The Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBEC)–West staff and corporate members are still smiling at the success of the 14th Annual conference titled Mastering the Tightrope of Success, in San Diego, California at Harrah’s Rincon Resort. The three-day Procurement Opportunity Conference and Awards Celebration is the premier event for women business entrepreneurs, covering seven western states and Guam, including Arizona, Colorado, Southern California, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada and Hawaii. Nearly 450 registered attendees participated in the event, setting into motion power partnerships, alliances and contractual opportunities.
WBEC-West, as it’s affectionately known, has been a powerful force in bringing together key corporate figures within the seven-state region under the direction of Dr. Pamela Williamson and her team. Boasting nearly 1,500 certified women in business, WBEC-West is one of 14 regional partner organizations under the Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). WBENC certification is nationally recognized and accepted by more than 10,000 major corporations.
Dr. Williamson has been an anchor in the organization, serving as its leader for the past seven years. “My mission and goals are focused on connecting the women business enterprises (WBEs) and educating [them] on the latest trends in the community based on their book of business,” she said.
Her organization remains on the cutting edge by finding and funding new and different offerings to showcase women who are in business. “It is exciting to see the changes in diversity. Corporations recognize our role and continue stepping up,” Dr. Williamson said. “These are important moments because more women-owned businesses are being creative and the universe is allowing us more ways to expand and support them.”
It is exciting to see the changes in diversity. Corporations recognize our role and continue stepping up.
The regional conference was the golden key event where the elements came together and highlighted the drive toward measurable goals and results, thereby serving as a connecting point for the attendees. The corporate workshop tract, centered around supply chain procurement and sponsors and included a “who’s who” of corporations, including Chevron, Disney, Southern California Edison, Robert Half, Apple, Kaiser Permanente, Sony, Nestle and several other companies that support WBEs around the region.
Dr. Williamson was elated to discuss how the annual conference served as a pivotal place to exponentially provide measurable opportunities for both corporate and certified women. “This year, we presented three connecting business events— one was the WBE-to-WBE matchmaker [event] as a way to meet the needs of women helping other women; next was the WBE-to-Corporate matchmakers and lastly a coordinated event pairing primes and Tier 1 suppliers,” she stated.
Another unique feature was the specialized symposiums grouped into various categories that included manufacturing and retail, construction, healthcare, entertainment and utility companies. WBEC was very deliberate in ensuring the three levels were focused on covering the latest trends and resources on the horizon.
As a testament to the success of partnerships, the organization’s leader cited another favorable connection made with the Macy’s Corporation. “We’ve made a tremendous positive step hosting the first strategic connection dinner with the Macy’s Corporation,” said Dr. Williamson. She also mentioned that her goal was to exhaust the conversation and actually track effectiveness, asking herself, “Did the business owners have measurable success?”
The answer is, “Today’s opportunities are gone. We have to think five to seven years up the road and what innovation that time will bring. Our mission is to connect certified WBEs to opportunity and identify how new innovation impacts opportunity and meeting the needs for those who support us,” Dr. Williamson stated.
Last year, the agency conducted a whopping 167 educational sessions for women entrepreneurs. These events and initiatives focused on best practices for understanding the supply chain process and the importance of participating in and conducting request for proposal workshops and webinars.
WBEC-West has many signature series for its certified members including Platinum I and Platinum II programs, which give a comprehensive understanding of corporate procurement processes, roles and responsibilities of supplier diversity professionals. Members looking to leverage their WBENC certification are to present their capability statements to a captive audience of supplier diversity leaders. In the Platinum Supplier II program, the business owners must have a contract in hand and be ready to present directly to buyers.
“Each year, we graduate a total of 20 to 30 people [from the program],” Dr. Williamson said.
When asked if certification is really necessary to be successful and if women are getting their fair share of contracts, Dr. Williamson replied, “We all know women who are doing well without the certification, but it is an amazing tool. Is it necessary, no, valuable yes! It works for those who know how to work it and leverage it.”
“We probably are not getting our fair share but our job is to grow WBEs to grow to scale for those opportunity. We have a long way to go for the door to be open for women and all diverse vendors but that is our mission,” she said.