3 Ways to promote parity for women-owned consulting firms

By Christine Andrukonis | Workplace Transformation Expert | Founder | Notion Consulting
Workplace transformation expert and founder of notion consulting Christine Andrukonis, on achieving supplier diversity and empowering women in consulting

Consulting firms aiming to get their foot in the door for new clients can be challenging, especially for the more than a million women-owned firms because there are already incumbents.

These incumbents often have the upper hand since they have a track record with the company in not only experience, but also strong customer relationships, strategies, and resources for the long term, as well. Then, they have the ability to leverage these experiences and relationships into their clients’ expanding businesses, potentially shutting out the significant number of women-owned, management-consulting firms from landing new clients.

According to the US Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey, nearly 17 percent of the country’s 1.1 million women-owned firms were classified in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector.

There are several factors that drive decisions for procurement such as costs, solutions provided by the vendors, supplier risk management, and reliability. For companies deciding whether to make or buy, according to PwC research, Chief Procurement Officers weigh three pillars: business strategy, risks, and economic factors. So not only are women-owned businesses competing against already established incumbents, they also may compete with organisations who may in-source certain projects, too.

That said, there’s an even more compelling case for organisations to be intentional about levelling the playing field for women-owned businesses. Companies that are serious about supplier diversity can take various approaches to give women-owned businesses a seat at the table to break that glass ceiling. Opening the door for limited, minority-owned businesses to consult and partner at the senior-most levels of the organisation is definitely doable. It just requires intentional actions and strategies to open the door for these firms, while simultaneously creating a more diverse ecosystem for their own organisations.

Here are three ways that businesses can embrace to level that playing field:

Create intentional opportunities for women and minority-owned firms

Showcasing will create an opportunity for suppliers to connect with senior-level buyers and executives within organisations to share their insights, perspectives, and capabilities, so they are aware of these organisations when they are ready to make a buying decision.

Think of this tactic as similar to a listing real estate agent’s open house exclusive for other realtors — by inviting buyer realtors to the party, the seller’s agent can meet agents who can connect them to their solutions-focused buyers and get to know them. Aside from showing the property, they can build relationships and get to know their clients’ interests for future properties, as well.

Create intentional moments to meet and truly hear from suppliers, and then document it so you have detailed information readily available when it’s time to contact them for potential projects.

Train your supplier-diversity teams to be strategic match-makers

Encourage your teams to truly take the time to understand and know that senior-level vendor partner so they can proactively advise, coach, and spot opportunities to recommend those partners to executives.

By being well-versed and upfront to learn about vendor partners’ strengths and experiences to become invested stakeholders, your teams will become empowered. Teams will be better equipped to identify opportunities that are strong fits if aligned with the vendors’ abilities that can benefit your organisation sooner rather than later, ultimately saving your company valuable time and money.

Package projects proactively

Create opportunities that are better fits for boutique, women-owned businesses, rather than only having huge projects available for vendors that require significant resources and bandwidth that smaller vendors may be unable to fulfil. For instance, due to a lack of resources, some larger projects may make it more difficult (if not impossible) for smaller businesses to work on them.

In addition to having diverse groups of partners to work with, offering diverse perspectives and viewpoints, there are tangible business results, like driving more competition among your consulting firms and getting more competitive pricing/increased value.

This helps minimise the risk of concentrating your support when you need different types of vendors to ensure your organisation is always running efficiently, such as during economic downturns. Plus, these vendors might be hungrier and, therefore, more willing to invest in giving you premium service and their utmost attention.

In summary, organisations can hire diverse, talented vendors, and women and minority-owned businesses can have a seat at the table. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Christine Andrukonis is a Workplace Transformation Expert and founder of Notion Consulting, a change-management consultancy that helps leaders tackle their most complex business challenges. Their latest study, The Change Report 2022: A Study of Attitudes, Perceptions, and Impact of Workplace Change, can be found here.​​​​​​​

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