Diversity/Careers in Engineering & Information Technology



August/September 2013

Diversity/Careers August/September 2013

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Women-owned businesses are fueling the nation’s economy

This event is the highlight of the year for women-owned businesses and their supporters

In late June, more than 3,000 women business owners, corporate supporters and allies came together in Minneapolis, MN for the 2013 National Conference and Business Fair of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC, www.wbenc.org).

The annual event gives women business enterprises (WBEs) an opportunity to meet face-to-face with supplier diversity representatives from large national corporations, including many Fortune 500 companies. Government entities are also frequent attendees.

Networking among WBEs is an important part of the conference; many panels and workshop sessions featured successful WBEs sharing the business approaches that worked for them. And there was plenty of time for WBEs to chat with each other between workshops and at evening events. This year’s conference theme, “Join forces. Succeed together,” emphasized cooperation among WBEs and between WBEs and their clients.

Sponsors and hosts work together
WBENC corporate members support the organization’s work. The corporate conference co-chairs this year were the Coca-Cola Company and Target Corp. Lead corporate sponsors were Dell and UPS. Other corporate sponsors included corporations from 3M to Wells Fargo; government participants included the Federal Reserve System, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and several military agencies.

The WBE sponsors were both tech-based companies: Artech (Cedar Knolls, NJ), a tech-focused workforce solutions company with operations in the U.S., India and China; and KellyMitchell (St Louis, MO), a technology consulting company that also offers staff augmentation and outsourced business solutions.

WBENC’s fourteen regional partner organizations (RPOs) are made up of WBEs and corporate members. This year’s host RPO was the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC), the largest and oldest of the RPOs. The RPOs handle the rigorous process that certifies a business as woman-owned and managed and entitles it to use the WBE designation. The WBDC certifies WBEs in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Its headquarters are in Chicago, and a Minneapolis satellite office just celebrated its tenth anniversary. Several tech-focused WBEs served on the host committee.

Awards for support and success
At the conference, WBENC recognized individuals for their efforts on behalf of WBEs. Barbara Kubicki-Hicks, SVP and vendor sourcing executive at Bank of America, received an Applause award for her work as a member of the WBENC board of directors, where she serves on several different committees.

Pamela Prince-Eason, WBENC president and CEO since 2011, was recognized for her success in growing the organization. The number of certified WBEs is now more than 11,000.

An additional Applause award went to Tara Abraham, chairman and co-CEO of WBE Accel inc, an Ohio-based contract packaging company. Abraham has served for three years as chair of WBENC’s Women’s Enterprise Leadership Forum, which represents WBENC-certified WBEs. She also represents WBENC on the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), a nonpartisan federal advisory council that reports to the President, Congress and the Small Business Administration on the economic interests of women-owned businesses. The fourth award recipient was Ruby McCleary, director of supplier diversity at United Airlines, and an active corporate member of the WBENC board of directors.

The William J. Alcorn award, WBENC’s top honor, was presented to Geri Swift, president of the Women’s Business Enterprise Council of Pennsylvania, Delaware and Southern New Jersey (WBEC PA-DE-sNJ). Swift is also a member of the WBENC board and chaired the Leadership Council of the fourteen RPOs. The award is named for WBENC’s first board chair, William J. Alcorn, retired SVP and chief purchasing officer of the J.C. Penney Company.

Diversity/Careers was there
Renard Communications, the parent company of Diversity/Careers, has been a certified WBE since 2006. Renard Communications president and CEO and D/C publisher Roberta Renard was at the 2013 event, along with sales director Jordan Weiss, sales executive Phyllis Rush, administrative coordinator Heather Jensen and D/C editor in chief Kate Colborn.


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