Diversity, equity, and inclusion have bubbled up as buzzwords in the business arena for a few years, but organizations haven’t always taken their efforts seriously. Some lapsed programs could reasonably be attributed to a lack of information. Others may have fizzled out due to minuscule budgets or ill-supported program managers. But in Indianapolis today, business leaders have an invaluable asset in Indy Chamber’s Stacia Murphy. She’s challenging leaders to push the status quo with the promise of tapping into new ideas and perspectives that can lead to the most innovative solutions to complex problems faced by organizations today.
“Individuals with brilliant minds and the ability to see things in new ways are hidden behind walls of exclusion,” says Stacia. “They’re often impacted by the false belief that just because we think, walk, talk, dress, see, and feel in unique ways, we have less value.”
Stacia isn’t buying it. That’s why, in her role as the Director of Equity, Outreach & Strategic Partnerships at Indy Chamber, she’s leading the charge through her projects. One noteworthy project is the Business Equity for Indy initiative, a joint effort of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and Indy Chamber, in collaboration with the Indianapolis Urban League, to grow a more inclusive business climate and build greater equity and economic opportunity for the Indy Region’s Black residents and people of color. Stacia’s work through the Chamber and its initiatives helps build the framework for leaders to develop equity initiatives with authenticity, accountability, and measurable results—and she’s not afraid to take some risks along the way.
“In the professional development world, we can’t grow until we get beyond our comfort zones and take some risks trying things we have not done before. It’s important to know we will have many bumps along the way. You’re going to ‘fail.’ But in the business world, isn’t that where innovation happens? We just need to be transparent about where we are, when we make mistakes, and make building relationships our priority,” Stacia explains.
For leaders considering launching an equity initiative, Stacia has some thoughts:
“Don’t just seek out people who look different but think exactly like you do because it’s comfortable and helps to check a box. Invite them to the table, value their input, and most importantly, give them a budget, team, and some decision-making authority like you would any other important dimension of a business. If the people who have helped shape our great city, region, and state are valued, acknowledged, supported, mentored, and funded, we would see a thriving and equitable Indy Region.”
While Stacia’s resume is full of accomplishments, accolades, and pursuit of knowledge, the PhD candidate, mother, and musician didn’t have a fairytale start. While she acknowledges that others may have experienced far worse situations than hers, growing up as an only child in a home with her mother and an abusive, alcoholic stepfather—and no extended family to turn to—left a lasting impact.
Through her anger, depression, and isolation, she realized that much of what she was searching for was community. Her formative years shaped how she viewed the world, but they also fueled her passion to create change for herself and others. “My experience growing up deepened my compassion, but I don’t see compassion existing without action—my experiences deepened my resolve to change the world. A change that comes from building greater community,” she says.
When Stacia became a parent, her work garnered even more meaning, especially as she saw how scary the world can be for Black individuals and people of color. Her new role as “mom” gave her a sense of urgency in her mission to cultivate a more equitable world for her son and others to thrive in.
“I think the very first thing I did, after the fog of the first two years lifted, was cry thinking about the growing number of Black men and ever-increasing Black women who were being shot and killed by police. The thought that it could one day be my sweet, cute, inquisitive, and people-loving boy, just because of the color of his skin was almost too much to bear on top of the barriers and hurdles that come with parenting. And it wasn’t only the threat of physical violence. My son started having issues as early as first grade with identity. I remember picking him up from school and remarking how handsome he was, as I normally did. He replied that he thought he wasn’t as handsome as white people. That one comment committed me to work in a deeper, more urgent way to get our world one step closer to that vision of equity so that my son never has to lose that innocence and sense of self.”
Since then, Stacia’s lent her talents and unique perspectives to high-profile organizations like Indiana Black Expo, Inc., CITY.MOSAIC, Indianapolis Congregation Action Network, Kheprw Institute, as well as Indy Chamber. If there’s a common thread throughout much of her career, it’s that her vocation has been dedicated to empowering humans and communities to dream and act on what’s possible. It’s easy to see that Stacia’s efforts are making waves at the community level while creating access, understanding, and actionable solutions as a way to drive lasting and meaningful change—which just may be the building blocks of Stacia’s legacy.
As for intentionally working toward her legacy, Stacia’s not thinking about it in that manner. Instead, she’s focusing on changing people’s mindsets to drive lasting change that results in an equitable future for all communities:
“Really, an equity mindset will be on the same level as a growth mindset and become embedded in every system, institution, and every person. And then we will have thriving communities, top talent will both be home-grown and knocking down our doors. And so many families and children will have not only basic needs met but also opportunities to thrive.”
The future that Stacia and her colleagues at Indy Chamber are working toward isn’t just a dream; it’s a reality that’s within reach. Today, Indy Chamber fosters programs like the aforementioned Business Equity for Indy, cultivates inclusive growth incentives strategies, and pursues advocacy initiatives that support the needs of economic development alongside inclusivity and opportunity.
“If we start embracing equity—truly embracing equity by not only inviting different individuals to the table but equipping them with the resources to be successful, we’ll cultivate a business community and a region with greater innovation and creativity. Additionally, we’ll be better united and collaborative along the way,” Stacia says.
The city and its residents are in good hands with Stacia leading its equity efforts. A natural connector and community-builder, she’s able to bring people together, open their minds to new ideas, and imagine what’s possible when they really put their ideas into play. Intentional or not, the legacy Stacia’s leaving for her son, his friends, and the community around them is growing its roots. But when asked about the idea of “her legacy,” Stacia is characteristically humble, even with all her achievements:
“Legacy. I haven’t thought much about my legacy yet. But I’d want people to remember that I had integrity. No matter my faults, I was always authentic, and I was passionate about making the world better, especially for those who are marginalized.
And that I got shit done.”
Sounds like the makings of one amazing legacy to us.
Created in partnership with Indy Chamber.
If your organization is seeking to enter the equity conversation or enhance existing efforts, reach out to Stacia and her colleagues at Indy Chamber to connect with their resources, tools, and programs.
Natalie Derrickson is a communications professional, strategist, and writer in love with Indianapolis and optimistic knowing professionals like Stacia are driving meaningful change in its communities. You can connect with her on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and on her website.
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