Women's College Alumnae among the 2009
Class of 1982
Principal, Vernã Myers Consulting Group L.L.C.,
Vernã Myers was just a child during the
Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, but the events of that decade
tremendously influenced her career path.
“Without justice, inclusion and equal opportunity,
we all suffer,” says Myers, principal of Vernã Myers
Consulting Group L.L.C., a diversity consultancy with some of
the country’s leading global law firms as clients.
“My practice is an extension of [the Civil
Rights Movement], going beyond the law and the sit-ins and marches
to try to create conversations and awareness to motivate people
to do the right thing.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in political
science at Barnard College and a law degree at Harvard Law School,
Myers practiced corporate and real estate law.
She draws on her experience as a minority, female
attorney in her work with her clients. “My perspective helps
firms identify their blind spots and challenges them to broaden
their world view,” she says.
Myers soon found that the demands of the path
to partner did not allow her to be the mother she wanted to be
to her young son. She found a more accommodating culture as executive
director of The Boston Law Firm Group, a consortium of firms focused
on increasing diversity. She later served as the deputy chief
of staff for attorney general of Massachusetts, Scott Harshbarger,
executing diversity and inclusion initiatives and outreach to
the state’s diverse population. She credits Harshbarger
with giving her the confidence to launch her own diversity-consulting
While her work focuses on addressing issues of
equality at the professional level, the Baltimore native also
recognizes the urgency of equity issues in underserved communities.
She hopes to find platforms to encourage people
of all backgrounds to confront the issues that divide and embrace
inclusion that enriches all.
“Having my feet in both worlds is important to me,”
Class of 1993
|Product Marketing Director, Chevrolet Midsize and Sports Cars
General Motors Corp., Detroit
12-year-old Karen Rafferty couldn’t wait for her pastor’s
sermon to end. After church, she hurried home to watch her favorite
annual event on television: The Daytona 500. “From then
on, I was hooked,” Rafferty says.
Since 1987, Rafferty has raced Chevrolet Corvettes,
Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds competitively, winning four U.S.
national titles in Sports Car Club of America’s Solo II
competition and nine trophy positions. Her love of cars opened
myriad possibilities at General Motors Corp., where she started
as an administrative assistant in 1988 in the Pittsburgh office.
She took advantage of GM’s employee benefits
while working full time to obtain a bachelor’s degree in
business/communications from Carlow College in Pittsburgh, Pa.,
and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz Graduate
School of Business.
Several managerial positions followed, including
Cadillac brand director for 18 months in Shanghai, China, where
she led a multicultural team that marketed Cadillac to the entire
country. “It was a good education in understanding a market,”
Twenty years later, she is the product and marketing
director for the Chevrolet Malibu, Impala, Corvette and Camaro
Being a female “car guy” in the auto
industry gives Rafferty an opportunity to meet with customers.
“I know they’re asking, ‘what does this female
have to say about performance cars?’ But by the end of my
presentation, they realize it’s all about the message, not
the messenger,” she smiles.
To de-stress, Rafferty kickboxes and jogs at
night. In October, she completed her first 26.2-mile marathon
Cynics may compare her loyalty to the automotive
industry to the orchestra that played on while the Titanic sank.
Rafferty is confident that GM — and the industry as a whole
— will rev up again.
“I absolutely enjoy coming to work for
GM and I’ve never thought of doing anything else,”
she says. “Not a lot of people can say that about their
Class of 1983
|Senior Vice President, Executive Creative Officer
Uniworld Group Inc., New York City
Rebecca Williams was a girl, she observed that her friend’s
father had really great markers on his work desk. She recalls
thinking that “any job that allows you to have such great
markers must be really cool.”
Now, as senior vice president/executive creative
officer at Uniworld Group Inc., Williams has a cool job, too.
After graduating from Scripps College with a bachelor’s
degree in English, Williams started her advertising career at
Uniworld in 1986. She has been involved in advertising for AT&T,
Burger King, Pillsbury and Walt Disney World.
During forays away from Uniworld, Williams helped
start Rush Media, where she created a campaign of energetic new
urban spots for The Coco-Cola Co. As creative director at Spike/DDB,
Williams worked on projects for Fox Sports and Soft Sheen Products.
She subsequently opened Hot Sauce, a boutique advertising agency
that was instrumental in re-launching Soft Sheen’s Dark
& Lovely hair colors and in creating a campaign for Bally
The main thing she learned from all these experiences,
she says, is that “with particular insights you can talk
with many people, regardless of race or gender.”
Williams concedes that at times her family has
to take a back seat to her work. “It has been difficult,”
says the wife and mother of four. “It is almost harder now
that the kids are older because I feel guilty about the things
that I miss.”
At the same time, Williams recognizes that she
has the opportunity to impact the lives of others. “It is
really rewarding to be able to inspire people to say ‘you
know what? I can do that too!’”
Indeed, she is looking forward to being even
more involved in mentoring and inspiring younger people. “I
feel like, after all these years of working, I am finally scratching
the surface of being able to give back,” she declares. “Now
I feel like I am really ready for service.”
Mount Holyoke College
Class of 1979
|Senior Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion Officer,
Interpublic Group of Companies, New York City
years ago, Heide Gardner joined the staff of Interpublic Group
as the director of diversity. A promotion to senior vice president
two years later made her the first African-American and one of
three women in senior management at the global marketing services
conglomerate. Gardner’s career benefited from the strength
and resilience she inherited from her parents and open communication
with senior executives. “My role here is to be a cheerleader
for our progress, but it’s also to be a resource for solving
some very tough problems. Trusting relationships with my CEO and
other leaders is essential for assessing what’s working
and what isn’t,” she says.
While Gardner is saddened that some of the industry’s
role models from whom she drew inspiration and encouragement have
left the industry in search of opportunities elsewhere, she is
thrilled by the progress of newcomers she has worked with over
the years. She is bent on effecting change so that this generation,
including her two sons, would have similar opportunities to those
she has enjoyed. “I want them to get the chances they deserve
to be seen not as ‘diversity’ candidates, but simply
as ‘included’ candidates,” she says.
The eldest of three children, Gardner says her
parents’ sacrifices enabled her to earn a bachelor’s
in economics and political science at Mount Holyoke College in
South Hadley, Mass.
Gardner’s advice to those on a corporate
diversity leadership path is: Be honest with the company’s
leadership and have the courage to ask for what is needed; use
vision and inspiration to help others connect the dots between
the workplace and marketplace; open doors and create access for
others; seek out spiritual renewal and humility. “Most of
the opportunities in my life emerged while I was giving back to
others. Everything came out of those moments when I was trying
to make a difference,” she says.