by farhanna sayegh, multicultural marketing director
In nature and in business, ecosystems are formed by the interaction of a community. It is a dynamic network that emerges between unrelated or distant actors to promote constructive actions and disrupt negative ones. Building an ecosystem to help women connect, grow and thrive was the focus of WBENC’s signature annual event – and I was thrilled to attend this year (my first!) Thousands of women entrepreneurs connected with hundreds of corporate executives at the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) annual conference and business fair. I’ll be honest – before jumping on the Amtrak from NJ to Baltimore, I was a bit skeptical – unsure if soliciting business from people I have had no prior contact with would work. But I was amazed at how EAGER many procurement managers and supplier diversity executives were in getting to know us and how we can work together.
Diverse Teams Produce Better Results
It was clear that many companies were committed to supplier diversity because it is a win-win situation. It not only “looks good” for the organization to help drive economic growth, build stronger communities and have their business accurately reflect the populations they serve. Large companies experience enterprise-wide performance benefits as diverse suppliers very often help large organizations promote creativity, provide flexibility, improve processes and deliver cost-efficiencies. The task on their part is not easy. Corporations must be committed to actively identify and build relationships with high quality minority, and women-owned business enterprises (MWBE’s) AND encourage their first-tier suppliers to do the same. It was clear that many companies didn’t merely include supplier diversity within policies and procedures – rather, inclusion has been integrated into their corporate culture – and that impacts overall teamwork and performance.
Julie Elberfeld, Senior Vice President, Shared Technology and Executive Sponsor of Diversity and Inclusion for Technology at Capital One joined attendees at the Finale Luncheon and shared some great research conducted by McKinsey and BCG – that diverse teams produce better results and are more innovative because the social dynamic of work teams evolve. With people that look like us, we assume they understand without detailed communication. However, in a more diverse setting, communication levels increase to be sure all are on the same page. We raise our game more, communicate our perspectives more and this leads to more innovation.
Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International also shared his perspectives with thousands of attendees – that he received the benefit of growing into senior positions at Marriot because we allow ourselves to take a chance with people that look like us. However, with people that we don’t look like, we expect them to already have the experience they are seeking for. It’s about identifying the potential – otherwise we miss out on an array of unique qualities, perspectives and life experiences that help drive innovation.
Diversity Is Good for Business
The common theme is that diversity is good for business, which is the reason we at CQ fluency value diversity in our own employees and suppliers. Selfishly, we embrace diversity because it is key in driving quality and therefore being more profitable. We are a global business with a wide array of translation and cultural adaptation solutions. The only way we can truly unleash our CQ (Cultural Intelligence) into our work is by having a diverse group of employees and suppliers. We believe in the power of diversity to deliver innovative solutions that support our clients as they navigate the global marketplace and an increasingly diverse domestic market. Therefore, we were THRILLED to meet fellow MWBEs to see how we can develop sustainable partnerships.
All entrepreneurial ventures must struggle. This includes long hours, putting your business ahead of other priorities and constantly finding ways to stand out from the competition. Very often, it’s much more challenging for women – which is why an ecosystem of women business owners is important. Like any ecosystem, we are interdependent and need each other to achieve strong results. Unlike biological ecosystems, we don’t have to leave success to chance. We can intentionally coordinate interactions to be sure our greater ecosystem is powerful for all – including those historically marginalized that need additional resources to thrive. That means being intentional about engaging with women and people of color, who have been disproportionately cut off from the networks that provide opportunities to drive their businesses. We are thankful to WBENC for helping facilitate impactful conversations and look forward to following up with our new connections so that we can all grow and thrive together!