Study Shines a Light on Disparity in Boston Contracting

The 2020 Disparity Study for the City of Boston by BBC Research & Consulting showing underrepresentation of women and minority owned business in city contracts is shining a light on a longstanding issue in Boston contracting and serves as a wakeup call that targeted action is required to address systemic inequities and implement a real and lasting commitment to diversity in contracts and hiring.  It requires oversight and accountability to ensure implementation.  

Mayor Walsh issued an executive order on February 18th to establish 25% of city contracts be awarded to M/WBE companies (15% WBE, 10% MBE). This executive order is an important and overdue first step for the city, and should be the minimal threshold, given that over 50% of Boston residents are women, and the city is a majority-minority city.  More steps are needed. The city could host outreach sessions to connect M/WBE companies with others that pursue city work, like the events hosted by the Massachusett’s DCAMM and Supplier Diversity Office. City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George proposes unbundling “large contracts to ensure minority- and female-owned businesses can fairly compete”.  Focus groups of minority and women-owned business leaders could identify the obstacles and hurdles.

As a WBE firm since our incorporation in 1993, we know the critical importance of diversity targets in enabling the growth of smaller businesses like ours.  “We believe that diverse teams are critical to Studio G’s ability to deliver high quality architecture responsive to the needs of the Commonwealth’s diverse residents,” says Managing Principal Gail Sullivan. “We derive distinct perspectives from the lived experience of our employees, which contributes to our ability to address the needs of client groups, stakeholders, and building inhabitants. We continually examine our pool of M/WBE partners and consultants, always seeking to make new connections. Far from seeing this as a burden, we see it as deeply enriching to our work and to our own experience.”

To download the study and ready Mayor Walsh’s executive order you can visit https://www.boston.gov/economic-development/disparity-study-tool-towards-equitable-procurement.

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