INSIGHT Into Diversity is the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion magazine in higher education. Last year, Miami received the magazine’s Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award, which recognizes commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus.
Supplier diversity refers to diversity in the businesses that universities buy products and services from. The award recognizes universities who are actively making efforts to engage in their community and buy from companies owned by marginalized people.
Mark Taylor, Miami’s chief procurement officer, oversees sourcing for the entire university, including regional campuses. He manages purchases of goods and services, from paper clips to building contracts.
“[The award is] a big deal,” he said. “It’s kind of a culmination of a lot of hard work since I’ve been in place the last three or four years … I think it confirms Miami’s commitment to supplier diversity.”
Taylor said there has been a lot of improvement in this area, but there’s still a long way to go.
“We’ve done a pretty good job with our outreach strategy, making diverse suppliers aware that we have different opportunities,” Taylor said. “We’ve made them feel a lot more comfortable approaching us when those opportunities surface … There’s room for us to increase our annual diverse suppliers' spend and that’s across all categories and commodities and services.”
According to Taylor, the university spent about $6 million on products and services from diverse suppliers in the fiscal year 2020.
Supplier diversity is often considered the third leg of diversity, according to INSIGHT Into Diversity co-publisher Holly Mendelson. It is often left out of diversity and inclusion efforts.
“It’s almost sort of the forgotten area,” she said. “People are very focused on student recruitment and retention, underrepresented employee recruitment and retention, and supplier diversity tends to be overlooked a lot, and we just felt like it was a really important part of the conversation.”
Taylor agreed it’s important to include supplier diversity.
“Typically the supplier diversity component, you want it to be in line with the overall diversity and inclusion goals of the university,” he said.
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Mendelson said Miami was chosen for the award because it is actively working to enhance supplier diversity.
“We only selected schools that we thought were actually actively pursuing working with underrepresented suppliers and community members,” she said. “[Miami] was one of the schools that goes out and engages the community … They go out and actually try to interact with suppliers, especially in Ohio and in the surrounding communities to make sure that they are getting great representation from businesses that are owned and operated by people who are from underrepresented groups.”
Taylor said his office is making a conscious effort to improve supplier diversity.
“We’re not doing it just because it’s the thing to do,” Taylor said. “It’s a part of the culture at Miami. It has to be a part of the fiber; it has to be driven from senior levels.”