By Ernest Webster,
Business Development Coordinator, University of Georgia
Co-Founder of the NAEP Supplier Diversity Institute
“We’ve come a long way Baby” is a familiar slogan used by minority, female and same-gender groups from the 1960s to show how providing equality and opportunity continues to improve the overall quality of life for everyone in the United States. And while we still have a long way to go, great strides have been made in the business world, housing, the arts and acceptance of lifestyles.
In 2004, NAEP committed itself to improving a portion of the business aspect by creating its own Supplier Diversity Institute so that its Membership can better serve the minority and women’s business community by providing more contracting opportunities.
“Educate, Empower and Sustain” is the theme for the 2016 NAEP Supplier Diversity Institute that will be held July 31 through August 2 in Kansas City, Missouri. This institute strives not only to educate supplier diversity professionals, it will also show them how to maintain best business practices and sustain Supplier Diversity programs for their respective universities and colleges.
When I started in this field as an EOC officer with city government in 1984, Supplier Diversity was known as Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action for “protected classes.” Government agencies and institutions, along with the larger corporations, jumped on the bandwagon, as they attempted to make up for past injustices done to specific groups. “Set-Aside” programs and other race- and gender-related programs were created, only to be dismantled several years later by the courts as being too one-sided.
Private nonprofit agencies, such as the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) and others, began to address the challenges faced by diverse suppliers, with government and universities and colleges following suit by creating their own diverse business-assistance programs.
By the time I began duties at the University of Arizona in 2001 as a Supplier Diversity Manager/Small Business Utilization Manager, the country realized that in order for true equality to work in the business community, everyone had to contribute and work towards a common goal.
Supplier Diversity programs were modified to explain the importance of providing more opportunities to diverse businesses; assisting diverse businesses; and maintaining a continuing window of contract opportunity.
The 2016 Supplier Institute will give you a chance to share successes and challenges, as well as a chance to learn and a chance to create new successes for your programs. I’m going to attend and I look forward to seeing you all again.