Supplier Diversity and Politics

There has always been a relationship between politics and supplier diversity. Supplier diversity is rooted in 1960’s political activities and implemented by our executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Our second blog article, we discussed supplier diversity history and how it began with the civil rights movement. From an executive point of view, Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Reagan all used Executive Orders to create policies and agencies to level the playing field for minorities and women in EEO (equal employment opportunities) and extended this consideration to MWBEs (minority and women owned businesses).

While there were many laws passed, it was the 1964 Civil Rights Act legislation that was designed to eliminate segregation and discrimination in public accommodations. It empowered the U.S. Attorney General to assist victims of discrimination and forbid employers from discriminating against minorities. We believe this to be the fundamental building block of both Supplier Diversity and human resources’ Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). In 1978, the Small Business Act and the Small Business Investment Act of 1958 was modified by Congressional passage of Public Law 95-507 which “stipulates that it is the policy of the Government to provide maximum practicable opportunities in its acquisitions to small businesses, small disadvantaged businesses and women owned businesses.” When 1983 rolled around, Congress enacted the first Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) statutory provision requiring 10% participation by DBEs in federal contracting.

There are so many court cases at local, state and federal levels, it is difficult to pick just a few. 1971’s Griggs vs. Duke Power Company case revolved around eliminating intentional racial discrimination and prohibiting hiring and employment policies that perpetuate discrimination. D&I is an ever evolving process, with peaks and valleys, much like its counterpart, supplier diversity. As recently as 2017, the federal courts were needed to uphold the validity of the DBE program when a small specialty contractor ineligible for DBE status “argued that the DBE program was not fair to non-DBE subcontractors and therefore unconstitutional”.

Today, the politics tells us a story of frustration. That many believe the work we’ve done has barely scratched the surface of the twin problems of discrimination and lack of opportunity. Protests are back and making an impact because they tell us about police brutality when it comes to people of color and COVID’s disproportionate impact on two communities — people of color and people with disabilities. We have seen many tech corporations step up, promising funds to organizations working for racial justice while others fund specific programs, which may be a step in the right direction.

For SDMWVLGBTQBE’s (Small Disadvantaged or Disabled, Minority, Women, Veteran, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered or Queer Business Enterprise) owners, having expanded opportunities to grow our businesses is the one sure way we have to create a life purpose that will also lift up the next generation and perhaps the ones after that. Many of the large, older companies that are viewed as systemically discriminatory began as small family businesses that have grown. With that growth they have adapted, establishing employee resource groups and supplier diversity programs to increase the diverse population within their organizations. We SDMWVLGBTQBEs need to take a page out of that history book and start building our agile and adaptable businesses with an eye toward creating multi-generational wealth.

We’re looking forward to seeing how these movements grow and impact their community of members.