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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


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.

Who will conduct the 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.

How long will the study take?

Study consultants are currently gathering information from agencies and businesses through the spring of 2018. The study is scheduled to be complete January 31, 2019

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?

Stakeholder meetings are being conducted in October and November of 2017 by invitation. Additional opportunities for participation will take place during businesss owner meetings to be held in spring of 2018.

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?

The contract for the study for 33 state agencies and two educational instituions is approximately $1 million.

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.

What is a subcabinet?

Executive cabinet agencies serve under the direction of the governor. The governor can direct a subcabinet made up of appropriate cabinet agencies to address a specific issue. Gov. Jay Inslee chose 12 of his executive cabinet agencies for the Subcabinet on Business Diversity.

Which agencies are on Gov. Inslee’s subcabinet team to address state spending with small, minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses?

The subcabinet is made up of representatives from:

  • Office of Minority & Women’s Enterprises
  • Commission on African American Affairs
  • Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs
  • Commission on Hispanic Affairs
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Department of Corrections
  • Department of Enterprise Services
  • Health Care Authority
  • Department of Labor and Industries
  • Department of Social and Health Services
  • Department of Transportation
  • Attorney General’s Office
  • Governor’s Office

The state Department of Commerce (Commerce) also has a representative who monitors subcabinet progress and serves as a liaison to Commerce programs. The subcabinet has a reciprocal agreement to attend Commerce-sponsored community roundtables.

How is the subcabinet working with the community?

The subcabinet’s work team continues to coordinate with key small and diverse business community members, including the Washington State Civil Rights Coalition of 25 and other economic empowerment groups in the state. If you or your community association would like to work more closely with the Business Diversity Subcabinet please contact

Seeking feedback

Subcabinet work teams also will be seeking feedback on specific work plan items as they work to develop:

  • A new measurement framework to drive meaningful results.
  • An improved OMWBE certification process for small minority- and women-owned businesses.
  • Technical assistance for businesses.

Community of Practice

State agencies are forming a community of practice. This network for state procurement professionals promotes learning and continuous improvement to help refine procurement tools and processes and incorporates a common business philosophy and set of habits. While this network is focused on internal state practices, we value everyone’s input and engagement. For more information, please email or call (360) 407-8010.

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.


The subcabinet is always looking for feedback and posts frequent updates on its information web pages. Subcabinet members are seeking to deepen connections with all segments of the community to prompt additional feedback and dialogue. People are encouraged to contact the subcabinet anytime at or to call 360-407-8010.

Can I get updates on what the Subcabinet is doing and when work groups are seeking feedback?

To sign up for email updates, visit the Department of Enterprises subscription page, open the drop-down under “For Government,” and choose “Washington State Business Diversity Subcabinet Update.”

What does the subcabinet plan to accomplish?

Participation in state contracting by small, minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses has been low for some time – and increasing opportunity and removing barriers to participation is a priority for the Governor and the State of Washington.

Why is building business diversity in state contracting important?

Small businesses are the backbone of the Washington economy. The vast majority of Washington employers are small private firms, and many are minority-, women-, and veteran-owned. Small businesses provide jobs to 40 percent of the state’s private workforce – more than 1.1 million workers. Strengthening opportunities for small and diverse businesses strengthens Washington’s economy, supports our communities and improves the quality of life for everyone.

Why is there low participation among small and diverse businesses in state contracting?

A multi-agency subcabinet work team identified multiple factors affecting small and diverse participation in state contracting during an intense, 14-week Lean process. The team developed a proposed Washington State Business Diversity Initiative Roadmap for change to define and address these issues, which the Subcabinet’s work plan is based on. Learn more about plan elements on the Subcabinet’s web page and about current progress on the latest updates web information page.

How does this effort differ from previous efforts?

Gov. Inslee’s subcabinet initiative brings together numerous state agencies and the small and diverse business community to seek statewide, big-picture solutions that are long-term and sustainable. In the past, agencies sought solutions independently, and did not have a statewide community of practice that allowed for a common understanding of data, performance measures, and terminology. In the future, agencies and the community will work together to deliver tangible results.

Will Washington need to change current law to boost small and diverse business participation?

The subcabinet is working to:

  • Develop a consistent understanding of laws and policies.
  • Coordinate a legislative action plan to remove barriers in state contracting and encourage small and diverse business participation.
Should Washington State adopt private sector practices that work well?

As the subcabinet works to build a new community of practice, develop more innovative contracting methods and put a new diversity framework into place, it also is investigating whether some private sector solutions and best practices can be adopted to increase business diversity in state contracting.

When will we see results?

The subcabinet already is taking action. Progress continues to be posted on the latest updates and disparity study information web pages. 

Why did the Subcabinet requested a formal opinion from the state Attorney General regarding RCW 49.60.400 (state initiative I-200)?

The subcabinet requested the opinion to clarify:

  • Whether state law (I-200) prohibits state government from implementing race-/gender-conscious measures to address significant disparities in the public contracting sector that are documented in a disparity study if it is first determined that race-/gender-neutral measures will be insufficient to address those disparities.
  • Whether the answer to this question depends on if contracts are awarded by a state agency that receives federal funds and is therefore subject to Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act.


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