CDW and CDW Senior Manager of Supplier Diversity, Kristin Malek believe in the power of women. So much so, in fact, that last year they spent more than $700 million with women business enterprise (WBE) suppliers. But Malek points out that it is only a number and not CDW’s mission with supplier diversity.
“Our partnerships with our women-owned suppliers has been an integral part of our program since its inception 11 years ago. But to have a growing program-and this may sound counterintuitive- We’ve moved away from chasing the ‘spend,’ of focusing on just a number. Our program is about creating solutions.”
“We’re chasing solutions to create more equality in the supply chain. And that means solutions for our customers who seek a diversified [profit and loss], who seek diversified procurement and impactful sourcing. For CDW, we also want to chase meaningful impact. We know when we invest in women-owned organizations, we have the opportunity to drive job creation and to create lasting economic empowerment in the community. Those are the solutions we’re chasing. So, all three have to line up for us to create a meaningful partnership: a customer solution; the equality of the supply chain; and for CDW to have a meaningful impact where we do business.”
Malek is not talking about small influence. With more than $16 billion in revenue last year, Lincolnshire, Illinois-based CDW is one of the largest suppliers of technology products and services for businesses, government and education. With more than 8,700 professionals, CDW offers a broad array of products and technical service solutions with a product portfolio that includes more than 100,000 products from more than 1,000 brands. She also points out that though CDW’s commitment to women and WBEs has longstanding roots, it also has special meaning today.
“At CDW, women leadership is very important. It’s part of our DNA. We have a female CEO and COO. And 35 percent of our leaders are female. We really acknowledge the value of women in leadership. And that’s true for our partners as well.”
Loretta Sivret agrees. And she would know. Founder of LiquidPC, a distributor of computer technology, Sivret has been a WBE with CDW since the inception of CDW’s diversity and inclusion program. Founded in 2000 and with 20 employees, LiquidPC works with several manufacturing partners, but their relationship with CDW, their largest customer, is special.
“I’ve been working with CDW for 20 plus years. But back in 2008, they were the first to deal with diverse suppliers. A leader at CDW reached out to me and explained that WBE was going to be a huge initiative and that I should think about purchasing the majority of my company (I had a silent, financial partner). With help and direction from CDW, that’s exactly what I did.
“We then got WBE certified and, working with CDW, got certified for the city and state of New York, and Illinois. And we’re looking at other states. I’m grateful to them for helping us develop this strategy. Working with them helped us achieve our biggest year ever last year, $170 million in sales. That’s a big number for a 22-person company.”
Argent Associates Founder and CEO Betty Manetta also sees value in her company’s partnership with CDW. A minority- and woman-owned business that specializes in the development and deployment of smart technologies, Argent has worked with CDW for the past four years.
Manetta explains, “We really try to add value to sales and the supply chain. And we’re bringing value to our community by training young people who are not necessarily college bound. CDW recognizes the value in that. They’re not about just meeting quotas. They want to use diversity and inclusion intentionally. So, we work jointly with their account team and sales people and deliver holistic solutions that benefit everyone.”
Western Reserve Technology (WRT) Founder and CEO Kim Cahuas also boasts a long history with CDW. And she believes that CDW and WRT found a perfect synergy.
“I wanted to partner with the best. And we work hand-in- hand with CDW. When I talk to people, I lead with the fact that I’m partnered with CDW. So, we can hand-hold the customer and bring a higher level of service to augment CDW. But I have a long history with CDW and I know how they’re able to help small, woman-owned firms.
“Small businesses often have trouble with things like credit lines and the inability to scale; that can be a very painful experience for any small business. When I started WRT, I reached out to CDW and we found a very common ground for partnership. I could help them through my WBE status and they could help me with traditional small business issues. So, we partnered. And we’ve been working together, now, for a long time in a very successful partnership.”
Malek agrees. She adds that successful WBEs and other suppliers with CDW all have certain things in common.
“In working with us, I look for the three A’s in any supplier. One, you’ve got be accountable to your business, your team, and your partners. Two, you’ve got to be aware of trends and what’s going on in your space. And three, be available. Technology can be complicated, so you’ve got to be available and flexible when things change quickly.”
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