NAWBO Helps Level the Playing Field for Women Business Owners in Charlotte
By Vilma Betancourt-O’Day, owner of Women Wrule, chair of the NAWBO-Charlotte Public Policy Committee and member of the Women Impacting Public Policy Legislative Issues Committee
“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance…and being asked to dance means that you are actually being provided the opportunity to show what you are capable of doing,” says Vernā Myers, President of The Vernā Myers Company.
NAWBO-Charlotte has been invited by the City of Charlotte’s Business Inclusion Department to participate in the Advisory Committee for their upcoming Disparity Study. We are very honored to be the only women’s business organization in the region to have a seat at the table. NAWBO is prepared to serve as a catalyst for change by having an active role in this project. As Director of Public Policy for NAWBO-Charlotte, I have been asked by our Chapter President Penny Benkeser to represent the membership on this Advisory Board.
At NAWBO-Charlotte, the goal for participating in this Advisory Board is to make sure that there is equality for all women-owned businesses in the procurement process.
A Disparity Study is defined as “the comparison between the utilization of minority- and women-owned businesses on an agency’s contracts and the availability of those businesses to perform the work is referred to as a ‘disparity analysis’.” In other words, it’s about leveling the playing field for women- and minority-owned businesses by addressing any issues related to inequality in the procurement process.
According to the 2016 American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses report, in the Charlotte region, there are approximately 92,500 women-owned businesses (ranks #3) generating $13,340,200 in revenue (ranks #1) and employing 70,000 individuals (ranks #2). In the overall economic clout category, the Charlotte region women-owned businesses rank #1 in the United States. The study further indicates that approximately 13 women-owned businesses are opened every day in this area of North Carolina.
In our capacity as a business organization on this Advisory Board and to ensure that we are representing all women business owners when we present our recommendations to the City of Charlotte, we are reaching out to all of the women business owners in the Charlotte region and asking them to share their stories and experiences with us as they pertain to contracting with the City of Charlotte. It is very important to us so that we speak as one voice, collectively, and include everyone’s opinions and experiences (all correspondence may be sent to [email protected], subject: “Disparity Study”).
On Tuesday, August 2nd, we had our initial meeting. We reviewed the structure of the study, met the key players and discussed the study’s outline and timeframe.
Our Preliminary Recommendations
We have asked the report’s consultants that the classifications of the report be changed to include a detailed breakdown in the categories of Minority-Owned Businesses. Currently, there is one category for White Women-Owned Businesses and one category for Minority-Owned Businesses (men and women).
Without the detailed breakdown of all Minority Business Enterprises, we won’t know how many minority women are actually working on government contracts or how much Charlotte is spending on this specific sector. NAWBO needs to have this data set so that we may share it with other businesswomen organizations in this region. We must confirm that there is equality in the issuance of Charlotte’s government contracts as it affects women business enterprises.
A mentor protégé program where small businesses are partnered with other procurement vendors would be beneficial to our members as well as the business community. By implementing this program, we can offer guidance and an opportunity to grow to the small businesses in our communities.
Transparency in the procurement process is an issue that many minorities have requested. Automating all the bids by publishing them online as the State of North Carolina currently does, would be very helpful. Releasing a quarterly report with a listing of all the issued procurement contracts would be helpful.
We believe that in order to help minority- and women-owned small businesses, Charlotte should change their contracting goal, across the board, to match New York’s, which is currently set at 30 percent. New York City has been named the #1 city for women-owned businesses.
Equality is the name of the game.