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Tell me how you got there: NYSE edition

Leah Murphy, Philly brown girl on M I C on stage at the N Y S E…. Bars!

Let me start by saying I belong everywhere. I was invited to the New York Stock Exchange closing bell ceremony because of the work that I do with the black employee resource group at my job. I have been in a leadership role with the Black Resource Group (BRG) for the last five + years. As a result, I have had the opportunity to work with a community of brilliant, influential, highly engaged people. My presence on stage October 7, 2019 at 3:59  was in representation of that community, it goes without saying that none of us get to a place of success or prominence without a great team. 

Members of the Black Resource Group Steering Team.

Leading in any way requires difficult choices. I do my best to lead with a spirit of serving a purpose bigger than myself because doing what is right often comes with doing what is unpopular. The team and I made a series of unpopular decisions that challenged the status quo in search of better. I’ll tell you about two but please know that there were many more.

One of those decisions included compelling difficult conversations around diversity and representation. Let’s be honest, lots of good people have a hard time discussing diversity as it relates to race because it is tied to a complicated history specifically in America, but also in other parts of the world. In the workplace, many people are concerned about saying the wrong thing and being labeled as a result. Often the conversation simply does not happen to avoid risk but while a the same time avoiding progress. If no one is talking about it then no one is focused on it and you can be certain that no one is working on it.

Another of those unpopular decisions to compel the organization to bring resources and development opportunities to people who traditionally would have been overlooked as a result of their lack of exposure to decision makers. We Identified internal and external resources and made a business case for why these training and mentoring opportunities needed to happen; we also made the case for why we needed to be the ones to own the distribution of these resources. This was not the way the game was traditionally played, shifting senior leaders from decision makers to observers did not win us fans but it did make us accountable and deeply invested in the outcomes for the people that we selected.

We were well aware that those decisions could have been career limiting. The easy road would have been to go along to get along. Instead what we chose to do was to put our objective before ourselves. Let’s be clear, we’re no fools. We aligned on the appropriate strategy and sponsorship and went all in. We developed a plan that included building allies and advocates, we calculated the risk then forged forward. We trusted one another to consistently show up to critical conversations equipped with facts and brandishing our full authentic selves. We were prepared with solutions and willing to work with anyone who was willing to meet us where we were and collaborate. The work became the mission and word spread that we were passionate about the mission. There were some small wins and many compromises but as with any significant change you must be in it for the long game to see it through.

The results of years of consistent work and alliance building were credibility, a reputation for results and recognition of our leadership. Now we are seen as thought leaders, cultural influencers and trailblazers. This reputation put us on the radar of C-Suite leaders who understood and valued what we could bring to the right conversation when the organization was ready. Those C-Suite leaders are the people