Friday Rant: Supplier Diversity and Beyond — Creating a Level Playing Field for Minorities

Earlier today, The Chicago Tribune provided their latest installment in an investigative series highlighting how marginal applicants to the University of Illinois were "clouted in" based on their connections. It's a fascinating read, if only to see how corrupt my home state really is. But more important, what stories like this fail to cover -- especially in admissions processes like law school which are close to 100% quantitative in nature based on test scores and GPA alone -- is that black, Hispanic and native American applicants have, on average, materially lower test scores than white and Asian applicants yet percentage admissions rates for these groups tend to be higher.

In other words, there are really two bars that aspiring students must cross -- a black/Hispanic/native American bar and a white/Asian bar. I won't pass judgment on the wisdom of programs like this in academia. Come to your own decision. But what I will say is that supplier diversity programs that place an emphasis on finding suppliers that are equally as qualified in key areas, but perhaps under-capitalized or requiring targeted supplier development assistance in others, tend to yield far better results from what I've seen over the years than simply quota or sub-tier focused supplier diversity program approaches that punt on the issue at hand, focusing on Federal reporting alone versus what's right for the top line and the community at large.

Given the strong left leanings of higher education administrators and academics, I highly doubt we’ll see academia reform its ways, becoming less of a quota system -- even though quotas have been formally struck down in some cases and states, we all know such a concept is still prevalent -- and more of a meritocracy with a strong support structure. But when it comes to supplier diversity programs, we’ve got far more control over creating the right sets of incentives and processes that do the right thing -- versus the bureaucrat- or government-mandated one. After all, an equal playing field -- for small business, minority and global suppliers alike -- is what we’re all after.

Jason Busch

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