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The Call for Chief Diversity Officers in Govt Business

brightly colored wooden people standing in a line. diversity in the workplace.
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Friday, 22 March 2019 12:05 PM Current | Bio | Archive

When Annette Runcie started the process of becoming an official minority and woman owned caterer in early 2018, she thought contracts with the City of New York would be automatically forthcoming once she was certified as a Minority and Women Business Enterprise (M/WBE).

Instead, she alleges that it’s been challenging to navigate through the so-called M/WBE system as far as bidding even though she was certified in August 2018.

“I thought the door would be wide open and that I would get all these contracts but you have to fight to open the door wider in order to secure business with a city agency,” said Ms. Runcie who owns the Pa-Nash, a restaurant & lounge in Queens, New York. “Entrepreneurs don’t know that they have to look for opportunities at agency networking events and on all the various websites.”

Among the 6,700 certified minority and women owned businesses, only 20% received payments from city agency contracts last year, according to data from the Office of the New York City Comptroller.

“They get certified, start knocking on the doors of city agencies but they just don’t open the door and some agencies don’t know how,” said Scott M. Stringer, comptroller for the City of New York, who lectured at a March 15 press conference.

In 2018, the City of New York spent $19.3 billion on goods and services but only $1 million of that budget went to certified women and minority bidders, which is just half a percent higher than in 2017.

“The numbers indicate that we are not using our leverage as a city government and big buyer to negotiate contracts that include women and minority owned businesses,” said Mr. Stringer while announcing the 5th Annual Making the Grade report card on M/WBEs. “Our procurement power is bigger than most cities, perhaps most states, and yet we have no collective strategy to leverage it to create more diversity in the business community.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reportedly doesn’t agree.

According to media reports, de Blasio says the city has awarded $3.7 billion this year to minority and women owned businesses.

“The city is doing better in some areas yet utterly failing in others,’ said Stringer who launched M/WBE University. “We have to create wealth in the community we can’t just sit back and think it’s going to happen on its own. Never has and never will.”

The City of New York earned a C grade for spending on Asian American firms, a D grade for spending on Hispanic and women owned enterprises and an F grade in spending on African American-owned firms, according to the Comptroller’s 2018 report.

“The personification of exclusion is no longer just the Southerner,” said Rev. Al Sharpton who was present at the press conference to support Stringer. “It’s the pinstriped Northern guy who comes, not from Birmingham, Alabama, but from Queens, New York. These are the guys we have to guarantee understand what we need done.”

As for specific city agencies, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services agency earned an F grade.

“What we have is a city of the super-rich enjoying themselves in the shadows of the Statue of Liberty, shopping at the great retail stores in Hudson Yards while we are sitting somewhere in the middle of the community wondering how we are going to exist,” said Rev. Sharpton of the African-American and Latino residents who live in New York. “We must change the culture.”

Despite the bleak numbers in the Making the Grade report, there are signs of progress.

The Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Aging earned an A grade for the second year in a row and the Department of Sanitation hired a Chief Diversity Officer and raised its grade from an F in 2017 to a D in 2018.

“This progress deserves credit and recognition,” Mr. Stringer told a standing room only crowd at 1 Centre Street in Manhattan.

Stringer’s office received a B grade for the third year in a row, spending $4.2 million of a $100 million procurement budget on M/WBEs in 2018, which is a 5% increase from last year.

“The first two years, we had a C grade and our Chief Diversity Officer has since dramatically changed the way this office thinks of contracting its $100 million budget,” Mr. Stringer said. “It’s hard work. I am not leaving this job until we get an A.”

Rev. Sharpton and Mr. Stringer are calling for the implementation of chief diversity officer roles in all city agencies to increase the number of M/WBEs that win contracts from city agencies.

“It should be in the charter,” said Sharpton who founded the not-for-profit, civil rights organization National Action Network, and “We need it in the very DNA of the city, the fabric of the city. This must be intentional so that every agency duplicates what the Comptroller is doing with the Chief Diversity Officer.”

The author, Juliette Fairley, is a certified M/WBE with the city and state of New York.

Juliette Fairley is an author, lecturer and TV host based in New York.

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Among the 6,700 certified minority and women owned businesses, only 20% received payments from city agency contracts last year, according to data from the Office of the New York City Comptroller.
call, chief, diversity, officers, government, business
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2019-05-22
Friday, 22 March 2019 12:05 PM
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