Diversity is never in short supply at the Smithsonian

Rudy Watley and Syvera O’Pharrow explain why it is important to think outside the Big Box Store when it comes to purchasing goods and services.


Group photo

Secretary Skorton and staff at the OEEMA/Supplier Diversity Program meeting March 16, 2018. Back row, from left: Rudy Watley, David Skorton, Curtis Sanchez, Richard Hicks. Front row, from left: Tina Jones, Natascha Syre, Amma Tabirih, Era Marshall, Thomas Dempsey, Jeremy Rausch. (Photo by Michael Barnes)

What would happen if you only ate French fries? Nothing else—just fries. What if you limited yourself to something more healthful, such as kale? Only kale, morning, noon and night. Obviously, these are ridiculous examples. We instinctively understand that a diet limited to just a few kinds of food is a recipe for disaster. Just as a diverse diet fuels a healthy individual, diversity in people and resources helps create healthy organizations.

When people talk about diversity, they usually mean ethnicity, gender, or background, but there is cognitive diversity, as well,—the differences in how people think. Everyone sees the world a bit differently, everyone has different strengths, and these different perspectives facilitate problem-solving. The Smithsonian embraces diversity at our 19 museums, 9 research centers, the National Zoo, and educational units. That is because it is ethical, but also because it simply helps us excel in whatever we do.

The Smithsonian’s strategic plan, One Smithsonian: Greater Reach, Greater Relevance, Profound Impact, is a challenge for the Institution to “build on its unique strengths to engage and to inspire more people, where they are, with greater impact, while catalyzing critical conversation on issues affecting our nation and our world.”

In order to meet this challenge we need a strong foundation, not only in the diversity of our workforce, but also in the diversity of the suppliers who make day-to-day operations possible.  A diverse supplier base is not just good business sense, it can help promote innovation and nimbleness and create more stakeholders who are invested in the Smithsonian’s success. The Smithsonian’s Supplier Diversity Program, part of the Office of Equal Employment and Minority Affairs, facilitates access to more procurement channels as a way to promote overall savings, demonstrate a commitment to economic growth, increase community involvement, and help identify new revenue opportunities.

People seated around table with their arms on each others' shoulders

Participants share a moment at the OEEMA/Supplier Diversity Program meeting March 16, 2018. (Photo by Michael Barnes)

The Supplier Diversity Program is an advocate for the inclusion and diversity of small business in all of the Institution’s business relationships. SDP is a collaborative effort between the Office of Contracting, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Facilities and Smithsonian Enterprises and units with procurement authority through a Supplier Diversity Liaison.  While the principles of fairness and inclusion in the Smithsonian’s business relationships apply to all federal, trust and revenue- generating activities, we have been particularly successful on the federal level: For the past two years, the Smithsonian has achieved five of the six supplier diversity goals established by the U.S. Small Business Administration. These results were only achievable through the collective work of Smithsonian procurement officials and SDP Liaisons.

The SDP Liaisons meet regularly with small businesses to share information about their Smithsonian unit’s procurement needs. As the knowledge and process experts for their unit, liaisons are the backbone of procurement information and supplier diversity at the Smithsonian, and have a very important story to share with those interested in doing business with the Smithsonian. The outcome of their work is so essential that Secretary Skorton acknowledges their function as a vital undergirding of the organization; he attends the first SDP Liaison meeting of each fiscal year to share inspiration and insight.

“At the Smithsonian, we embrace our responsibility to advance diversity and will continue to use our influence to promote it wherever we work, domestically and internationally,” Dr. Skorton said. “As champions for the use of small and underutilized businesses, we will continue to ensure that small and minority-owned businesses are viable suppliers of goods and services at the Smithsonian.”

Dr. Skorton recently hosted the SDP Liaison Recognition ceremony to show his appreciation for the integral work they perform. During the meeting Secretary Skorton reminded the honorees that the Smithsonian has a unique opportunity and responsibility to exemplify the diversity of our nation in our business relationships, and affirmed his commitment to promote and utilize small, and Historically Underutilized Small Businesses in SI’s procurement and contracting opportunities.

Two men seated at table talking

Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton chats with Thomas Dempsey, director of the Office of Contracting and personal Property Management,  at the OEEMA/Supplier Diversity Program meeting March 16, 2018. (Photo by Michael Barnes)

The following 44 honorees and their supervisors were congratulated for performing their unit SDP Liaison duties in an exceptional manner by Secretary Skorton during the March 16 recognition ceremony:

  • Archives of American Art: Toni Brawner
  • Anacostia Community Museum: Cecile Gilliam
  • Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum: Paula Zamora
  • Freer and Sackler Galleries of Art: Sharron Greene and Tivona Revell
  • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: Tracey Aleksandr
  • Museum Conservation Institute: Francine Lewis
  • National Air and Space Museum: Charity Littlejohn
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture: Arevivia R. Amos
  • National Museum of African Art: Annette Jennings
  • National Museum of American History: Wendy Colman
  • National Museum of the American Indian: Ron Powers
  • National Museum of the American Indian – George Gustav Heye Center: Lee Bonuso and Robert Mastrangelo
  • National Museum of Natural History: Tracey Cones
  • National Portrait Gallery: Dina Wilkins
  • National Postal Museum: Juanda Johns
  • Smithsonian Science Education Center: Anne-Marie Kom
  • National Zoological Park: Nicole Alston
  • Office of Advancement: Jennifer Connolly
  • Office of Communications and External Affairs: Daniel Baker
  • Office of Contracting and Personal Property Management: Tina Jones and Amma Tabirih
  • Office of Facilities Management and Reliability: Wyletha Jackson and Kimberly Wayman
  • Office of Finance and Accounting: Norma Myers
  • Office of Human Resources: Hilda Bryant
  • Office of Protection Services: Sharline Bland and Pamela Muse
  • Office of Safety, Health and Environmental Management: Stephanie Plith
  • Office of Special Events and Protocol: Sheila Sunday
  • Office of Sponsored Projects: Leondra Price
  • Office of the Chief Information Officer: Vickie Cattaneo
  • Smithsonian American Art Museum: Douglas Wilde
  • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory: Joseph Lendall
  • Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access: Helen Dockery
  • Smithsonian Enterprises: Ray Moore
  • Smithsonian Environmental Research Center: Nicole Campbell
  • Smithsonian Exhibits: Peggy Abel
  • Smithsonian Facilities: Brian Hatcher and Derek Ross
  • Smithsonian Institution Libraries: Kathleen Hill
  • Smithsonian Traveling Exhibitions: Denise Schelin
  • The Smithsonian Associates: Imelda Bautista


2018 Supplier Diversity Program Small Business Showcase

The 2018 Supplier Diversity Program Small Business Showcase July 19  allowed Smithsonian procurement staff, purchase cardholders, and Contracting Officer Technical Representatives an opportunity to meet with small business vendors who are ready and eligible to do business with the Smithsonian. Vendors highlighted their capabilities through a variety of meet-and-greet sessions, roundtable talks, and short presentations.

The event featured Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses, 8(a) Small Businesses, a and Historically Underutilized Business Zone Small Businesses – they can help achieve the Smithsonian Institution’s small business goals.

For more information about the available vendors that attended and their capabilities, please refer to this list and contact vendors directly regarding possible procurement opportunities in your museum and/or SI unit: 2018 Supplier Diversity Program Small Business Showcase

Rudy D. Watley is Associate Director, Supplier Diversity Program and Syvera L. O’Pharrow is Supplier Diversity Program Analyst in the Smithsonian’s Office of Equal Employment and Minority Affairs.


Posted: 26 July 2018
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