How do we get to the INTENT of Diversity Programs?

Nearly weekly I get a phone call or email from a prime contractor or manufacturer asking how we can work together to “process” an order that requires a diverse market spend. As I go through the now routine process of explaining how we prefer to engage with the caller’s company I often wonder, how do we get the companies to understand and support the “intent” of those requirements?

Each call seems to be singularly focused on the “transaction at hand with no regard for the actual development of the diverse firm. Each caller appears to sincerely believe that all they have to do is just get a diverse company to complete the documents that are needed to submit a formal quote or proposal so that they are in compliance with the rules of this particular opportunity. So this becomes another transaction where documents are signed by the diverse firm in exchange for some minor participation in the proceeds of the opportunity if awarded to the “team”.

What if there was a way to encourage the bidder to become active in the development of the diverse firm in some appreciable form? What if the bidder really understood the “intent” of the diversity goals?

While the diversity goals and objectives may be a little different depending on the jurisdiction, some voluntary and some mandated, I have always understood and believed that intent of these programs was to assist in corrected inequality in the market place due primarily to institutional marginalization of the underutilized community.

I would argue that while the single transaction may allow the diverse firm to capture a ‘fee” for services that in its self is not enough to add to the actual development of the diverse company. The diverse signs the forms, performs the service or deliver the product for this one time transaction and then what?

What if there was an attempt to build a relationship with the diverse firm so that they would be a resource for any opportunity the prime firm is interested in, with or without a diverse requirement attached to it?  How is it that the prime company or manufacturer is able to somehow adjust its business practice to incorporate a diverse “partner” when it is mandatory but have no use for the same talent when it is voluntary or does not have a diverse requirement?

Join us tomorrow, November 29 for the NAED's webinar, DBEs: What to Know, to learn the essential items to know about DBEs as well as have your questions answered on how to take advantage of this program. 


and IT services. He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

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Dennis Harris

Dennis Harris

Senior vice president, Ideal Electrical Supply Corp.