Needed: A broader view of diversity

Edition: November 2012 - Vol 20 Number 11
Article#: 4101
Author: Repertoire

In today’s world – and certainly in tomorrow’s – a vibrant economy cannot exist without the full participation of women and minorities, said Leonard Greenhalgh, Ph.D., director of minority programs for minority-owned businesses at the Tuck School at Dartmouth. “Demographic changes call for a new strategy,” he said, speaking at Owens & Minor’s 7th Annual Healthcare Global Supplier Diversity Symposium, held in September in Richmond, Va.

And demographic changes are upon us, added Sheldon Retchin, CEO of VCU Health System, who is responsible for five health science schools and directs MCV Hospitals, a teaching and research hospital system in Richmond. Speaking at the symposium, Retchin pointed out that trends show that in 20 years, the United States will be a minority-dominated country. “You have to have a commitment and you have to have a process for developing and including minority- and women-owned businesses. It is a business imperative.”

The annual symposium attracted nearly 300 professionals, among them owners and operators of small-, minority-, and women-owned businesses. It was co-sponsored by the Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council, the Healthcare Supplier Diversity Alliance, and the National Association of Health Services Executives.

Global perspective

“In the world today, we need to pay attention to what is happening and understand that we have choices, and that our choices should not be small and narrow and selfish,” said Mae Jemison, M.D., former NASA astronaut and founder of The Jemison Group Inc. In today’s global economy, “the world is bigger and smaller at the same time. The way we deliver our services, the people we hire, and how we train our employees has a critical impact on our world.”

Other speakers joined Jemison in urging the audience to lift their focus from the local to the global. Opportunities for small-, minority-, and women-owned businesses are today limited only by the imaginations, said Angela Wilkes, director of supplier diversity and sustainability for Owens & Minor. “As we recognize the rising significance of healthcare spending in the global economy, we know that we must shift our focus from what we can see, to what we can imagine. As diverse healthcare companies, the opportunities are now global, and the scale of our opportunities is limited only by our imagination.”

Participants in the forum had the opportunity to attend workshops on such topics as “Expanding Your Minority/Woman-Owned Business Enterprise Through Global Sourcing” and “Positioning Your Company for Success in the Global Market.” A CEO panel, hosted by Tracey G. Jeter, president, Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council, held a discussion of diversity in the supply chain and in the workforce. Panelist Tonya Mallory, president and CEO of Richmond, Va.-based Health Diagnostic Laboratory, pointed out that the workforce in her rapidly growing, three-year old company, represents 30 different ethnic groups.

“We share a commitment to building true diversity in the healthcare supply chain,” said Craig R. Smith, president and CEO of Owens & Minor, who spoke at the symposium. “We recognize that our marketplace and our opportunities are developing before our eyes. Almost overnight, our marketplace has become a global one. And, we know that we are no longer limited to selling our products and services to the customer next door.”

Millie Maddocks, CEO of MAC Medical Supply, a Chicago-based medical supply company, received the first-ever Earl G. Reubel Award. Established by Owens & Minor and named after the late Earl G. Reubel, founder of Kerma Medical, the award honors the efforts of a woman or minority entrepreneur who embodies the entrepreneurial and mentoring spirit of Reubel. Maddocks and her company recently graduated from Owens & Minor’s mentor/protégé program.