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BUSINESS DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION … THE MAKING OF A NEW AMERICA

First Published as ” Business Diversity and Inclusion … The Making of a New America ” on http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1194026 CNN iReport

The 2043 demographic shift is about more than just the numbers.

By: George Addison

Entrepreneurs and CEO’s know that their business climate is always evolving.
Changing technology, along with shifting populations, inflation, stagnation, recession and politics often clogs or slows down their highway to prosperity. This becomes more apparent each passing year as I travel the country and speak to people about their professional and entrepreneurial challenges in the new global marketplace.

Now, more than ever, there appears to be increasing focus on the country’s changing 2043 demographic makeup. In recent years, Americans have been hearing more about the browning of its population as though it’s some mysterious destination in the distant future. The reality is that the recognition of the changing face of this country is impacting advertising, politics and relationships on a daily basis.

Americas 2043 changing demographics is projected to be younger and more diverse.  Photo Courtesy:  beenetworknews

In 2043 America’s changing demographics are projected to be younger and more diverse. Photo Courtesy: beenetworknews

In business, the change potentially represents trillions of dollars in revenue, and to many everyday citizens, diversity and inclusion represents a positive shift toward fairness and equality hoped for since the 60’s.

The road to diversity and inclusion is laden with the numerous efforts of people who pushed for equal employment opportunity in the 60’s. This was a focused effort to eliminate discrimination through compliance for specific groups through affirmative action. The trend evolved in the 70’s thru the 80’s when equal opportunity was actively promoted. In the 90’s the promotion of diversity was expanded to include LGBT, religious and cultural beliefs. Now moving forward, the workplace, marketplace and global community seek to understand and benefit from their natural differences and unique connections.

“Its in everybody’s self-interest to foster the development of minorities and women.

Leonard Greenhalgh, Ph.D., Professor of Management Tuck School of Business says it's vitally important for schools to do their part to help America prepare for the coming population shift.  Photo Courtes:  Tuck School of Business

Leonard Greenhalgh, Ph.D., Professor of Management Tuck School of Business says it’s vitally important for schools to do their part to help America prepare for the coming population shift. Photo Courtesy: Tuck School of Business

It’s not something you do because it’s a nice thing to do or the moral thing to do. You do it because the business community is going to be more thriving and that is going to create more social stability, more repeat business, more customer wealth and wealth for the corporations and tax revenue for the community,” says Leonard Greenhalgh, Ph.D., Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and Director of Native American Business Programs, Programs for Minority and Women-Owned Businesses.

This idea is shared by a number of people in the business community across the country. Henry Snorton, III, Executive Director of MEDI and Economic Development Specialist in Hopkinsville, Kentucky says “the shifting population numbers only give more credibility as to why business supplier diversity should be even stronger today.”

He further stated, “you can’t have demographic shifts if you aren’t prepared for the economic shifts in the demographics. You can go back and look at children five years younger and you see the growing numbers of minorities in the U.S. versus Caucasians, but if you look at business contracting and you look at employment, those numbers aren’t reflected. So, this fact will potentially create a breakdown in consumer spending that relates to businesses, economic development and growth. If you don’t have people who have money to buy your product, society will break down and GDP will go down because the great disparity in employment for minorities impacts the bottom line. Some corporations are beginning to understand that.”

Michele Howell, VP Business Development Aon Cornerstone Innovative Solutions, says companies should be diversifying now if they want to have future growth.

Michele Howell, VP Business Development Aon Cornerstone Innovative Solutions, says companies should be diversifying now if they want to have future growth.  Picture Courtesy: Aon

Aon is one of those corporations that understand and recognize the potential challenges and opportunities. Aon Cornerstone Innovative Solutions is a pioneer and innovator with a unique history of supporting supplier diversity initiatives within their organization and with its clients. Growing client demand resulted in a formalized strategy to support high value MWBE solutions to both public and private sector clients.

Michele Howell, VP Business Development for Aon Cornerstone Innovative Solutions said, “the company had enough foresight in 2009 to create a division of subject matter experts in diversity which has since proven to be successful at sourcing and vetting diversifiers in our same vertical; so insurance, risk management, benefits and HR consulting and outsourcing in those verticals is effective. We work collaboratively with diverse business suppliers that support the Aon goal of spurring innovative thinking, create new opportunities to help clients better manage risk while realizing the full potential of their people and capital.” Howell credits Aon President and CEO Greg Case with listening and responding to client concerns around diversity and providing solutions to address those concerns.

Terrie F. Daniel Deputy Commissioner Indiana MWBE  Division oversees the state's "Supplier Diversity is just the right thing to do!"

Terrie F. Daniel Deputy Commissioner Indiana MWBE Division says, “Supplier Diversity is just the right thing to do!” Picture Courtesy” IDOA / MWBE

She further added, “many businesses are beginning to understand and realize that diversity and inclusion is a business imperative inside the organizations that do get it; because, as our demographics change, it becomes our new customer base. So, if you aren’t reaching out now you’re not going to be a company that will grow in the future.”

It also appears that the state of Indiana understands that connection between growth, diversity and inclusion. Through it’s Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises Division headed by Deputy Commissioner Terrie F. Daniel, the goal is to provide equal opportunity to minority and women enterprises in the state’s procurement and contracting process.

Jacqueline Burroughs, Special Assistant to Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, spoke on the Governors behalf at one of the many events Indiana holds to promote diversity and inclusion. I asked Ms. Burroughs what is the Governor’s perspective on supporting such events and the goal of inclusion. She said,” the Governor is totally all in when it comes to small and minority businesses. We know that small businesses, especially, are the engine of a lot of states. They carry a lion’s share of the GNP for a state; they contribute greatly to the economy. While we look at the larger businesses and support them, we really want to support our minority-owned businesses and also make sure that they have access to state contracts and are able to do business with the state. That’s something the Governor is very passionate about.”

In addition, Ms. Burroughs said Indiana recognizes diversity and inclusion as a resource not as a response to the changing demographics, adding, “it was important enough to take the minority supplier piece and make it an agency of its own headed by Terrie Daniel.”

Indiana is also unique because disparity studies are mandated into their state code and includes IDOA, INDOT, state educational institutions, publicly funded universities and colleges. The state requires that the study must be conducted every five years so they have up to date information to guide implementation of the states MWBE and DBE programs.

Sameer Bawa, Ph.D., Director of BBC Research & Consulting elaborated on the studies impact and relevance. He said, “ The idea of the disparity survey study provides objective information for the Indiana Department of Administration, the Indiana Department of Transportation and all the other participating entities to have information relevant to their implementation of the state’s MWBE program and the Federal DBE program.

Specifically, we provide them with information about the degree each entity is using minority women owned businesses as part of its contracting and procurement, and, compare that to the degree that those businesses are available for that work based on their characteristics of the types of work they do and the types of contracts that each entity is awarded.

Sameer Bawa

Sameer Bawa, Director of BBC Research & Consulting believes disparity studies are becoming more relevant due to the changing U.S. demographics. Picture Courtesy: BBC Research & Consulting

The disparity study is done by agencies nationwide that implement the Federal DBE program, which is run by the Department of Transportation.  It’s designed to encourage participation by minority owned businesses and is also done by other jurisdictions and cities. States will do them, as well as, anyone that’s interested in having objective information that helps guide the implementation of small business and minority owned business programs.”

Bawa believes disparity studies are becoming more relevant due to the changing U.S. demographics adding, “as more and more minority owned businesses, women owned businesses become more successful, it’s now an issue that a number of agencies are becoming concerned about. Just what is the capacity, and what is the availability of those firms, their jurisdiction, and how many dollars are they actually sending their way. That’s becoming an issue and is getting on people’s radar. It’s something they’re working toward.”

How does all of this impact the future of young minority professionals and how they see themselves moving forward? Sirrea Whittaker, MLD, sees the change as something that’s happening right now. Whittaker said, “right now as a young professional you are trying to gain experience and take advantage of opportunities for leadership and professional development. Not everyone wants to sit in the back. There are opportunities that can be seized upon and minorities are willing to wait their fair turn …but young minority professionals should be considered for advancement at all levels, professional and entrepreneurial, not just Caucasian men or women. The demographic shift might get us there sooner than later.”

Business diversity and inclusion and the browning of America should be viewed as an opportunity for all. As Dr. Greenhalgh says, “ this is not philanthropy, America is no longer a domestic economy; it’s a small part of a global economy and we’re coming up against global competitors in almost every walk of life. If we don’t create the jobs and wealth at home it’s going to go oversees and we’re going to be worst off, our competitor nations will be strengthened at America’s expense.

The economy has changed so much in the last 200 years. We went from a farming economy to a manufacturing economy, to a service economy, and now we’re in a knowledge economy, and that means, wealth is created by the people who have intellectual property invested in what they do.

So, it’s vitally important that the education system creates the knowledge workers that are going to populate our work forces and our entrepreneurial businesses in order to support major businesses. You need engineers, mathematicians, software people, you need people who are comfortable with technology, but above all you really need people who are literate at the level that is needed by modern business.”

pitanim

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