Without profitable customers you do not have a business. And with women-led businesses supplying less than 5% of corporate and public sector contracts, we seem to be missing out on some of the most profitable customers out there. Fortunately one global women’s organisation, WEConnect, is working to close the gap.
WEConnect International started out as a US based initiative. Prowess incubated its first international office back in 2008. I managed and chaired WEConnect UK for its first year. It’s now progressed to a global network with agents in China, India, Canada, Australia, Jamaica and many more. WEConnect UK has become WEConnect Europe and, having not been in touch with the organisation for some time, I ran across their dynamic new CEO Maggie Berry twice in the last week. I’m still on the 30 day blog challenge: that’s a message not to be ignored!
Diversity drives innovation
The dearth of women’s businesses in the supply chain has long been seen as a key economic issue in the United States. Various government targets have been set to encourage corporate and public sector buyers to open up their supply chains to more diverse groups. Those initiatives have been embraced by multi-national companies: like Pfizer, Apple, Hewlett Packard and many more. Of course, those that supply government have an interest in supporting those targets. But there is also a clear and well documented self-interest in developing a diverse supply chain: there is a undeniable link between diversity and innovation. Many of those US based corporates now have firm internal targets to ensure that their supply gene pool is as diverse as it can be.
WEConnect International is a corporate-led non-profit which provides business education and connections to companies that are at least 51 percent owned, managed and controlled by one or more women. Together, WEConnect’s corporate members have a staggering $700 billion in annual purchasing power.
Corporate members are clear that they don’t want to give women’s businesses special treatment. Just being a woman won’t win you business. But they are sincere about actively increasing diversity in their supply-chain and ensuring that the diversity of their customers is reflected in their supply chain. WEConnect members are keen to encourage and, where possible, support women-led businesses who could be possible suppliers either directly or to their tier one or tier two supply networks.
To overcome issues like women cynically being used as ‘fronts’, which started to emerge in the early days of supplier diversity initiatives in the US, a process of ‘certification’ has sprung up. Most of the multinational members of WEConnect will want to see that you are certified as a genuine women-owned and led business. You need to own at least 51% of your company. For full details of the process see the WEConnect Europe site. If you’d just like to boost your profile and get on the radar of the multi-national members then you can also self-register for free.
WEConnect International are holding a conference for women in business in London on 3 October 2013.