Vernā Myers, The Olivia Pope of Diversity and Inclusion Work
Remember when Netflix fired their Public Relations Chief Jonathan Friedland for using the n-word, not once but twice? Yikes. Well, the streaming giant just hired diversity and inclusion consultant Vernā Myers as their new Head of “Inclusion Strategy.”
Myers not only fits their needs as a face for diversity as the black woman charged with improving the cultural climate of the company but she’s a powerhouse. Born into a working-class family from Baltimore, she views disrupting the status quo among cultural incompetent workplaces as a personal mission.
“I have been a longtime fan of the inclusive and diverse programming and talent at Netflix, and then I got a chance to meet the people behind the screen. I was so impressed by their mission, their excellence, and decision to take their inclusion and diversity efforts to a higher level,” Myers said in a statement after the announcement.
Myers is the namesake of the Vernā Myers Company and the head of the organization for the last two decades. One could refer to her as a Harvard-trained lawyer, an activist, author, a cultural innovator and more, however, in this role Myers will step in as Netflix’s inclusion savior.
Who is Vernā Myers?
For starters, Myers is an expert. Many organizations will set up diversity and inclusion committees, host workshops and maybe hire a consultant to provide an outside perspective on the workplace culture, however, none of this matters without a sustained effort. Each person responsible for setting the workplace tone and creating a productive environment must fully engage with this work.
One external gesture or execution of the bare minimum is not enough. Netflix’s external image was damaged by Friedland’s actions. He posed a problem to the image of the company, however, one public scandal like this one, especially from the PR Chief, indicates the internal dynamics of the organization needs work.
Myers has written many books and conducted several talks concerning topics of inclusion and equity in the workplace that allows leadership to grasp how their decisions contribute to a more open culture. Notably, people can refer to her book “What if I Say the Wrong Thing?: 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People (ABA 2014)” and “Moving Diversity Forward: How to Go From Well-Meaning to Well-Doing (ABA 2012).”
How Will Myers Save Netflix?
Myers, who is experienced in inclusion and equity work, can help them develop a strategy, however, she cannot do this alone. Forty-nine percent of Netflix staff identify as white while 11-percent are unidentified, Asians make up the largest minority as a fourth of the company and Black/ Latino staff make up 11-percent. In terms of gender, about 44-percent of Netflix staff are indicated as female.
The percentages do not differ much when you compare the company overall to the demographics of the leadership or corporate and creative, however, there are a lot fewer women in tech. This is consistent in the industry across the board.
While these demographics might give us an external image of the faces of Netflix, they do not help us understand how Netflix functions as an organization internally. Diversity and inclusion are both important.
“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance,” Myers said on her website.
How are people of color and women treated at Netflix? Are there more opportunities for mobility within the organization for white staff than the staff of color? What does their hiring process look like?
All of these questions and more are answered internally. I’m sure Myers will be focused exclusively on analyzing the dynamics of the organization in the months to come but don’t worry her company will still be operating.
“While I’ll be exclusively with Netflix, our company’s educational platform, TVMC-U, will remain up and running with videos on unconscious bias, leadership, hiring, and other topics. You will hear more about our plans for the platform over the next several weeks,” she said in her statement.