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Speaking to the World

Steve  Pemberton

Steve Pemberton

Chief Human Resources Officer, Globoforce & Best Selling Author


“Steve Pemberton was one of the most incredible speakers I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. His message fit perfectly with our programming as he customized every last word. His own personal story had the audience standing in ovation at the end.” –Cyracom International

“I have been coming to our conference for 47 years and I’ve never met a man like him; heard a story like his or witnessed an impact like the one he had on us. A good man made great by his goodness.” - NAEYC

Steve Pemberton’s triumphant life journey, now a major motion picture, is about defying the seemingly insurmountable odds of the path of the unchosen. A Chance in the World, drawn from his critically acclaimed memoir of the same title, recounts how Steve was orphaned into foster care, then abandoned and betrayed by the very individuals entrusted with his care. Yet these challenges only fueled his desire to become a man of resilience, determination and vision. Steve went on to find success as a trail-blazing corporate executive, enlightened people leader, visionary youth advocate and acclaimed speaker devoted to inspiring and helping others. Committed to giving back, Steve timed the nationwide premiere of the film during National Foster Care Awareness month, hoping to raise awareness for children at risk in the child welfare system, especially those aging out of foster care. Read More >

Steve’s keynotes, like his life story, amplify his highly motivational messages: Believe in your dreams, rise above obstacles, create opportunities for others, and most of all, persevere.

Armed with a warrior spirit and a servant’s heart, Steve has made equality, access and opportunity pillars of both his professional and personal life. He currently serves as Chief Human Resources Officer for Globoforce, a leading provider of social recognition and continuous performance development solutions. Prior to that he served as Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion and Global Chief Diversity Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, the first global pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing enterprise in the world. He was the first person in Walgreens’ 100-plus year history to hold the position of Chief Diversity Officer, and under his leadership the company reached record levels of performance in areas of representation, retention, employee engagement and supplier diversity.

In his personal life, Steve is a passionate champion for disadvantaged youth, serving on several boards including United States Business Leadership Network and UCAN. He established The Pemberton Fund for the Future at The Home for Little Wanderers to provide help and guidance to children aging out of foster care. Steve’s achievements have earned him national recognition, including the prestigious Horizon Award by the United States Congress, presented to individuals in the private sector who have contributed to expanding opportunities for all Americans.

As a keynote speaker, Steve has earned high praise for his highly collaborative style, working closely with clients to seamlessly customize his content to the messaging goals for each event. A gifted communicator and powerful storyteller, Steve consistently receives stellar reviews for his ability to connect with a wide spectrum of audiences, ranging from business and healthcare organizations to education and community groups. As one client raved, “He was the best keynote speaker we could have gotten and I was sincerely praised for it.” Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

The Extraordinary Journey of Steve Pemberton

A Chance in the World Promo

The Power of Education

A Chance in the World Sneak Preview

A Chance in the World - Reunion

ICON MANN 28 Men of Change

On Diversity and Inclusion

On Faith

Hope Is a Powerful Word

Speech Topics

A Chance in the World

Steve Pemberton’s inspirational story, A Chance in the World, has touched the hearts of millions. In this inspiring presentation, Steve tells how he defied seemingly impossible odds as an orphaned boy navigating the foster care system—all while trying to solve the mystery of his own identity and destiny. Steve also provides valuable lessons on self-empowerment, breaking negative cycles, creating a vision and achieving your goals—even when everyone says you don’t have a chance in the world. This unforgettable keynote from an exceptional speaker can be customized to reflect your organization’s focus, culture, objectives and specific challenges.

A Chance to Lead: Navigating Adversity with Strategies from Everyday Heroes

Steve Pemberton has discovered invaluable life lessons and leadership strategies in the stories of everyday heroes that have triumphed in the face of adversity. These inspiring people do not necessarily fit America’s ideas of a traditional hero. Instead, they’re redefining what heroism truly means through their character and values, as well as the humility, strength, courage and perseverance that they’ve shown in challenging circumstances. Drawing from these inspirational stories and his own odds-defying personal and professional journey, Steve shares strategies that any leader, team or organization can use to navigate adversity, overcome obstacles and bring the best out of every employee. 

A New Take on Diversity: Moving from Labels to Experiences

After growing up in foster care and being labeled as a boy “without a chance in the world” Steve Pemberton has never cared for labelling people. Drawing upon his experience as the former Chief Diversity Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, Pemberton discusses how the conversation on diversity should move away from a sole emphasis on classifying people by their visible characteristics. Instead, we should focus on who they are and the life experience they bring. Pemberton will outline how this approach brought increased shareholder value to Walgreens and Monster—and how it can be implemented by any company. By shifting the paradigm, you won’t just get more out of your employees. You’ll increase focus, company morale, customer engagement and top-line revenue.

A Chance to Lead: Recognizing Potential to Maximize Performance

As an orphaned foster child, Steve Pemberton was “given a chance” by a teacher that saw his potential. This life-changing event would later shape his leadership as a human resources executive and diversity officer at Monster.com and Walgreens.  In this compelling keynote for executives, hiring managers and recruiters, Pemberton lays out strategies for leaders that recognize hidden talent and create an organizational culture that gives each team member their best chance at success.  Pemberton shares real-life examples of employees and executives that saw the potential in people by looking beyond what others would see as disabilities or liabilities. He also shows how micro cultural changes can grow to become cultural norms within your entire organization.

Breakout Session: Effective Strategies for Building a Great Team

This empowering, interactive breakout session focuses on the key strategies and behaviors that drive successful teams and further collaboration. Participants will learn how to leverage different views to improve outcomes, understand how to ask the right questions to build a powerful team dynamic, and build a culture of inspired engagement.

What Is a Man's Responsibility to Advance Women in the Workplace?

Steve Pemberton, Chief Human Resources Officer at Globoforce, tackles this often discussed topic with candor, clarity and conviction. His long career in diversity and inclusion work at Monster.com and now Walgreens Boots Alliance led him to develop the Five R's for advancing women in the workplace: Recognize, Respect, Regard, Re-Evaluate, Repeat. This framework has created a sustainable culture of inclusivity that moves beyond corrective action to a powerful embrace of the competitive advantage that full inclusion of women often provides. Told in Steve's inspirational style with powerful examples, audiences will leave empowered and inspired to move forward in their gender inclusion journey.

One America: The Micro Cultural Changes to Bring the “United” Back into U.S.A.

Steve Pemberton recently wrote, “There is a quiet whisper happening in our country today and we’re wondering whether or not we’re getting this right. We’re wondering about the daily deluge of cynicism, the me-first kind of behaviors, the ‘if it bleeds it leads’ kind of culture, and becoming increasingly disconnected as we are becoming technologically connected.”In this inspiring keynote, Pemberton calls for all of us to drive cultural change and bring the “united” back to the United States through a “One America” ideology. Steve uses his own story to demonstrate how people can unite as one to overcome impossible odds—inspiring all of us to return to faith and service.