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Despite being one of the most diverse cities in the world, many minority-owned businesses have long found themselves locked out of contracting opportunities with the City of New York. In fact, of the $16 billion in goods and services procured by the city, only 2.7% went to minority or women-owned businesses. As the city’s newly appointed Chief Diversity Officer, Carra Wallace is tasked with changing that statistic.
This position, which went into effect March 10, is the first ever for the city. “The goals should be to do more than your predecessors. That’s not a knock on them,” says city Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “That’s the goal that you should have, and when it comes to women and minority owned businesses, there is so much more that we have to do to move the ball forward that we do have to think out of the box.”
Wallace, a former Managing Director of the Office of Executive Initiatives for the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), will have her work cut out for her in a city whose contract recipients do not reflect the Big Apple’s diverse populace. According to the New York City Comptroller’s Office, minority/women owned firms’ share of city procurement dollars declined from 5% of total procurement in fiscal 2012 its current level — the lowest level since fiscal 2008.
According to the Comptroller’s office, the Chief Diversity Officer will be Stringer’s point person on three initiatives:
- Implementing and monitoring a letter-grading program for City agencies that will provide the public with clear, easy-to-understand data on whether goals for Minority and Women-Owned Business (M/WBE) contracting are being met;
- Working with the Comptroller’s corporate governance team on supplier, workplace and board diversity initiatives; and
- Leading Comptroller Scott M. Stringer’s Advisory Council on M/WBEs, which will be formed in the spring.
In short, Wallace is charged with improving the city’s less-than-stellar inclusion numbers for its $16 billion in procurement. While at DASNY, Wallace was part of the team that helped get the 2010 Business Diversification Act enacted. This established statewide goals for minority and women-owned business utilization. In her new role, the first order of business will be to grade the various city agencies. “We are working on the metrics now,” she says. “We will define a set of criteria that will look to measure across construction goods and services, financial and professional services.”