Debunking Supplier Diversity Myths – Part 1

Supplier Diversity Myths
Supplier diversity is still in its infancy in Canada and as the President of WBE Canada I regularly come across some misconceptions around this topic. I decided to address some of the most common myths head on in an attempt to move the conversation to the next level. And who better to ask for insights than our community of supplier diversity professionals? Thank you to those WBE Canada Corporate Members who have graciously shared their experiences to help address these myths.

Myth #1: Diversity is about exclusivity

This is a common myth I regularly hear in closed-door meetings, personal conversations and occasionally even on social media. Arguments that supporting women in supply chain means sidelining men-owned businesses. But does it?

A great example is the City of Toronto’s social procurement policy. As part of the City of Toronto’s Divisional Purchase Order Process, City divisions review the list of certified diverse suppliers and social enterprises and attempt to include at least one (1) quotation from a diverse supplier when undertaking the Divisional Purchase Order process between $3000 and $100,000. A supplier diversity program does not mean a separate playing field with separate rules and therefore automatic success because you fall within the parameters. But it does create equal access to opportunity for these suppliers who previously would have been left out. The result is a larger, more equal and more robust playing field.

In the words of Celso Afonseca, Manager, Merchandising Team, Staples Promotional Products, “Diversity is about developing an environment where each individual is given a fair and equal opportunity to succeed in an organization and/or supply chain. This concept of inclusion, is often confused with assimilation – they are not the same thing.”

Supplier diversity is more about ACCESS than EXCLUSIVITY. After 50 years of supplier diversity initiatives in the US, only about 30% of contracts are being awarded to women-owned businesses. Corporate Canada is lagging behind with less than 5% of contracts being awarded to women-owned businesses. Supplier diversity initiatives are designed to ensure that diverse suppliers are invited to the table, given opportunities where they can compete. Without these invitations it’s impossible to play, let alone win.

Myth #2: Diversity is about lowering standards

There is a common misconception that you have to lower your standards and expectations to buy from diverse businesses. Quite the contrary. It’s proven that in order to win, women have to outperform their male counterparts 4x. In the words of Catherine Grosz of BMO: “Supplier Diversity is NOT a charity. Suppliers must be able to compete for business, know their competition, know their price points and be in a position to service the Corporate.”

Alan Roberts, Senior VP Operations, Data Communications Management Corp. agrees. “Through DCM’s Supplier Diversity program, our primary objective is to identify the most qualified suppliers capable of meeting our quality, integrity, and performance requirements. It’s not about lowering standards, bypassing qualified suppliers to fill a ‘niche’, ticking a box, or meeting a quota. It’s about ensuring the opportunity for procurement is available to ALL working communities capable of tackling the DCM task at hand. Our organization believes Supplier Diversity ensures a seat at the table for everyone willing to put their hat in our ring, and by beneficial default, this enhances the richness of DCM’s supplier pool.”

I look forward to hearing your feedback, insights and experiences with the first two supplier diversity myths. Let’s continue the conversation on social media. You can also email me your thoughts here.

Click here to access 2nd part of supplier diversity myths series.

Silvia Pencak
President, WBE Canada