2010 WOMAN OF INFLUENCE: Barbara Holder

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Diversity Manager, Smoot Construction

Sphere of Influence: In her role as diversity manager for Smoot Construction, Holder has monitored the participation levels of minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses in some of the state’s biggest development efforts. She’s overseen MBE/WBE programs for more than $800 million in projects, including Lucas Oil Stadium, the new JW Marriott hotel and the new Wishard Hospital.

Holder (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Smoot Construction diversity manager Barbara Holder is a second-generation civil rights advocate. Her father, the late Rev. K.T. Robinson, picketed East Chicago’s city hall to call for stronger minority hiring practices. Today Holder advances his philosophy not through marches, but by insuring that women and minorities get a substantial slice of the construction projects she represents.

“My dad embedded in me the simple philosophy that no one can ride your back unless you bend over,” Holder said. “The marches, the civil rights meetings, the sit-ins, the walk-outs and watching my dad encounter injustice and prejudice firsthand instilled in me the sense of determination to make a difference, the tenacity to stand tall when others choose to sit, and the commitment to be the change I want to see.”

Through her consulting firm, Barbara Holder Consulting Services, she’s helped numerous companies develop and implement affirmative action and equal employment opportunity programs. Such moves, she believes, positively affect not just public perceptions, but the bottom line as well.

“When corporations embrace diversity—of people, of knowledge and of resources—they secure their hold within their respective markets,” Holder said. “The returns on their investments are increased because their employees and their customers see themselves in the company and become more loyal to and supportive of an organization that ‘gets’ them.” Her efforts to further diversity earned her the Affirmative Action Officer of the Year Award from the late Mayor Harold Washington of Chicago.

The theme carries over into her charitable activities as well. Holder spearheaded the Indiana State NAACP WIN (Women in the NAACP) statewide celebration, “Remarkable Women Improving the Nation” in 2010. For the past two years she’s also overseen Coats for the Cold, which provides winter clothing to those who can’t afford it.

She also mentors students and young professionals who are thinking about entering the building trades. Holder served as a board member for the ACE Mentoring Program of Indiana, which encourages high school students to pursue careers in architecture, construction and engineering. She’s also participated in Project Stepping Stone, which helps Hispanic high school students prepare for college. Perhaps most tellingly, Martin University offers the NAACP Barbara Holder Scholarship to honor her commitment to eradicating disparities faced by women and minorities.

“Daily, I make a conscious effort to emulate the image that I wish to see in my community, within my place of worship, my family, my profession and the world,” she said. “I live by one creed: In order to make a difference, you must be the difference you want to make.”

Holder has two adult children, Tammi and Michelle, and two grandchildren, Kourtlen and Kyrah. In her spare time she enjoys theater, listening to classical music and jazz, traveling and, most of all, rediscovering her love for playing the violin.

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  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?