Verta Maloney of the*gameHERs: “Imposter syndrome is a very real character”

If not you, who? If not now, when? Look, imposter syndrome is a very real character in my life and I live every day telling the <insert expletive> to exit stage right. I know that I am where I am supposed to be and doing the things I am supposed to be doing in this […]

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If not you, who? If not now, when? Look, imposter syndrome is a very real character in my life and I live every day telling the <insert expletive> to exit stage right. I know that I am where I am supposed to be and doing the things I am supposed to be doing in this lifetime to leave the world better than I found it. I am doing things I have never done before. I founded two companies in my 40s. I travel the country creating spaces for people to share their racial stories in order to take action now to create an anti-racist tomorrow. I speak up in spaces that were not traditionally intended for me. I am becoming a gameHER in my late 40s. I am living a life that I hope will be an example for others that you are exactly who the world needs just as you are.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Verta Maloney.

In addition to being the chief community officer at the*gameHERs, Verta Maloney also runs her own business helping individuals and organizations share their racial autobiographies and stories in order to act on and undo racism. Prior to that, Verta was a national leadership facilitator for New York City Leadership Academy where she where she designed, managed, and delivered professional learning experiences and programs for school leaders and educators not just in NYC but also across the country.

Verta began her 25 year career in education as a teacher in Prince George’s County Public Schools, and then as a literacy specialist for the New York City Department of Education. She was the founding principal of Bronx Arts and then served for several years as a leadership coach for principals and aspiring principals at New Leaders. Verta has a B.S. in communications and middle school education from James Madison University, and an M.A. in Politics and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Perhaps most importantly, Verta is a mother, advocate, twin, educator, photographer, leader, coach, friend, lover and fierce believer in providing opportunities for the stories of many to be heard and honored.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My tagline in life is that I am all love with appropriate doses of rage. I believe the things we love and the things that get us filled with rage can and should coexist. I love being a Black woman and injustices of any kind gets me filled with rage!

As a Black woman, I have often been expected to hold my rage and anger inside; I believe women of all races are taught this. Being in touch with and naming the things that get us filled with rage provides clarity on our boundaries and what we value and opens up space for us to channel that rage into love. I co-founded the*gameHERs because it allows me to do what I love, create inclusive communities, in order to disrupt the injustice that is the lack of appropriate representation of non-men in the gaming industry.

As a co-founder and Chief Community Officer at the*gameHERs, I get to amplify and uplift women in a world and an industry that has neglected the brilliance that is ALL women for too long.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Existing and finding all the ways I can thrive as a Black woman co-founder is disruptive in its own right. Being a Black woman co-founder who is in the gaming industry is disruptive on fleek. Co-founding the*gameHERs with three other smart women who already built and sold a successful company is a disruptive leveled way up. We are interrupting the status quo. We are interrupting the narrative that there is only one-way to be a gamer or one right way to be a sustainable and inclusive business in the gaming industry.

Being disruptive is what the*gameHERs is all about; amplifying and elevating our community while contributing and benefiting from a billion dollar industry that would not exist without women, femme identifying gameHERs and non-binary folks who are comfortable in spaces that center women.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

About ten years ago (give or take 5…I am older than most people think), I remember telling a former Executive Director and boss that I was going to be late for one board meeting because I had to take my children to school. He said, “The board doesn’t care if you have to take care of your children, they expect you to be on time.” I was late and left that position within the year. I learned that being a mother is core to my existence and that if that was not going to be accepted at work, then I would have to create work environments where this would never happen to a parent, especially a mom, on my watch.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Mashea Ashton, Milta Vega-Cardona, Rachel Cargle, Lisa Clinton, Nicole Fleetwood Gwen Stephens, Dr. Joanne V. Gabbin, Tamela Gordon, Catrice Jackson, Zoe Jenkins, Dr. Tina Opie, Layla Saad, Naa Yirenkyi and my mama, Wannetta Phillips to name just a few. These dope humans are from all phases of my life and all walks of life. Some are my age, some are older than I am and many are younger. They have mentored me formally and informally and some may not even realize how much they have taught me. Please check all these humans out and support their work in the world.

I will of course share a story about my mother. When I was little she always said “a willing heart makes a light foot” she even had me stitch it on something that might be called needle point…don’t ask, i am terrible at all those things but I digress. I NEVER understood these words and when I would ask her she would never tell me as I huffed away…heavy footed. It was not until I was formally teaching for the first time at 22 years old that I started to grasp her words of wisdom.

The students I had the honor of learning from and with were so vibrant in a system that marginalized them daily. I was told terrible stories about them before I even met them about how they were years behind in reading, how they were disruptive in classes, how they would never really make it too far in life. I was told these things by a coalition of the unwilling. The adults who had lost hope were unwilling to see the greatness that existed right before their very eyes. They hated coming to work, they were ornery and they did not believe in children. Their feet were heavy because of hearts that were unwilling. I was never that person and vowed never to become her. I found other people who believed what we knew to be true about these brilliant young people and willingly made sure to be a positive force in their lives. I am still in touch with many of them today and they make my work in this world joyful and light. My mama taught me that.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I believe that disrupting is always good. Disruption does not always have to lead to action, sometimes it is just enough for the interruption to lead to a conversation or a new way of thinking or a new connection. I believe that disruption is “not so positive” when it is done for the sake of being called a disruptor. When it becomes performative. In these instances, it’s done for status as opposed to creating something better in the world.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

If not you, who? If not now, when? Look, imposter syndrome is a very real character in my life and I live every day telling the <insert expletive> to exit stage right. I know that I am where I am supposed to be and doing the things I am supposed to be doing in this lifetime to leave the world better than I found it. I am doing things I have never done before. I founded two companies in my 40s. I travel the country creating spaces for people to share their racial stories in order to take action now to create an anti-racist tomorrow. I speak up in spaces that were not traditionally intended for me. I am becoming a gameHER in my late 40s. I am living a life that I hope will be an example for others that you are exactly who the world needs just as you are.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We raised more than we expected during our first round of funding during a pandemic so the sky is the limit on where we will go next as a company and this excites me. It also confirms how very needed companies like the*gameHERs are in the gaming space. I want to see the*gameHERs go mega global and open up doors and opportunities for gameHERs everywhere. I want to work with people to create VR experiences that will help people be anti-racist and reduce their racist footprints in this world. I am also the co-founder of 45 Lemons with my best friend in this and every lifetime and we are on a mission to have everyone in this world share their racial stories, find what motivates them at their core and live from that place always.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

The myth that women are not gamers. The myth that gaming is for one demographic. The myth that being successful has to look one way. In all these myths, we are led to believe that white men are the standard and the only ones who should disrupt and that is so very far from the truth. We created the*gameHERs awards to intentionally and compassionately disrupt all of the above.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

Code Switch is one of my favorite podcasts because in about 20 minutes Gene and Shereen (play cousins in my head) share the lived experiences of so many individuals in the most touching and impactful ways. I remember crying while walking down the boulevard in Harlem listening to the In Search of Puerto-Rican Identity in Small Town America episode. Codeswitch tackles meaningful topics and issues and expands my thinking and brain in the process.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Raising the first generation of anti-racists. What if we already decided that the next time a generation were to be named they would be called Generation AR or Generation Justice or Generation Humanity Wins? Now wouldn’t that be disruptive?

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being … anger is loaded with information and energy.” Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde has helped me to see the beauty in me; the beauty and power in my darkness and my light. If anger is loaded with information and energy imagine what we can do with that to interrupt and disrupt injustice? These words allow me to capitalize on my potential. These words allow me to continually live in a space of wonder and possibility. All of which are necessary to found or create anything in life, the*gameHERs included.

How can our readers follow you online?

Consumers can check out our site at https://thegamehers.com/. Please follow us on Instagram: @thegamehers and Twitter: @thegamehers

Voting is now open for our first ever women in gaming awards, The gameHERs Awards, airing on November 19th on Twitch.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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