Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion ‘Actively Practiced at Every Level’

In an EduCon 2023 session, DEI consultant Zoe Moore shared how event professionals can integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion into all aspects of their organizations’ operations by implementing a supplier diversity program.

Author: Casey Gale       

woman on stage speaking

To create a true diversity, equity, and inclusion program, leaders need to do more than observe month-long celebrations, DEI consultant Zoe Moore said at EduCon 2023.

Zoe Moore, founder and CEO of Moore Consulting Agency, also known as “Grow with Zomo,” has heard a lot of leaders talk about their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, “but they didn’t have a strategy or a plan,” Moore told attendees in late June at the start of her EduCon 2023 session, “How to Operationalize Your Commitment to DEI with a Supplier Diversity Program.”

Leaders that talk the talk, Moore said, may have their organizations participate in Pride Month or Black History Month and stand in solidarity with an underrepresented group for a 30-day period. But organizations with a true DEI strategy in place, create a “comprehensive and ongoing effort that permeates all aspects of its operations,” she said. “It goes beyond mere statements and symbols to create very tangible and sustainable change, fostering an environment where diversity, equity, and inclusion are integrated into the organization’s DNA and actively practiced at every level.”

This is particularly critical when it comes to work in an industry as diverse as events, Moore said. “If you do not have a team that is diverse — representative of all social identities or has an affinity or an understanding of different groups, then it’s very hard for you to plan an inclusive event,” she said. This comes down to diversity within the organization itself — but extends to diversity among the suppliers that event organizers partner with to execute their events. Enter the supplier diversity program, which Moore defined as “a proactive business strategy which intentionally procures, fosters, influences, and invests in collaborative opportunities with companies led by underrepresented business owners. [These owners] provide goods and services necessary for internal operations and external client offerings with the intent of achieving a diverse supply chain and equitable ecosystem.”

Moore admitted that her definition is “wordy,” but stressed the importance of understanding exactly what a supplier diversity program should look like, as there’s no mandate within the events industry to help set the standard. “It’s up to each of us,” she said, “to design our own supplier diversity program.” Here are the key components she shared in her session:

Benchmarking of current demographics and spend — Moore said that she has worked with clients who have never known the demographics of their suppliers and vendors. “And of course, the pushback is, ‘Why is that even important if we’re meeting the clients’ needs?’” she said. But when building a supplier diversity program, it is important for event organizers to understand the social identity of the companies they do business with and how much their events or organization spends with each supplier. “What that gets you to do is be aware of the biases within your practices and processes,” Moore said. Biases appear in our patterns within the workplace, she said, and so benchmarking the current supplier pool can help organizations create a roadmap for how to better diversify it moving forward.

Commitment to specific goals — Use the acronym “SMART” — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and tangible — when outlining DEI goals, Moore said. To achieve “improved representation,” Moore offered this rubric: “We’re going to increase our representation of women-owned businesses and of LGBTQIA+ businesses” by X percent by Q4 2024. Committing to specific DEI goals also includes intentionally distributing RFPs to — and contracting and collaborating with — diverse businesses. If you’ve been sending RFPs to the same groups or the same people you’ve worked with over and over again, she asked, what can you do differently to increase the representation of any given underrepresented group? “Basically, cast a wider net more intentionally,” she said, which can involve partnering with affinity organizations, different chambers of commerce, and grassroots organizations to identify diverse businesses.

Presence and participation at — and promotion of — affinity organizations — “You don’t have to be part of the community to be in solidary or support of the community,” Moore said. But showing up, learning about the challenges an underrepresented group faces, and determining how an organization’s position, power, and privilege can uplift these communities, can help event organizers better understand the importance of supplier diversity programs within the communities they serve.

Once an organization embraces these key aspects of building a diversity program, its leaders must then commit to tracking and evaluating results, Moore said, and hold themselves accountable to the DEI standards the organization set out to achieve.

“There are no real standards within our industry — yet — that say, ‘Hey, these are the goals that we want you to stand by and this is how you’re going to be incentivized. Or there’s these consequences that exist,” Moore said, adding that it would be ideal if the events industry developed such standards for organizers to enforce in order to ensure more inclusive practices.

“We’re given rewards across the board for all kinds of things. Why not supplier diversity,” Moore suggested, “so that we can have a standard that people can measure themselves by?”

Supplier Diversity = Economic Development

There are multiple benefits to creating a strategic supplier diversity program, according to Zoe Moore. Organizations can get into a rut by working with the same suppliers — even though “it has been working,” she said, doesn’t mean you will find new clients or “expose you to new markets. By working with those different vendors and suppliers that aren’t in your supply chain or preferred vendor list, you bring in new ideas.”

Drawing from a diverse group of suppliers also is a tangible way for an organization to demonstrate its commitment to DEI goals, she said. “The reputation of your company is in alignment with your commitment — not just your expressed commitment, but your strategic commitment — to equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

Moore’s favorite outcome of supplier diversity is economic development. “Oftentimes we’ll host an event in a community, but not realize that our event creates jobs, increases the morale of that community, and gives more opportunities for that community to thrive. So how does your event,” she asked the audience, “invest back in the local community to create economic development?”

On the Web

In collaboration with PCMA Events Leadership Institute, Zoe Moore of Moore Consulting Agency is leading an online Event DEI Strategist course designed for event professionals who are aiming to deepen their understanding of DEI practices for both their events and their organization. The seven-week course features live Q&A class meetings and a community forum. Learn more at the ELI site.

Casey Gale is managing editor of Convene.

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