WBDC: The Importance of Parity (Welcome Letter)

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Since its inception, the Women's Business Development Center, now in its 26th year, has been committed to affirmative action and the implementation of contracting goals, advocacy, public policies, programs and services to strengthen women and minority-owned businesses.

Unfortunately, parity has not yet been achieved for women and minority-owned businesses; but we have made major progress! Women and minority-owned businesses are now the majority of businesses in the U.S. However, the revenues of 80 percent of all businesses and more than 90 percent of minority and women-owned businesses in the U.S. are under $500,000.

Small business is the driving force of the economy. It is responsible for nearly half of all sales, employing more people, creating new jobs and starting businesses at a faster rate. Minority and women-owned businesses are the fastest growing segment of our economy today. The private and public sector's commitment to and implementation of diversity and economic opportunity contracting programs enhance their success.

In our search for parity, the horizon is looking brighter at the federal, state and local levels. The U. S. Small Business Administration is committed to and implementing an expanded 5 percent contracting goal for women business enterprises for every federal agency. In Illinois, Governor Quinn expanded the power of the Illinois Business Enterprise Council to insure that women and minority businesses will have significant access to contracts and subcontracting opportunities with the state of Illinois and that all its state agencies and institutions, including state colleges and universities.

In Cook County, President Preckwinkle's administration has increased the goals for women and minority businesses in all county agencies by enhancing monitoring and compliance as well as implementing new initiatives on bonding, insurance and prompt payment. In the city of Chicago, under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, new and increased resources expedite W/MBE certification and commitment to contract compliance is enhanced. All city sister agencies are on board to expand business opportunities for women and minority business enterprises. New initiatives are being implemented to provide more prime contracting opportunities.

For business and job creation in the U.S., the case for diversity is clear and uncompromising. Corporate America is committed to strengthening its relationships and to sustaining and increasing market share with women and people of color as consumers of their goods and services and as employees, vendors and suppliers.

What we all want is a level playing field, parity and equal opportunity. We can do much together. We can support efforts to strengthen supplier diversity and vendor development initiatives. We can encourage, commend and buy from corporations that have diversity in employment and purchasing plans. We can let these companies know we recognize and appreciate their fair-minded practices.

Join us at this year's Entrepreneurial Woman's Conference, and take advantage of opportunities in the Women's Business & Buyers Mart to build relationships and find opportunities with the committed corporations and government agencies who, like you, understand the value of diversity and the business case for the utilization of diverse suppliers.

Our country's economic strength depends upon all of us. Our businesses, our families, our communities and our country are strengthened by diversity and parity. You can make a difference.

S. Carol Dougal and Hedy M. Ratner
Co-Founders and Co-Presidents
Women's Business Development Center (WBDC)