Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
People are invited to submit questions about the disparity study and the Subcabinet work.
To navigate through the FAQ, please click a link below:
- Why is building business diversity in state contracting important?
- What is a disparity study?
- Why did the state conduct a disparity study?
- What is the difference between race and gender neutral measures vs. race and gender conscious measures?
- Will the state be able to implement race and gender conscious mandatory goals as a result of the Disparity Study?
- What steps has the state taken to implement race and gender neutral efforts?
- What is the Governor's Subcabinet on Business Diversity?
- What is the Minority and Women's Business Enterprise Program?
- What is the veteran-owned business program?
- What is the Business Diversity Subcabinet Community of Practice?
- Will Initiative 1000 change the state's legal path in regard to contracting?
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 about 51 percent of the state's private workforce - more than 1.3 million workers. Strengthening opportunities for small and diverse businesses strengthens Washington's economy, supports our communities, improves the quality of life for everyone, and increases competition and innovation while lowering costs.
What is a disparity study?
A disparity study is an analysis that examines the number of specified individuals or groups available to participate in certain opportunities, such as obtaining contracts to provide goods and services, client services and public works for the state, and those who are actually 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 conduct a disparity study?
Washington state launched the study to find out how we have been doing when it comes to including minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses in state contracts and contracting opportunities. Its purpose is to examine whether there were disparities in the state's contracting awards. The study also looked at the amount these businesses 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 provides a factual foundation that OMWBE can use to work with state agencies to help improve the procurement processes to achieve fair and equitable outcomes. The study will also help clarify what tools state agencies can employ to ensure that our contracting practices are fair and nondiscriminatory. Read the study.
What is the difference between race and gender neutral measures vs. race and gender conscious measures?
Race and gender neutral measures are activities or programs that benefit and assist all small businesses equally, including certified firms. These measures include things like aspirational goals, training, outreach, and technical assistance. Race and gender conscious measures, such as the use of required contract goals, are those targeted measures and programs that focus specifically on increasing diverse business participation.
Will the state be able to implement race and gender conscious mandatory goals as a result of the Disparity Study?
Washington State must follow a prescriptive legal path to use a race or gender conscious measure to remedy discrimination. The Attorney General’s Office 2017 Opinion No 2 outlines the actions the state must take before implementing race and gender conscious goals. The state must demonstrate that race and gender-neutral measures have not resolved the discrimination before it can use race and gender-conscious measures. Enforceable goals are only allowed under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a last resort.
What steps has the state taken to implement race and gender neutral efforts?
Washington State has implemented various forms of race and gender neutral efforts. These efforts include, but are not limited to:
- Voluntary inclusion goals and plans
- Hosting and attending outreach and networking events
- Technical assistance and business development counseling
- Electronic monitoring and tracking systems
- Mentor protégé program
- Changes in contract language, contract requirements and solicitations
- Online improvements to access contract information and requirements
While the state has made significant efforts to implement race and gender neutral programs, this has not been a statewide approach to inclusion. The Office of Minority and Women's Business Enterprises is leading the Governor’s Subcabinet on Business Diversity and is developing the tools to implement a statewide program through a Community of Practice.
What is the Governor’s Subcabinet on Business Diversity?
The Governor can direct a Subcabinet made up of appropriate cabinet agencies to address a specific issue. Governor Jay Inslee chose 12 agencies to participate in the Business Diversity Subcabinet. Six of these agencies make up two-thirds of the total state spend and includes key partner agencies, such as the state's ethnic commissions.
The Governor's Subcabinet is working toward solutions that are long-term and sustainable. Forming the Subcabinet creates a "community of practice" where agencies can use model policies, practices, and processes to foster, cultivate and share best practices in increasing the use of small and diverse businesses.
What is the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise Program?
The Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise Program was created by the Legislature to provide the maximum practicable opportunity for increased participation by minority- and women-owned businesses for participation in public works contracts and the procurement of goods and service by state agencies and educational institutions. The Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises is the sole agency with the authority to certify women- and minority-owned firms.
What is the veteran-owned business program?
The veteran-owned business program was created by the Legislature to encourage state agencies to conduct outreach to the veteran owned business community and increase the participation of veteran owned businesses in state contracting and procurement. Find out more about the program on the state Veteran's Affairs website.
What is the Business Diversity Subcabinet Community of Practice?
It is a network for state procurement professionals to share best practices and ideas to increase use of certified minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. The Community of Practice is working on tools to implement supplier diversity best practices.
Did the vote on Initiative 1000 change the state's legal path in regard to contracting?
OMWBE will continue to work with state agencies on contracting and procurement with businesses owned by minorities, women, and veterans. Equity in public contracting is and continues to be a high priority for Governor Inslee and the work of the governor’s Business Diversity Subcabinet is ongoing.
 U.S. Small Business Administration 2018 Washington State Small Business Economic Profile
 The phrase “race and gender neutral measures/goals” may be synonymous with “voluntary” or “aspirational.”
 The phrase “race and gender conscious measures/goals” may be synonymous with “mandatory” or “enforceable.”