Each year, DiversityPlus Magazine staff find a common theme among the Top 25 Women in Power Impacting Diversity. It was not difficult to identify, and this year it can be summed up with the two words "people orientation."
The Top 25 Women are leaders who have advanced diversity by recruiting internal stakeholders and then leveraging the connections to bring diverse suppliers into supply chains. Their passion for diversity drives them to commit their time and effort far beyond what is expected in their formal roles. They do what it takes to influence people in their organizations and communities, and in doing so, benefit diverse suppliers who bring measurable value to their organizations.
So how does people orientation present itself? For Nedra Dickson at Accenture, it means personally selecting diverse suppliers and partnering them with executives who agree to serve as mentors. For Jessica Gemmell at BD, it means assisting suppliers with whatever they need for successfully landing a contract, from helping them develop successful pitches to placing diverse suppliers in a mentorship program. Kristin Malek at CDW credits her leadership success to her listening skills and ability to suspend judgement.
These are just a few examples, but all the Top 25 Women have established and/or grown successful supplier diversity programs because they can influence people. They are values driven, transparent, accessible and sincere. When they approach business leaders in their organizations to discuss the value that diverse suppliers bring to the organization, people listen. That is a first critical step. By getting people's attention and using a business case that presents the ROI of supplier diversity, each diversity leader has found success.
It takes persistence to build a successful supplier diversity program from the ground up or to re-energize one that has been in existence and stopped growing. The Top 25 Women are experts at challenging the status quo, using their people skills to help others understand that supplier diversity is not a "government requirement" or a marketing ploy to "prove social responsibility." As many of the Top 25 Women explained in their responses to a set of questions, they spend a lot of time developing the business case for their organizations and for each business division, to overcome biases and help people understand that a strong supplier diversity program is a critical factor in the ability to stay competitive.
With business case in hand, they persistently present information, answer questions, introduce innovative suppliers, and insist that diverse suppliers be included in RFPs. Some of the Top 25 Women were challenged with starting a new supplier diversity program with few committed resources.
Summer Polite at United Rentals did not let limited resources slow her down. Instead, she developed partnerships within the company and took full advantage of technology to educate employees via the company's intranet site.
Tomaneci Waller Day had minimal funding for program startup, but that did not stop her. She developed a strategy that involved piloting a diverse supplier training program in the legal division. It is a resounding success and one that will surely lead to program expansion.
The Top 25 Women also do not take "no" for an answer.
Keya Grant had difficulty convincing a colleague to consider new diverse suppliers, rather than continuing to only consider suppliers he knew. Realizing that talking was not enough, she invited him to join a MBE mentoring session where he gained a new perspective and a willingness to consider more diverse suppliers.
Melinda Holden at Adecco developed a powerful business case for supplier diversity that eventually got her the staff and resources she needed to initiate and grow a supplier diversity program. When colleagues and executives tell these diversity leaders "no," they hear "Yes, but prove to me that you are right."
This year's nominations were particularly exciting because so many of the women are starting supplier diversity programs from the ground up in industries that previously claimed there were not enough diverse suppliers able to participate in their supply chains, like the power, tech, golf, and federal mortgage industries. Another exciting development is the Top 25 Women's growing reliance on data analytics to hold people in their organizations accountable for results.
DiversityPlus Magazine is very pleased to present the 2019 Top 25 Women in Power. In the short bios are the struggles and joys of being diversity leaders. As people-oriented leaders, they are always willing to provide more information to anyone who would like to discuss their various strategies in-depth and get ideas for their own organizations. It is an offer too good to pass up.