At the end of June, some 2,700 women business owners and corporate supplier diversity leaders gathered in steamy Miami, FL for four days of workshops, receptions and, especially, networking. It was the seventh annual national convention of the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC, www.wbenc.org).
Through its regional affiliates, WBENC is a third-party certifier of WBEs. Its certification is recognized by more than 700 U.S. corporations.
The theme of the annual conference was "contacts to contracts." The event included a day-long business fair where WBEs displayed their products and services to corporate reps. A total of 211 corporations and 111 WBEs exhibited.
At the conference, many corporations and WBEs were recognized for their contributions to women's business success. One notable announcement was made by Diane Freeman, who heads the supplier diversity program at automaker General Motors. Starting this year, GM will track the business it does with WBEs and actively support and develop women business owners and their firms. This focus expands GM's three-decade involvement with minority-owned suppliers, notes Roderick D. Gillum, GM VP for corporate responsibility and diversity.
Co-chairs of the conference were BellSouth Corp and Raytheon; Dell and Office Depot were featured corporate sponsors. Other corporate sponsors included companies from Altria to Wal-Mart. Notable among the WBE sponsors was Mercedes Electric Supply (Miami, FL), owned by Mercedes LaPorta, an enthusiastic WBENC member.
As a WBE, Renard Communications, the company that publishes Diversity/Careers magazine, was a media sponsor of the event and president Roberta Renard, exec VP Janet O. Penn, and Diversity/Careers editor in chief Kate Colborn were enthusiastic attendees at the business fair.