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AIA Diversity and Inclusion > Tools for Firms > Marketplace Diversity

Marketplace Diversity
By Sherry Snipes
Director, AIA Diversity and Inclusion

In today’s ever changing world, diversity and inclusion should be critical elements of every firm’s business strategy. Diversity simply means differences. Inclusion is about ensuring that individuals are not “excluded.” Think about the diversity of your firm; employees, clients, vendors. Now think about all the ways they are different, as a business entity, but also as individuals. Race and gender are typically the first characteristics that come to mind, however there are many other elements that make up a diverse society. For example, disability, national origin, socio-economic differences, education, height, weight, culture, sexual preferences, age . . . the list can be endless.

Take a moment to think beyond adding staff. For small firms or sole practitioners that are not planning to hire, diversity should still be important. Think about diversity from a client or marketplace perspective. Clients are demanding, requiring or requesting that potential business partners have diverse teams. The client may not be vocal about it, but when you attend a business meeting with hmmm . . . three middle aged white men, that client just might not call you back and you will never know why. If the client does business with the government or government contractors, they often have diversity requirements embedded in the selection process and are required to ensure that you have equal employment practices.

Have you looked at your marketplace recently? An architect from Iowa stated that there is no diversity in Iowa. Let’s consider this; there is age diversity in Iowa. There is gender diversity in Iowa. There is disability diversity in Iowa. If that person were to take a closer look at the market and potential clients, they may find that there are ethnic minorities in Iowa as well. The point here is that you may not think your market is diverse, but after taking a deeper look, you may be surprised by what you find. Here are a few statistics to support the importance of marketplace diversity:

  • Demographic shifts are happening globally (beyond workforce)
  • According to the U.S. Census the number of business start-ups (brick & mortar & other) by minorities and women outpaces start ups by the majority population
  • According to a recent study by Socio Economic Trends, in heterosexual households females make 43% of financial decisions vs. 31 % of joint decisions
  • The Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) community has significant buying power ($712 Billion in 2007)
  • 1 in 5 Americans is considered disabled and the number of disabled Americans will increase with the aging

What do these statistics tell you? Essentially, there are opportunities to gain new business opportunities when organizations understand and leverage the diversity of their marketplace. In other words, look beyond the usual suspects (a.k.a. your usual clients).

Let’s assume that you are now convinced that diversity should be important. Now, what should you do?

Here are a few quick recommendations to get you started:

    1. Learn and understand the marketplace and any potential clients

    2. Look at your business to determine if you are penetrating the marketplace effectively.

    3. Get involved in the community to learn what’s happening. Meet community leaders (get out there and network). Attend social events and community events.

    4. Volunteer in your community.

    5. Align with community organizations (i.e. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce)

    6. Hand out business cards and tell people what you do.

    7. Engage in business social networking on-line communities.

Additional Marketplace Diversity Resources

The Business Case for Diversity: Policies, Practices, and Tools for Creating a Successful Workplace

With increasing interest and participation in global markets, incorporating diversity into the workplace no longer remains an option but rather a necessity for architectural firms in the United States. In this podcast, Michael Crosbie speaks with three panelists, Carol Wedge, Carl Roehling and Meg Brown about the policies, practices, and tools for creating a successful workplace. iTunes |MP3

Electronic Cash In E-Commerce: Comparative Analysis Of Views Of Hispanic And African-American Business Owners

By James L. Morrison, University of Delaware; G. Titi Oladunjoye, Albany State University Young S. Kwak, Delaware State University; Michael Czarkowski, Wilmington College Abstract

Based on a survey of 1000 Hispanic and 1000 African-American business owners on the impacts e-commerce and e-cash are expected to have upon business practices, there were significant discrepancies between perceptions of these two groups regarding their ability to track and retain customers and to authenticate the source of e-cash payments. In addition, while both groups of owners agreed that e-cash will likely replace traditional currency used in commercial transactions between consumers and business, they both are uncertain as to what degree central banks of countries should regulate and how much freedom the private sector should have for developing new forms of e-cash. More

U.S. Government Resources to Help Women Minority Business Owners

By Lahle Wolfe,

The U.S. federal government offers a wide variety of programs and services to help women minorities grow and established their businesses.

HUBZone Program: HUBZone is a federal program sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that helps businesses in historically underutilized areas gain access to federal procurement opportunities.

Minority Business Development Agency: This is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Commerce that assists in the start-up and growth of minority-owned businesses in the U.S.

To be eligible for MBDA assistance, the business must be a minority business enterprise owned or controlled by one or more socially or economically disadvantaged persons AND the owner(s) must be Black, Puerto-Rican, Spanish-speaking American, American Indian, Eskimo or Aleut, Hasidic Jew, Asian Pacific American, or an Asian Indian.

Caucasians and women (unless otherwise qualified by race) are not considered minorities, and therefore are not eligible for participation in MBDA programs. More

The Griffin Report – February 2008: Minority Owned Business Funding,

By Curt Middleton

In the white male-dominated world of commerce, start-up business funding has always been challenging. Access is particularly evasive to funding sources for businesses owned by African, Hispanic (Latin) or Asian Americans, who are more likely to lack the financial resources necessary to achieve adequate capitalization...The United States Small Business Administration does sponsor programs that guarantee loans made from participating lenders to qualified minority-owned businesses. More.

Growth of Minority Women-Owned Firms Outpaces All Others

By Sharon McLoone,

The number of minority women-owned businesses grew twice as fast as the number of businesses created by male minority entrepreneurs and non-minority men and women, according to a recent study released by the Minority Business Development Agency. More.

Supplier Diversity and Competitive Advantage: New Opportunities in Emerging Domestic Markets

6 Strategies for Partnering with Key Minority Stakeholders

By Gwen Whitfield, PhD, MBA, Pepperdine University Graziado School of Business and Management, Graziado Business Report

We live in an economy ripe with change. One prominent change facing businesses in the U.S. is the burgeoning growth of the minority population and its implication for business success. The U.S. population is becoming more diverse as minority populations quickly grow. Given current population growth rates, the minority population will most likely surpass the non-Hispanic, Caucasian population by 2050. To be exact, the U.S. population is expected to increase to 374 million by 2050, with the minority population accounting for nearly 90 percent of the total growth.

Minority businesses are also starting up at unprecedented rates, and we can expect these businesses to play a key role in the health of our national economy in the years ahead. Minority business start-ups, increased spending power within minority communities, and supplier diversity are creating new opportunities for astute companies to realize first-mover advantages in emerging domestic markets. More.

Realizing the New Agenda for Minority Business Development

By James H. Lowry, The Boston Consulting Group

Once hobbled by a lack of capital, a lack of access to market opportunities, and a lack of experienced managers, minority-owned business have made marked progress over the last two decades...Although the number of minority-owned businesses has reached unparalled heights, it does not yet fully reflect the growing size and importance of minority communities in the United States – which will account for almost 40 percent of the population by the middle of the century. More

Minority Business Development Index: A Data Report on American Minority-Owned Business

By Ying Lowrey Office of Advocacy, U.S. Small Business Administration; George Washington University

This report attempts to assist policymakers by indicating the status and trend of minority business and providing information on characteristics of minority business owners. Tremendous progress has been made, the disparity between minorities and the American mainstream is still lingering. At the same time, we have found successful stories that can shed lights to improve the economic wellbeing of those left behind. In 1982, minorities merely owned 7 percent of U.S. firms. Twenty years later, minorities owned 18 percent in 2002. In five years between 1997 and 2002, Black-owned firms grew 45 percent and Hispanic-owned firms grew 31 percent. Yet, for every dollar of receipts that a White-owned firm made on average, minorities made much less. While minority population has been growing rapidly, the growth of business numbers, especially the increase in business receipts has not been synchronized. Terms such as poverty, food stamps, or social welfare, remain minority significant. Can American minorities catch up with the mainstream? Asian Americans have offered a very positive and promising tendency. The abundant human capital through education and possible strong social network associated with high rate of marriage and with family business financing created a special comparative advantage for Asian business. This resulted in a high business density that is likely to be positively correlated to people's economic wellbeing. More.

A study of black and minority ethnic students in the profession
By Helen Barnes, Jane Perry, Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, and Dorothe Bonjour, Policy Studies Institute (UK)

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) commissioned the Policy Studies Institute (PSI) to conduct a study into the experiences of minority ethnic students in architecture. The under-representation of minority ethnic groups in the architectural profession has given rise to concern for a number of years. An equal opportunities policy was adopted by the RIBA in February 2001 and Paul Hyett, in his role as president, has highlighted the need to improve accessibility for women and people from minority ethnic backgrounds. A pilot study carried out for CABE by PSI (Barnes et al, 2002) found that the representation of minority ethnic groups on architecture, planning and building courses was lower than for higher education as a whole, but that such students were more likely than white students to obtain a place when they applied. This indicates that low application rates by minority ethnic groups are one issue for the profession. Minority ethnic students also appear to have a high drop-out rate relative to white students once they have entered the architectural education process. More

0.2%: The number of black women architects has quadrupled in 15 years. But four times a fraction of a percent doesn't amount to much.

By Hannah McCann, Architect Magazine

First, the good news: The number of black women licensed to practice architecture in the United States has quadrupled over the past 15 years.

The bad news? That number is still only 196.

“I am not ready to celebrate,” says Kathryn Tyler Prigmore, 51, who was among the first 20 black women to be licensed. “Ten years ago, I think everyone thought the number of minorities and women in the profession would be significantly higher than it is now.”

Black women represent only 0.2 percent of a total population of approximately 91,000 licensed architects. In law, black women account for close to 2 percent of the profession; in medicine, the figure is 4 percent. More.


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