Supplier Diversity? Time to move from commitment to action

Blog by Sandra Kerr OBE, Director, Race for Opportunity

I attended two events in Birmingham recently one with CRÈME – the Centre for Research on Ethnic Minority Enterprise - based in Birmingham University and another one convened by the Women and Business Council  hosted by Barclays focused on BAME women and enterprise.  This event was chaired by Baroness Verma, and attended by Lorely Burt MP, Government appointed Ambassador for Female Enterprise.

Twenty years ago the UK signed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a series of promises made by world governments to end gender inequality. The Platform recognises the important contribution that BAME entrepreneurs make to national economies and tasks governments and business with supporting women’s micro, small and medium sized enterprises and business start-ups.  

This event was organised to provide attendees with an opportunity to feed into the UK Government’s review on progress and the challenges that remain. I found it very interesting that a number of the issues raised are not that dissimilar to those that BAME people face within large private and public sector organisations;

  • The need for procurement teams and specialist to have unconscious bias training
  • The need for organisations to grow their own understanding and appreciation of diverse communities and the businesses within those communities
  • High level commitment to strategy and policy needs manager responsibility and accountability to implement action and drive KPIs – something borne out through evidence from BITC race and gender benchmarking on supplier diversity with employers after the last 3 years.57% of organisations said they had high level commitment to supplier chain diversity, however only 29% had a supplier diversity manager responsible for implementation.

I think there is a need for Supplier Diversity Managers to put their hands up where they exist and network together with others to share best practice.

Procurement managers in banking and other organisations need to:

  • Ensure reciprocal mentoring and volunteering in communities to build better understanding of ethnic minority communities and business start-ups ideas relevant to local and international markets
  • Consider better support for budding and mid-level businesses to expand and grow big
  • Collaboration with ethnic minority business owners as innovation partners
  • Ensure ethnic minority business owners included in their networks and continue to be invited to tenders

In researching for this topic I also learned that only 26% of students leaving Higher Education in 2012 felt well prepared to start their own business.  Surely there needs to be a plan of action to provide better results than this when we consider how important the role enterprise plays in sustaining a vibrant economy and reducing unemployment?

And, finally, better data is needed for us to better monitor performance in BAME enterprise. Particularly as this sector is fast growing – our Race at the Top showed a 51% increase in the number of BAME managers between 2007 and 2012. 

You can find out more about how BAME women factor in enterprise in our BAME Women and Enterprise Factsheet.