Sometimes, in today’s political climate, it is hard to remember that this is a country with a commitment to diversity; a country that recognizes this commitment as a fuel driving the engines of both our civil liberty and national economy. Building a free and vibrant community depends on inclusion and opportunity for all.
The Kennedy and Johnson administrations’ Civil Rights Act of 1964 brought us the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) programs beginning affirmative action with prohibition of discrimination in all aspects of human resource practices. The supplier diversity movement began about forty-five years ago when President Nixon’s executive order directed federal agencies to develop comprehensive plans and specific program goals for a national Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) contracting program. Eleven years later, President Reagan issued another executive order requiring each federal agency with substantial procurement or grant making authority to develop a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) development plan. Where the federal government goes, large corporations – especially those who sell or report to the fed – follow.
It took many civil activists and all political parties to help us build today’s broad community that encompasses SDMWVLGBTBE (Small Disadvantaged or Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgendered Business Enterprise) owners and supplier diversity professionals. And, while there remains room for improvement, it is today’s community that will influence tomorrow’s direction. Personally, we see this community as a far-flung family that should be supportive of each other. Some people call this paying it forward. We think that if other SDMWVLGBTBEs see good role models in their associates and competitors practicing diversity with each other, it will help lift us all. For us, this means acting with intention — looking for diversity when partnering for proposals and procuring the goods and services out organization needs. In fact, we even created our own supplier diversity plan that guides everyone in our organization on how to locate potential SDMWVLGBTBE partners and suppliers.
In 2016, we talked about disparity studies and the new perspective we gained from our MWBE partner who wanted to know if diversity and inclusion practices of certified SDMWVLGBTBEs had resulted in employee populations that mirrored their state’s population statistics. We saw that as such a good question, because so many of us forget to practice diversity inside our own walls. Shame on us if we don’t. Not only will we benefit from a diverse employee and supplier base, but those of us who practice what we preach will shine a light on the legacy of lifting our entire community, together … one hiring, purchasing or partnering opportunity at a time.