The Diversity Q

Minority-owned businesses account for approximately 18% of all U.S. firms, according to the latest data issued in a report by the Small Business Administration, titled Minorities in Business: A Demographic Review of Minority Business Ownership. As this figure continues to rise, corporations are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of attracting a more diverse range of suppliers. Michael Robinson, director of global supplier diversity at IBM-and last year’s winner of the Minority Supplier Development Leader of the Year award from the National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc.- shares his thoughts on the importance of working with diversity suppliers.

What is the importance of developing partnerships with diversity suppliers?
Diverse suppliers are responsive, cost-effective, and contribute different thoughts and ideas. The same way you want your workforce to reflect the environment in which you work, you want your suppliers to reflect it also. Through working with them, we help train them to become more effective and to understand their supplier chain even more.

In what areas are you working with diversity procurement?
We have a plethora of diverse suppliers who are providing us with everything from power and packaging to technical services and staffing. Everything is open; If there are qualified suppliers who exhibit the necessary capabilities in the request for quotation process, they will be considered.

How does IBM reach out to diversity suppliers?
If you’ve had a program since 1968, everyone in the business already knows you’re serious about supplier diversity. But some of our specific initiatives include our Website, which provides information on our diversity supplier program; town meetings in different locations with executives from IBM’s human resources, finance, and branding departments; and scholarship, training, and mentoring programs.