Disparity Study

Washington State Disparity Study

The State of Washington is conducting a statewide disparity study that will provide valuable information about how state government is doing when it comes to including minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses in contracts and purchasing. To learn more or to get involved, visit the official study website, wastate.disparity-study.com.

Public meetings

Two public meetings — in Seattle and Spokane — were held in June to provide further information on the study.

Those who did not attend the meetings are encouraged to join an information Webinar at 10 a.m. on Aug. 9. Click here to register

To learn more about how to participate, and to see presentations used at the public meetings, please visit the disparity study website

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a disparity study?

A disparity study is an analysis that examines the number of specified individuals or groups who are available to participate in certain opportunities, such as winning contracts to provide goods, services and public works support for the state, and those who actually get selected. A disparity study also helps to determine whether the environment is fair and equitable to all parties seeking to participate in those opportunities.

Why did the state decide to conduct the study?

Washington state government is undertaking the study to find out how we have been doing when it comes to including minority- and women-owned businesses in state contracts and contracting opportunities.

Its purpose is to examine whether there were disparities between the contracting dollars the state awarded to minority‐ and women‐owned business and the amount they might be expected to receive based on the number of such businesses available to perform the work among the total pool of eligible contractors.

A disparity study will provide a factual foundation that Washington can use to help ensure that all state agencies are using procurement processes that result in fair and equitable outcomes.

What is the scope of the study/what will be included in the study?

The study will include:

  • Some 30 agencies and two universities, covering 85-plus percent of state contract spending.
  • Most categories of spending for goods and services and non-transportation public works construction.
  • An analysis of the availability of firms to do work for the state, the state’s utilization of those firms, disparities between rates of availability and utilization, and of factors contributing to any identified disparities.

The study will not duplicate the Washington State Department of Transportation disparity study that is now underway. To learn more about the differences between the two studies, see this study comparison.

An advisory group made recommendations to the subcabinet on study scope and data questions that must be answered in the study. The advisory group included researchers, a disparity study expert, and representatives of the diverse business community, state agencies and the construction industry.

Who is conducting the disparity study?

Colette Holt & Associates was selected to conduct the study through a competitive process. The Department of Enterprise Services is overseeing the contract on behalf of the state.

When will the study be conducted, and how long will the study take?

The study will begin this year once a contractor is hired. The time-frame for the study itself will depend on the scope, requirements and expected deliverables that are decided upon.

When is the study expected to begin?

The study is expected to begin during the first quarter of 2017.

What will the state do with the information in the study?

The study will provide a factual foundation to help ensure that all state agencies are using procurement policies and processes that result in fair and equitable outcomes. The study also will help clarify what tools state agencies can employ to ensure that our contracting practices are fair and nondiscriminatory.

How can I participate in the disparity study process?

The public will have opportunities to provide input as part of the study. More information will be available once the state hires a consultant. To be added to an email distribution list for updates, please contact BusinessDiversity@des.wa.gov.

Will the study results be made public?

Yes. The final report will be posted after the study is complete.

What will it cost to conduct the study?

Cost information will be available once the contract for doing the study is complete.

Has the state conducted previous disparity studies?

The Washington State Department of Transportation conducted a 2012 disparity study on transportation-related contracts. The study did not address other types of state procurement and contracting.

The Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises conducted a study in 2000. The information in this study is valuable for historical purposes, but simply too old to base meaningful decisions upon today.