can be allies. And I want to make sure, I said also when up is where the power is, it is because that's where you can be an ally, but I don't want to misrepresent.

There's a lot of power in the one-down group, too, or we wouldn't be where we are right now. A lot of brilliance, heavy black history month, a lot of resilience, a lot of creativity and innovation community, all very powerful on both sides. That is why as an ally, you don't approach helping around equity from like a pity position or sympathy position.

It's really empathy. Yeah. Understanding what it's like to be in someone else's shoes and what their lived experiences are and where the barriers are. So you can help remove them, but you're doing it not because you feel sorry for them, or you feel guilty it's because you know that their success, their freedom, their opportunity to show up as full human beings [00:26:00] has everything to do with your opportunity to show up as a human being, a caring human being.

Because these systems that we have are contorting our own hearts, our own understandings. Think about what we don't have in our society, because we pushed certain voices and perspectives down. Just look at Netflix now, and we're like working so hard to get more stories. It's just more interesting.

It's a more interesting life. It's a more interesting product. It's more accessible to people and I think that's what we're missing. So allyship is a big deal. Find the group that you want to help and then let them lead you because that's the other major issue is like, folks are like, I'm here to save. No, we don't need you saving.

We just need you to move the barriers out of the way. So we can show up, like in whatever capacity we have. And often that capacity is quite [00:27:00] amazing.

Hala Taha: [00:27:00] I'd love to stick on this point on sympathy versus empathy, because I think that as people like myself, I am like a big proponent of black lives matter and I want to support, but sometimes I feel like I don't know how to like, do it without overstepping.

And I feel like a lot of other people feel that way. So it's like I support and I post about it and but I don't go too far because I don't want to overstep my boundaries cause I'm not black. And so I just don't want to overstep. So help us understand that balance and how we can do it in a tactful


Vernā Myers: [00:27:31] Yeah. It's a bit of a journey. I'm not going to lie. I've made mistakes like with some trans folks and non-binary folks just like. From that dominant group mind and set where you just like why don't you try this? Why don't you do that? They're like, you gotta tell us how to be trans, please don't right.

Or what would work? So I think once you've been used to taking up a lot of space, you do have to pull yourself back, but, and be led and yield and be [00:28:00] in solidarity. However, there's a lot of work you can do on your own to have a better understanding of what their approach should be and when you should fall back.

And a lot of that work is obviously understanding since we're talking about black lives matter, understanding history and in black, they experience with black folks. And by the way, they're not a monolith. So there's a lot of studying about just the complexity and the intersectionality within the group.

However, I will also say so much of the work also needs to be almost starting with who am I as a non-black person. What did I learn about whiteness? What, how has it shaped me and my perspectives? Because you, so you got a lot of work to do with yourself first. And I think people skip that. A lot of self-reflection a lot of awareness, like what did I get told?

And when did I get that message? And from whom did I get that message and why [00:29:00] doesn't it sit right with me now? And then what more do I need to do? And a lot of times it's, you're in your own group. Talking to folks in your own group about what works and what doesn't work, and also the frustrations and also the fear and also like the worry, cause those are real too.

Hala Taha: [00:29:20] So like when you're talking right now, it's making me think back to your Ted Talk again. When I believe you said something about, we need people to stare at black people. And I think it was about basically teaching our children about history. So talk to us about that. Like how can we start to reverse this from when our children are

growing up?

Vernā Myers: [00:29:39] Oh, my goodness. It's all about the children. People say all the time, I don't know why this isn't better. I'm like really? You don't know why I stopped because you, the thing is in the atmosphere. I remember my kid, he was like five or something. And he, my kid was like, yeah, mom, I want to be white. A lot of black kids say that when they're young [00:30:00] and you're like, oh, how do I tell you?

This is not.

Hala Taha: [00:30:03] I used to say that as an Arabic person, I used to wish I would be white. I was, or I had a white name.

Vernā Myers: [00:30:08] It has not because they got it from us. We're like through rolling black people through the house, on the regular. But on the outside, you don't have to be a school. So look at the messaging to tells you who's better.

Who's prettier. Who's more valuable. So what that means is the only way your children are going to be anti-racists is if you do proactive work to help it spot, they need to spot it. They need to see it. When you're in the marginalized group, you're like, oh, you can see the systems. You can see all the fake, you can see it because your life is not what everyone says.

The norm is. So you're like, there's obviously a system here, but if you are in the norm and things have been going well for you, and you're like a fish in water, you're like, what water? So [00:31:00] what you have to do is you have to tell your children, when you see your children, when you see on house people living on the street, your kid has been taught in America.

At least that's, that person's fault. Even if they are sympathetic, You know there, but for the grace of God go, I is what a lot of people say and what it really should be is there I am. That is a human being just like me. I am not better. They didn't do something wrong. It's wrong that people have to live on the street.

It's wrong. And so it's you've got to point it out to your kids. Or like I do say on the talk you know how you go for like holidays. We used to go for holidays before COVID anyway with your family. And there's always that grandmother or that uncle or that aunt who taught you how to make cake or fish.

And it's straight up bigots.

[00:32:00] I feel like I love grandma, but she's terrible, but we never correct them. And they were like folks are old, they can't change a, we don't know who can change, but B if you can't know, I don't want you to white grandma. I don't want you to take them out. She got to do it with compassion, but you can say at the table, cause the kids are at the table.

You can say, oh grandma, we don't actually talk about people like that anymore.

Or if you can't do that in the car on the way home, you got to say to your kids, you know how uncle was saying we don't believe that in our family, we don't believe in that's wrong. I don't want to ever hear you. And a lot of us who are parents, we've heard comments in the back seat size, people talk about size, that person is so big or they're so ugly.

That's the moment. What are y'all saying back there? What's up. Tell me what you mean. That kind of focus is so [00:33:00] important. There's all this great material now. There are all these great museums now. Like you should not let your kid just be exposed to what the norm is. The mainstream you sometimes have to go digging.

And I love parents that do that. Get the books, watch the films, go to the museums.

Hala Taha: [00:33:20] Yeah. And I think the real change is going to happen once, like gen Z starts having kids and millennials now I think are trying a lot of them, but I think that's really one, the shift hopefully is going to happen because like you said, I think we're going to be more conscious as parents to start to reverse some of this thinking and start to make sure that our kids see the right things and are exposed to different types of people and different types of successful people, no matter what color they are.

And I think that's really important. So something else you just alluded to was microaggressions, right? So calling somebody ugly, or maybe that's not even micro tell us what a micro aggression [00:34:00] is, why it's important to know about.

Vernā Myers: [00:34:02] It's so funny, you should say that because sometimes I'm talking about micro-inequities and folks are like, why is that my girl?

I feel like that's really bad. And but really what it's trying to speak to is those sort of lights. They happen pretty quickly. You tell somebody, you have a PhD at whatever, and they say, really you, or they say, I'm here to talk to the leader and they look and past the woman, or they're looking fast, the person of color they're looking past the person who is in a wheelchair, because somehow they have a descriptive bias that suggested them, that none of the folks in front of them could possibly be the leader.

That's a slight, and the reason why, what are you going to do? You're going to report that. It's hard to get your hands around it. It usually is happening before you even expect it. And it's happening constantly, but not by one person, but by lots of folks making the same mistake. So it then starts to [00:35:00] have this cumulative effect as if it were an egregious act.

So small acts over and over again by different people feel extremely burdensome, frustrating, upsetting, and also just makes you feel like I can't even be seen for who I am like. Why is that presumption going against me, constantly, or, in my Asian friends who are from the U S they're always saying people are constantly congratulating them about their English.

And they're like, thanks. I grew up in Kansas. Appreciate it. You know what I'm saying?

Hala Taha: [00:35:32] Oh my gosh.

Vernā Myers: [00:35:33] How long have you been in the United States? Seriously that they're always perceived as foreign. Yes. So that is the thing that I think is really important to recognize that even though something might be small and this is what happens. When people speak up and say, Hey, actually that's not my name, or I appreciate you not making fun of it or renaming me, which is also annoying where people are like, I don't know.

That's hard to say, why don't we call [00:36:00] you JC? No, I didn't say you could call me JC. But what happens is when someone says, I appreciate it. If you just call me by my name, you like. Oh, I'm not racist. I'm not sexist. Like you misunderstood that are a little sensitive. I was just joking. How we come back is so important because none of us are going to be perfect.

All of us are going to step in it. So you've got to, when people are kind enough to come out of their frustration, their anger, their sadness, whatever, to give you some feedback, you need to see it as a gift. Thank you. Because I don't want to keep making these mistakes, so you gotta really, you gotta say to yourself, humility is just such an important part of this walk because you're going to be wrong a lot.

If you are serious about getting it right. It's a context for.

Hala Taha: [00:36:55] Oh my gosh. Everything you're saying is like so relatable and I'm sure everyone listening [00:37:00] is oh my gosh, that's happened to me or, oh my gosh, I've done that before. And it's not pointing the fingers at anyone. Like you said, it's like, everyone is guilty and everyone has experienced this.

So how do we make it better? You also talk about something called micro affirmations and this is something I've never heard before. And I thought it was super interesting. So tell us about that.

Vernā Myers: [00:37:19] It goes a long way. Small stuff can be painful, but small stuff can actually also be incredibly beautiful, which is to say that you can say things like, thank you.

So hierarchically, sometimes we see,  certain people get thanked. Other people don't, you can say things like you can acknowledge where people have had great success. Especially when, there is a negative stereotype about them. You can learn how to pronounce people's names right. And get them.

Because when my name is mispronounced, I'm not mad, but boy, when someone gets it right. I feel like I love you. There are just things where also you can, when you're in a meeting, [00:38:00] you can actually keep a list of who you call them. Because a lot of times our biases like show up in that, like we, I'm a very vagarious person I'm looking for like vagarious person.

So I'm calling on, there were people who are very expressive, right? But sometimes you keep a list you can check to see who have I been calling on and who haven't I been calling on? This is a small thing, but it makes a huge difference. You could actually, if you're talking to people who are remote and maybe they're also of a different language or whatever, you can ask a question, soliciting people's opinions, and you can just decide to wait 10 to 12 seconds instead of only choosing on the person who's on the ready right away.

They're just small things, especially at leaders because people look at what leaders do. They model themselves after leaders. So when leaders are saying, thank you, when leaders are being transparent, when leaders are saying, oh shoot, did I just [00:39:00] step in it? What's the right way to say that you don't, that is what makes a difference because people start adopting that and they get better.

It creates a better environment for everyone.

Hala Taha: [00:39:13] I think we went through so many great actionable tips in terms of how we can all improve our unconscious bias, how we can counteract these microaggressions. We went through so much different stuff. I want to talk about the benefit of having a diverse and inclusive environment in terms of like revenue and ROI.

What is the financial impact? Because a lot of people only do make changes if it really impacts the bottom line. So what's the bottom line impact.

Vernā Myers: [00:39:40] Yeah, the bottom line pretty much is you don't want to be a company going into the future unless you have diversity and inclusion, because you've got to find a way constantly towards innovation and you've got to find a way to satisfy your customers or your clients, whatever it is.

And [00:40:00] that group is only getting more and more diverse and more conscious. And you have to actually create new things and break up old thing called group think. So what the science is suggesting is that if you have diverse perspectives and that often is correlated with diverse identities and life experiences. You have the ingredients for having much more innovation and a better opportunity to predict what the needs will be.

And so that translates. Into, for example, if I use our accompany, like our company's ability to produce more and more innovative content and to do it on a service, that's more and more accessible to lots of people all over the world. We have dubbing, we have, all sorts of languages. We've figured out how, if you can't see, we can narrate a show for you.

You just have to select that particular thing. [00:41:00] That means we just have more people who want to join our service. And so it outpaces innovation can take you to the next level. And quite frankly, Hala, we've never even seen true competition. We don't even know what it looks like to have people from all sorts of backgrounds, not have to contend with barriers that shouldn't be there.

So we haven't even begun to scratch the surface of creativity and innovation. I think about the movie Parasite. I remember watching that and thinking, this is fresh. This is new. This is interesting. That we have so we haven't even scratched the surface. And so I think there's some bottom line things, but I also think about bottom line is how well your internally, your employees are humming how well they're working together, team efficiency of how much you can keep people in your environment instead of having them [00:42:00] leave and having to hire new people and get them up to speed that's money too.

But it's also what kind of environment you are creating to foster the kind of innovation that you want and need to be not just profitable, but relevant, relevant. And the one other thing I wanted to say that I didn't answer, which is that whole idea between the sympathy. I didn't mention that the sympathy because I do believe that initially, a lot of people come in with the sympathy. Those poor people, the people are not poor and it's not their inadequacy.

It's the fact that we've had this exclusion. And in many cases it's been a direct impact on marginalized groups, but it has also made a difference and an unfortunate difference for the people in the norm, because they don't have certain skills, they're guilty. They feel guilty about certain things.

They get stuck in a one mindset, right? So they've also suffered the result of this exclusion. So it's not about sympathy for other [00:43:00] people. It's like, how do we build a more humane, dignified way of living with one another through all of our differences, but then you go to empathy to figure that out, to understand what is happening.

That I haven't experienced, that if I did, I could build a bridge, I could understand I could be more open and I could actually benefit from it. The last piece for me is compassion because compassion goes beyond empathy. It says now that I know, what am I prepared to do? Compassion is the spirit of, I am going to act, to alleviate the pain, to alleviate the trauma, and the unfairness and the injustice.

And that is what we need more than anything is that level of compassion and courage.

Hala Taha: [00:43:52] So let's take everyone through like an example, if we could an example of somebody being sympathetic, which is what you shouldn't do, [00:44:00] and then reversing that into empathy and compassion. So walk us through that.

Vernā Myers: [00:44:05] So for example, what I was alluding to, which is the xenophobia that we're seeing right now, right?

So one thing for example, is that, sympathetically, you're looking at the news and you're like, oh my gosh, that's so sad. They killed that man. That is terrible. That's sympathy. Empathy is actually remembering that you may actually have some Asian friends and you might actually have some Asian colleagues and you might open Google and put the words, xenophobia or anti Asian racism.

And you start reading. You start hearing people's stories. You start saying to your colleagues, Hey, I hear this is happening. I am with you. I am sad to see this I'm here for you. Compassion looks like you're at trader Joe's and you see somebody push in front [00:45:00] of a older Asian woman. They don't have, she doesn't have to be older, whatever.

And you say, excuse me, I think she was first. Or if you see some violence headed towards someone, you go over to them. And this is what I learned actually during 911 and all of the horrible violence against anybody who wasn't American, but especially Arabs, especially folks who were Muslim. And people don't know difference, he was even happening at sick folks because they were wrapping their heads because they wrapped their heads and people were getting killed.

What they said is you don't even necessarily have to go at the person who's committing that atrocity or that violence. You can just go to the person who is the victim and say, Hey, I'm so glad to see you. You just interrupted. Or you might say something like, Hey, I need directions. I'm wondering, do you want to walk with me?

Because [00:46:00] I'm trying to figure out where we're going.  So trying to learn how to interrupt the bias, because it's not enough to be conscious. You then have to put it into action. And that is what compassion looks like. It's also, when people are telling your story, you're not trying to take up the space with your emotions.

You're really trying to hold that space for them. And that's another thing that allies are learning. You can't center yourself with all of your emotions. You got to be there for other people because they're the direct they're bearing the direct impact.

Hala Taha: [00:46:37] So everybody listening out there, this is not like a once and done type of episode.

So I do a lot of episodes where, you could just listen to it for this hour and you're good. And you learned about this topic, but this is something deep that you need to look inside. This is something that you might want to take a course about unconscious bias and really start to understand it and figure out how you can work through your own unconscious [00:47:00] bias.

Vernā is there any reading material that you suggest in terms of next steps for folks who want to learn more?

Vernā Myers: [00:47:06] Yeah. So one of the things that I've been doing,  first of all, Ibram Kendi has a great book, including a book for parents who want to raise anti-racist babies. And I love that we have a lot of people who are like Hey, you really go to the bestseller list and non-fiction, you will see like a million books.

All of them are good. We also have a lot of good videos and a lot of good, for example, LinkedIn, I did a course with them on unconscious bias. That's actually, it's quick. It's many. So you can do that work. My company might because actually when I came to Netflix, I held on to my company and we do learning videos, but pretty much everywhere they are available.

And lots of people, especially after the tragic killing of George Floyd [00:48:00] created a lot of great content. Amazon, Netflix, and et cetera, have incredible pieces of information that you can look at that will really help you with the empathy piece. Actually, I would say there is no excuse. Hello it, cause we got the Google cause, all about the Google and they're very assessable pieces of information.

Also look around your own community. There are people doing work and have been doing work forever on these issues, join groups. And the neat thing about being virtual these days is it's not as awkward. You can like things are virtual and you can just be on and just listening, like a fly on the wall and you can up your acumen and your awareness very quickly with a lot, with not as much risk of being in person.

But when we do get to be in person you're looking to expand your social and professional circles. You're trying to get out of that network. You're [00:49:00] asking yourself, who are my friends and who is missing from this list of friends, right? So you might do yourself at a personal inventory leaders in particular.

Whoever I hired in the last five years, who have I promoted in the last five years? Who have I mentored in the last five years? Do you see any patterns? Is it just know these people, just like you, what could you do to expand it? Where could you go looking for talent that you're not looking at right now?

All of those are action moves. That will make a difference in this work.

Hala Taha: [00:49:34] And if you guys noticed, I didn't really ask too much questions about hiring. Cause I did that on purpose because I think the conversation is always about hiring, but it goes beyond just hiring. It's getting invited to dance, like you said, it's getting the promotions, the mentorships, even just going out to lunch and getting the companionship at work.

And so it's also about being invited to dance, which is why I didn't talk about hiring at all in this conversation. So I loved this. The [00:50:00] last question I ask all my guests is what is your secret to profiting in life?

Vernā Myers: [00:50:05] I have several, but the one I'm going to go with is alignment. And what I mean by alignment is really looking for the messages in your life.

Sit down. What has my life been saying to me about what the purpose is that I can serve on behalf of others? And when you do it, you start to say, there was that.  And there was like, and you start to see that commonality and you start to say, how do I align all of that?

I am doing to that purpose in my personal life and my work life and my friend life in the ways that I volunteer, because when you've got all sorts of things going on, you're often at cross purposes, you're like canceling out sometimes the good that you're doing. And so I have learned to [00:51:00] align, which means you also have to say no to stuff.

Cause you're like that doesn't actually go. But once you realize, and you try to say where your vision is and you understand your purpose opportunities come by and you're like, grab that one because that's part of the flow. And that's the other piece I would say, alignment helps you get into flow.

What it also does is it helps you to say no to things that might be great. They may be great, but they're not in the flow. When you get in the flow, there's a certain kind of efficiency. There's a certain kind of profitability and then it just keeps feeding on itself. You feel good inside. You're projecting clarity to folks.

You are attracting more opportunities and you're letting go. So much, the secret is let go as quickly as you can, stay with reality. We spend so much time saying why isn't it like this? Can't believe this happens to me. I don't know why she treated me. There's a lot of that [00:52:00] going on. That takes up a lot of energy.

It is what it is. You don't have control over everybody. You have control over nobody except yourself. So what's your flow? What's your purpose? How you give him back? Why were you brought here? And then how are you going to keep unfolding and evolving?

Hala Taha: [00:52:22] That is super, super inspirational and powerful stuff.

Thank you so much for sharing your secret to profiting in life. And where can our listeners go to learn more about you and everything that you do?

Vernā Myers: [00:52:33] Hala you are the sweetest. I'm so glad to be here. So I'm on Insta at Vernā Myers. I'm also on Twitter that way. And I'm on LinkedIn. It's all at Vernā Myers,  V E R N A Myers, M Y E R S.

And you can also go over to my company side over my it's called Vernā Myers company TVMC, lots of possibilities there, but I hope this has been helpful.

[00:53:00] Hala Taha: [00:53:00] It has been, I think everyone's going to really enjoy this episode and I can't wait to put out the micro content. Thank you so much.

Vernā Myers: [00:53:07] Thank you Hala much, much blessings to you.

Hala Taha: [00:53:12] Thanks for listening to young and profiting podcasts with Vernā Myers, diversity and inclusion isn't always the easiest thing to talk about, but I hope today's discussion helped to simplify the topic and shed some additional light. For me, my biggest takeaway in this episode was when we were talking about unconscious bias.

To me, this is super interesting because unconscious biases are these blind spots in our unconscious mind. Our brains are highly habitual. They reached to conclusions without immediately telling us that they're doing so and our brains look for things that go together. And so it's important to pause and step back and think about what have you been habituated to understand goes together.

Maybe it's gender bias and that assertiveness and confidence is only for boys. And it's [00:54:00] positive for boys and negative for girls, or maybe it's age bias, where if you're giving out technology work, you might give it to a younger person instead of an older person, because for some reason you think that the older person can't handle the work, but that's not true.

These biases are stories that we make up about people before we actually learn who they are. And I personally think that unconscious bias is one of the main roots of all the problems we're having in society and people are in denial about their unconscious bias. Unconscious bias doesn't mean you're a good or a bad person, but until we can accept that we all have this, we can't move forward because we can't learn and improve ourselves.

And I would suggest that as a person who wants to be a good member of society, and if you want to destroy Racism and sexism and all these isms that we've been talking about, I would encourage you to figure out what biases are most likely to influence you. There's quizzes you can take out there's courses.

You can take about [00:55:00] unconscious bias, figure out what unconscious biases that are most likely to influence you and your decision-making. Once you know that every time you get those fleeting thoughts in your mind, that happens so quickly. You're going to pause step back and take measures to make a different decision based on the truth, rather than your brain, just trying to quickly make decisions on your behalf.

So that was my main takeaway for this episode. If you liked this episode about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, check out my interview number 30 rise against all odds with JT McCormick is amazing. He is such an inspiration. He's the CEO of Scribe Media, and he shares how he overcame many racial biases to become a successful entrepreneur and millionaire.

Here's a clip from that episode.

JT McCormick: [00:55:48] When someone wants to have a race conversation or they use it as a crutch or an excuse, or they want to pretty up the word excuse and say reason. [00:56:00] I'm not a fan because racism I'm willing to have that conversation. Black people didn't like me because I was half white and white people didn't like me because I was half black.

So in many ways I did not have a group of people to fit in with. And in Dayton, Ohio, you were black or you were white or you were mixed race. And so it was very looked down upon, I was called half-breed. I was called Oreo cookie, mixed race, zebra, color confused, and is rough as it was for me being mixed race.

It was horrific for my mother. What she experienced having a mixed race child. I don't know if you all will edit this out, but I constantly heard my mother referred to as a nigger lover and that's what they would call her. So on many occasions, I remember watching my mother get an older white lady spit in her face.

Then called her a nigger lover when we were standing in line waiting for our food stamps, waiting for our allotment of handout to this day. I remember I was eight years old. [00:57:00] This lady spit in my mother's face and called her a nigger lover. And why I laugh about it is when I think about it now that lady was in the same Procast handheld free welfare line is us.

And to this day, I can't figure out what in her mind made her feel that she was better than us, just because my mother had a mixed race child.

Hala Taha: [00:57:21] Again, I would highly encourage that if you enjoy today's episode, go take a listen to a throwback number 30 arise against all odds with JT McCormick. As always. I want to give a shout out to one of our listeners who dropped us a five-star review on apple podcasts.

This one is from big card, so needed this Hala. Thank you. I just listened to episode number 100 and Hala you blew me away. You're vulnerable and you're sharing. And the loss of your father. You brought me to tears. And you got me to see that any gatekeeper who rejects me is simply a redirection to go elsewhere and do something differently, but don't stop.

And yes, I agree with you. I keep [00:58:00] death ever present and close to my heart. So I'm sure to remember that there's no dress rehearsal for life. Go after it now. I'm really digging this podcast. Thank you. Thank you so much big card for your words of encouragement. And I'm so glad that this episode inspired you and got you pumped up.

And for everybody out there listening, I poured my heart into episode number 100. It was a big milestone for me. And I talked all about how 2020 was both the best year and the worst year of my life. So if you like learning about my journey and episode number 100, a lot of people like that show becoming one of my most downloaded shows and it was a solo episode.

And like I said, I think it will make you laugh and make you cry. He will make you inspired. So if you like hearing my content. Most likely enjoy number 100. And if you're out there and you enjoy my content, please take a brief moment to write us a review on apple podcasts. We love hearing your feedback, whether it's good or bad, and don't forget to subscribe to young and profiting podcast if you haven't yet, so [00:59:00] that you can be alerted every time we drop a new episode, you can find me on Instagram at Yap with Hala or LinkedIn, just search for my name.

It's Hala Taha, and now I'm on clubhouse and I host rooms on that platform every single day. You can follow me at Hala Taha. Much love to my amazing YAP team as always. This is Hala signing off.


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