I’ve spent the better part of 2017 working through the arduous process of obtaining a City of Chicago WBE (Women’s Business Enterprise) Certification. And it was nothing short of exhausting! I could go on and on about how many documents I had to complete and provide, how much personal and sort-of invasive information was required—how frustrating the process was—but instead, I’ll tell you why it was so important for me to complete this task for BatesMeron. In my typical, brand-centric fashion, I’ll give you the top 6 reasons I got my WBE.
I’m a woman who’s owned a business for long enough to know that there are too many times when a less qualified (in my opinion) male-owned agency got the job. Yes, I am sure.
In fact, in a Whorton study, investors who were given the same exact pitch with a female voiceover versus a male voiceover showed that men were selected for the project 68% of the time. THE SAME PITCH.
The WBE/MBE program isn’t perfect, and work doesn’t fall from the heavens as a result of garnering a certification. But, it goes a long way towards encouraging equality and giving those who might not be part of “the club” the opportunity to join.
The statistics about quality in the workplace are soul-crushing. I had to help do my part to change this. The things I hear, read and see make me angry. How on earth are we still not clear on the fact that all people are created equal? Some things that make me angry enough to spend the better part of a year trying to help level the playing field:
There is a whole world of non-profit and public-sector work that the team at BatesMeron would be honored to engage with. But those groups often receive government funding. When many groups receive government funding, they are required to hire a specific percentage of minority- or female-owned businesses to perform the service.
At one point, Entrepreneur Magazine published an article stating that there was upwards of $200B in untapped opportunities for certified woman-owned businesses within the U.S. government alone. It’s no surprise that manufacturing and infrastructure jobs have been looking for WBE candidates, but there are also needs for architects, software consultants, PR professionals and, you guessed it, marketing and design specialists.
Sometimes unexpected opportunities can also arise from businesses such as City Colleges of Chicago or The University of Chicago. Or what about marketing for Chicago’s myriad projects to encourage tourism, commerce, trade and visibility?
There’s a lot of opportunity out there, and all you have to do is look at the landscape to see that the work could use some experienced and talented creative minds to enhance and position the messaging for greater success. A WBE Certification opens doors that were previously a lot more challenging to get through.
We’ve worked with a lot of amazing, large-scale companies over the past 12 years that have asked, “are you a WBE or MBE business? Because we really like to diversify our vendors.”
Thought leaders like Edelman, Target and General Mills have made concerted efforts to work with WBE/MBE service providers. This forward-thinking practice doesn’t (as far as I can find in my research) garner them a tax break or government subsidy of any kind. These leaders just realize that uplifting the entire community is better for everyone. It’s also a great message to their own corporate culture that they will put their money where their mouth is when it comes to claiming to be a diverse, inclusive brand. After all, the world is getting smaller—communication is instant. Authenticity is the best way successfully do business.
This aligns with our corporate manifesto to Be Who You Say You Are. And who doesn’t want to work with like-minded companies? When employees and vendors look around them, they want to see diversity and variety—give the people what they want!
I have dozens of colleagues who’ve gotten their MBE or WBE. And many of them paid tens of thousands of dollars for attorneys to make it happen. You know what? I love my attorneys. They are fantastic and always there for me when I need them. HOWEVER, this defies the entire purpose of the WBE/MBE initiative! This program was created to assist people who have a harder time landing work, growing their business and gaining access to work. And it’s so complicated that we have to fund a legal budget to get it done? No thank you.
I do realize that there are government-established organizations that can assist with the walk down paperwork lane. But I’m sorry, I don’t have time to sit around and attend a seminar for each section of this extremely complicated system. It had to be possible to do it without hiring outside help, and I did.
I’m not going to say that I didn’t receive assistance. My accountant was amazingly helpful. So was my banker. And big shout-out to Linda Dao-Ohr. She kicked me in the butt and made me stop talking and DO. Thank you, Linda. (I take a lot of satisfaction in knowing that she’s going to kill me for this.)
Look around you at the work being done in both the public and private sector. Which is better? the answer’s pretty obvious. It doesn’t have to be that way! I believe that if we bring more options, and more competition to the public sector, the quality of work will skyrocket. Nothing drives innovation like competition.
I hope that BatesMeron joining the ranks of creative groups eligible to engage in WBE-qualifying work will help to elevate the quality of work you see around you every day. After all, as Steve Jobs famously said, “design isn’t just how it looks and feels, it’s how it works.” Seasoned design agencies understand this very well. Function and form have to balance for design to resonate—whether you’re creating a beautiful poster or designing really cool municipal signage.
I hope this article helps everyone who reads it to understand the outdated inequality we’re facing. I also hope you learned something about Women’s Business Enterprise Certification. And if you’re part of one of those amazing brands that believes that your hiring practices should be more diverse, I deeply hope you’ll consider analyzing your vendor hiring policies. You might be surprised to see a pattern that you didn’t know was there.
For anyone seeking to apply for the WBE or MBE Certification and you want more info, email me. I’m happy to help you get started.