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 mission of the Subcabinet?
- 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?
- When does I-1000 go into effect?
- Does I-1000 allow use of quotas in awarding public contracts?
- How will agencies implement race and gender neutral programs after I-1000 is effective?
- How will the Subcabinet support them?
- Will I-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 government 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 between the contracting dollars the state awarded to minority-, women-, and veteran-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 provides a factual foundation that Washington can use to help improve the procurement processes of state agencies to increase 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?
The State of Washington must follow a very 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 race and gender-conscious measures can be implemented. Enforceable goals are only allowed under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution as a last resort.
What steps has the state taken to implement race and gender neutral efforts?
The state of Washington has implemented various forms of race and gender neutral efforts. These efforts include, but are not limited to the following:
- 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 of his executive cabinet agencies for the Business Diversity Subcabinet. These agencies make up two thirds of the total state spend and is inclusive of the key partner agencies such as the state's ethnic commissions.
What is the mission of the Subcabinet?
Governor 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. The intent in the formation of the Subcabinet is to create a community where agencies can use model policies, practices and processes to foster, cultivate and share best practices in increasing utilization 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 has created an online resource directory to house the vetted best practices and tools to access, share, and implement supplier diversity best practices.
When does I-1000 go into effect?
The answer to this question depends on whether the sponsor of Referendum 88 submits sufficient signatures. If sufficient signatures are not submitted by July 27, 2019, then I-1000 will take effect on July 28, 2019. Bills take effect 90 days after adjournment of the legislative session at which they were enacted. Referendum petitions must be submitted not later than 90 days after the adjournment of the session at which the measure was enacted. If sufficient signatures are submitted in support of Referendum 88, then I-1000 will appear on the November 2019 general election ballot as a referendum. If the voters vote to “approve” the measure, then I-1000 will take effect on December 5, 2019. If the voters “reject” the measure, then I-1000 will not take effect and the law will remain what it was before I-1000. The submission of sufficient signatures in support of Referendum 88 would suspend I-1000 from taking effect until after the November 2019 general election.
Does I-1000 allow use of quotas in awarding public contracts?
No. I-1000 bans the use of quotas. Under I-1000, a person’s race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, age, veteran status, or disability cannot be the sole reason for selecting a lesser qualified candidate over a more qualified candidate for a public education, public employment, or public contracting. Having a specific set-aside (i.e. quota) is illegal under federal law. However, I-1000 permits factors such as a person’s race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, age, veteran status, or disability to be considered as part of a group of several other factors (e.g., education, experience, etc.) in selecting a qualified candidate for public contracting. For selection in public contracting, federal law may also limit the use of some of the factors listed in I-1000.
How will agencies implement race and gender neutral programs after I-1000 is effective?
All agencies are encouraged to work with their assigned Assistant Attorneys General to address the effect and interpretation of I-1000 in the agency's procurement and contracting.
How will the Subcabinet support them?
The Subcabinet will move forward with support for standardizing race and gender neutral meaures for agencies to use - including develping model policies for agencies - based on the study information and the AGO Opinion. The community of practice also supports agencies in developing procedures, measurements, training, and adjusting.
Will I-1000 change the state's legal path in the regard to contracting?
The state will need to adhere to the same legal path it is already following and use the results of the disparity study to pursue race and gender neutral measures, as the path takes into account a combination of the federal Constitution, state and federal laws, as well as case law.
If the statewide race and gender neutral program is ineffective in increasing participation and remedying discrimination, the state will need to take another approach. That may lead to race and gender conscious measures or, as a last resort, mandatory goals that will be determined in consultation with the Attorney General's Office.
 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.”