#BalanceforBetter: Should gender diversity be used as a selection criteria for vendors?

As the principal partner of Solutia SDO, Jackie Clark has had a direct role in managing the people behind the technology that’s transformed businesses across Canada. When IT projects stall, this seasoned leader who’s had a front seat watching tech transform business in Canada, knows how to manage people to get projects running again. This bi-weekly column is for leaders working on enterprise-wide projects searching for insight on navigating the issues and pain points that hijack success. We’ll be sharing the most common questions Clark hears from her clients and her responses to them. Do you want your project management problems solved? Leave a comment with your question or  Tweet Jackie @sdosolutia

I work for a consulting firm. One of my clients recently asked me a question I hadn’t heard before – how many women vs. men does my company employ as consultants? When I asked why this is relevant, I was told the client’s company is starting to use gender diversity as a selection criteria when choosing vendors and other 3rd parties. Is this for real?

Yes it is. In honour of International Women’s Day, and their theme of #BalanceforBetter, your client should be celebrated as one of the few on the leading edge of changing their business practices to help address an issue that’s been given lots of air time but is still not anywhere close to being resolved.

As we’re all aware, obtaining gender diversity has been on everyone’s ‘to do’ list for decades. If we believe business leaders when they say that diversity, and particularly gender diversity, is key to their organizational success then why don’t we have it? What’s the holdup? Unfortunately, no one appears to have the answer.

I am working with one of my clients on a multi-stakeholder initiative to support a G7 objective to increase global opportunities for women in investment and finance.  I recently had the great fortune of attending a roundtable event with participants from 12 global organizations discussing gender diversity (or lack thereof) in the investment management industry. Since there is a respected body of evidence illustrating gender diversity is good for business, I was hoping to hear good news about steady progress. No such luck. Change is slow. There is no silver bullet, not even any best practice to fall back on. In fact, according to Catalyst, it’s going to take another 170 years before we can achieve total gender equality. Whoa. I was not expecting that.

To try to move the needle, organizations that are serious about diversity are starting to use their market clout to promote it outside their four walls by choosing business partners that can demonstrate a certain level of diversity compliance. For instance, several global institutional investment firms will only do business with companies that have at least 50% female representation at the board level. This is a tactic that goes beyond lip service and hits the bottom line – on both sides. Their point is “real change requires a new paradigm, and it’s important for global investors to take the lead and work together to accelerate the pace of change and build a more sustainable future.”

So kudos to your client – We all need to make this a priority and start to take a good look at how we are creating opportunities for women in our organizations.


Jackie Clark
Jackie Clark
Program and change management expert in digital and data transformation, and technology system reengineering.

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