PUSH honors civil rights leader Laura Murphy

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Laura Murphy (Courtesy Photo)

By Wayne Dawkins
Special to the AFRO

Laura Murphy, civil rights leader, diversity policy strategist, and member of the family that publishes the AFRO, was among five honorees May 12 at the 6th annual PUSH Tech Diversity & Inclusion Summit

“She is recognized for working two decades with PUSH for civil rights in corporate America, along with Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rainbow PUSH,” said the Rev. Dr. Joseph Bryant, executive director, Rainbow PUSH Silicon Valley, West Coast programming. “For the past 10 years, Laura Murphy has been a leader in advocacy for diversity in the tech industry, and because of our work in PUSH Tech, she has worked with several companies who have partnered with us. 

“Because of her influence and her meetings, she has opened doors for diversity to expand, have positions included, and connected PUSH to work with companies and develop programs for minorities, women and youth.”

During a Tuesday telephone interview, Laura Murphy said, “I conducted civil rights audits of Airbnb and Facebook. They were comprehensive critiques of products, policies and practices. They offer blueprints and recommendations for improvement.

“Sometime in 2018, I brought Rev. Jackson in to meet with the Airbnb CEO. We advised, when you go public [as a stock market company], make sure and include minority-owned financial services in the public offering. When it occurred last December, 12 minority, women and veteran-owned firms were part of the offering, the largest level of participation in 20 years.”

Murphy in 2005 established Laura Murphy & Associates, a private consulting firm, according to TheHistoryMakers.com. She has worked and served on and off with the American Civil Liberties Union. After graduating from elite Wellesley College in the 1970s, Murphy joined the staff of U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm, D-New York. 

Daughter of Judge William H. and Madeline Murphy, she is also a board member of the Afro-American, owned by the Murphy family.

“I want to create infrastructures to keep the civil rights awareness and anti-discrimination work going on after I leave,” said Murphy. She explained that she conducted three Facebook audits over 2 ½ years and completed that consulting, plus she conducted two Airbnb audits since 2016 and was still advising that company. 

Murphy said Airbnb created its first office of civil rights and they hired a vice president, Roy Austin, who previously worked in the Obama administration.

“With Rainbow PUSH, I’m into concrete outcomes,” said Murphy. “I want to see more people of color in positions of authority.” 

She acknowledged that there has been corporate pushback against workplace and C-suite diversity, for example, championed by the conservative Wall Street Journal opinion pages: 

“Yes, there’s pressure to do less and not address discrimination, which is why we have to keep the pressure on. There’s snark about civil rights leaders’ motivation, specifically Jackson,” who before the six-year Tech/diversity crusade, has led a 23-year diversity and inclusion movement on Wall Street.

“So much more work,” said Murphy, “is needed to be done in the corporate space, not just diversity.”

In addition to Murphy, other PUSH Tech Diversity & Inclusion honorees are, 

* Chris Genteel, first director of supplier diversity and sustainability for Google, 

* Anita Gardyne, co-founder, president and CEO of Oneva, 

* Leo & Ethelyn Sullivan, who have 50-plus years in video animation industry, including “Fat Albert,” “Soul Train,” “Scooby Doo” and Hanna Barbera, and co-founders of Afrokids.

The writer is a professor of professional practice at Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication.