Celebrating supplier diversity excellence at SCMSDC’s Leadership Excellence Awards Gala

Mysterious people behind intriguing masks. Ladies and gentlemen dressed in their finest formal attire. An air of suspense against a unique and elegant backdrop that has long been a Los Angeles treasure. Southern California Minority Supplier Development Council’s (SCMSDC) 33rd annual Leadership Excellence Awards gala held October 10 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles was unlike any other council event in recent memory.

With a theme -- “Unmasking excellence. Opening doors.” -- SCMSDC’s final signature event of the year had an element of mystery and enchantment. Guests were encouraged to don masks as the council shined a spotlight on the visionaries, trailblazers, advocates, mentors and connectors that have advanced supplier diversity. During the evening, 10 awards were given to individuals and corporations that have made exemplary achievements in supplier diversity.

“Opening doors resonates for me in so many ways,” says SCMSDC Board Chair and American Honda Motor Co.’s Senior Manager, Administration Division Charles Harmon. “The people and companies that we’re honoring tonight do what they do — day in and day out — with little fanfare and often powered by resources that never show up in any budget or balance sheet…Tonight we unmask and celebrate them and reveal the quiet heroes among us.”

The council gave one of its most prestigious awards – the Leadership Excellence Award -- to the first Latina recipient, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez. The award is presented to an individual whose leadership and commitment have resulted in tangible impacts in the minority business community.

Past Leadership Excellence Award recipient and former Assemblywoman Gwen Moore said Rodriguez “gave small and diverse business owners a voice as former vice president of Los Angeles’ Board of Public Works and blazed a trail that has allowed more small-, minority- and women-owned firms to do business with the city.”

Rodriguez noted Moore was a trailblazer in her own right for drafting landmark legislation that led to guidelines in 1988 to promote utility recruitment and use of diverse suppliers. In accepting the award, the councilwoman said, “I saw a need to ensure that strong and diverse competitive voices were a part of the economic engine in Los Angeles. I look forward to partnering with the council and helping minority businesses have a greater voice with the city.”

Rodriguez was sworn into office on July 1 and represents the northeast San Fernando Valley. Prior to her election to the city council, she was appointed vice president of the Board of Public Works by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2013.

At the department, Rodriguez took on initiatives to help small-, minority- and women-owned businesses, including overseeing an upgrade to the city’s contracting website to make it easier for small business owners to navigate and starting a small-business academy to help business owners grow and succeed.

Toyota received SCMSDC’s top corporate award -- Corporation of the Year (COTY) Award -- for consistently achieving exceptional performance in its supplier diversity and inclusion initiatives. Other organizations nominated for COTY were: American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; Amgen; Nestlé North America; Southern California Gas Co.; Turner; and Wells Fargo.

For the COTY award, corporate members are nominated by the MBEIC and SCMSDC President Virginia Gomez. A committee comprised of MBEs and representatives from other minority advocacy organizations evaluate and rate each nominated company independently, based on a pre-established points system.

Other awards included:
• Chairman’s Award, presented to Vicky Harper-Hall, sector manager, Global Supplier Diversity Programs & Government Relations, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, for her exceptional commitment and contributions to SCMSDC.

• Hollis Smith Legacy Award, presented to Monetta Stephens, manager of Supplier Diversity, Toyota, for her unwavering support that embodies the council’s founding president’s dedication to SCMSDC’s mission.

• Community Visionary Award, presented to Jarrod Sheets, Supplier Diversity Business Initiatives consultant, Wells Fargo, for championing diversity and inclusion initiatives in response to demographic and economic trends and changes in the culture.

• Spirit of Diversity Award, presented to Michelle Smith-Ballard, vice president of Community and Citizenship, Turner Construction Company, for furthering the cause of supplier diversity and inclusion, and whose enthusiasm for advocacy fosters an environment of collaboration with community partners and other entities.

• Diversity Optimist Award, presented to Alma McMaster, program manager, Supplier Diversity and Development, Southern California Edison, for her tireless work to lift up diverse business communities and ensure they have access to contract opportunities.

• Purchasing Heavyweight Award, presented to Southern California Edison, for attaining significant diverse spend and offering a large number of contracts with diverse businesses.

• Sustainability Trendsetter Award, presented to Burns & McDonnell, for bringing innovative thinking to the development of unique solutions to business challenges that others then follow.

Event sponsors included: (platinum) Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas; (gold) Toyota; (silver) Anthem; (bronze) The Walt Disney Company; Chevron; (corporate) American Honda Motor Co.; Burns & McDonnell Engineering; Comcast NBCUniversal; Northrop Grumman; PCM; Time Warner; (supporter) AT&T; and (media partners) DiversityComm; and Diversity Professional.