New diverse business directories debut at Day of Dialogue and Action

A contractor works in the Sumers Welcome Center. (Photo: Sid Hastings/Washington University)

During the recent 2022 Day of Dialogue and Action, Washington University in St. Louis’ Supplier Diversity Department staff debuted a new online tool designed to make partnering with diverse businesses easier for the campus community and the entire St. Louis area.

The new directories — one focused on all industries providing goods and services, the other specifically for construction — are on the university’s Supplier Diversity website and allow comprehensive, customizable searches with just a few clicks. In the directories, departments may access roughly 2,000 self-identified diverse businesses providing goods and services ranging from catering to computer systems design.

 “We are so excited to share this new tool with the entire WashU community,” said Janelle Turner, director of supplier diversity. “While the university has made great strides in engaging diverse firms, especially in the construction fields, we know there is much more work to be done. We hope the directories will make partnering with a whole host of diverse businesses easier — and more top of mind — for WashU departments, schools and centers that use outside vendors.”

WashU’s strengthened commitment to hiring and procuring from diverse businesses comes in part from its membership and involvement in the St. Louis Anchor Action Network. Formed in the wake of conversations that began in December 2019, the network seeks to address employment, income and wealth inequities experienced within majority-Black and brown communities facing high poverty rates in the St. Louis area.

“The network aims to take definitive action when it comes to advancing equity in the St. Louis area,” Turner said. “While these directories represent a great step forward on WashU’s part, we are excited to see what’s ahead as we all collaborate and commit to leveling the playing field for diverse businesses and their employees.”

WashU’s new directories include St. Louis-area firms as well as others from across the country. Many already have proven track records with the university, having performed jobs or provided products or services previously. Others are new to the community. As suppliers register on the portal, the supplier diversity staff connects with all of them. The directories are also open to the public to increase awareness and opportunities for the businesses listed.

“Bringing WashU’s supplier diversity directories from concept to reality wasn’t easy, but it was rewarding work,” said Sanjana Are, a supplier diversity intern and recent graduate of Olin Business School. “We are thrilled to offer these important resources not only to our campus community, but to anyone else interested in hiring a diverse firm or enterprise.”

While inclusion in the directories does not guarantee a bid opportunity or a contract, it can lead to greater visibility and increased awareness about a business’s offerings and capabilities. Businesses interested in being included in the directories are encouraged to fill out an online profile. The directory is updated regularly.

“We expect all firms included in the directory to bring their A games,” Turner said. “They must meet the university’s high standards for value, quality and timeliness. The bottom line is that businesses will be awarded jobs and contracts based on their abilities, and we look forward to interfacing with more potential partners as we move this effort forward.”

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