What is a Disparity Study and Why You Should Participate ?

Did you know that diversity programs are constantly at risk of elimination?  Government agencies, corporations and large primes regularly review, and sometimes challenge, the need for small business utilization when awarding contracts.   Have you ever wondered what you can do as an owner to help ensure these diversity programs are available for your small, women-owned or minority-owned firm (often referred to as ‘disadvantaged’ businesses)?  One of the things you can do is be a voice for disadvantaged businesses by participating in diversity studies.  Women in Business Image

The timing is right for you to participate in a diversity study since the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) is currently holding disparity study interviews.  We encourage you to attend one of the interview sessions — click here for more information and to participate.

What is a disparity study?  The purpose of a disparity study is to determine if an agency or corporation has engaged in the exclusion of certain groups in the solicitation and award of current and past contracts. Disparity studies are necessary to illustrate the importance of ‘set-aside’ programs such as Women Business Enterprise, Minority Business Enterprise, Business Enterprise Program for Persons with Disabilities, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, etc.

A typical disparity study allows you to relate your experiences regarding contracting with an agency.  You may be asked questions surrounding the topics of:

  • Expenditures of contracts awarded

  • Subcontract dollars awarded by prime

  • Past or current policies, programs or procedures that drive the procurement of contracts

Quantitative and qualitative data is often collected through public hearings, interviews, surveys and focus groups.  Generally, anecdotal data is also collected to determine if race, gender or other forms of discrimination are present in the procurement process.  Studies typically follow a defined group over a defined period of time.

What are some other important reasons to participate in a disparity study?

Your participation could provide valuable information that validates an agency’s rationale for updating their diversity goals.  Disparity studies have also helped several local agencies establish a need for W/M/DBE programs.

To receive notifications about upcoming disparity studies as the Women’s Business Development Center becomes aware of them, please join our e-mail list at www.WBDC.org.





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By: Kristin Travis, IL PTAC Associate at the Women’s Business Development Center


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  1. Pingback: Headlines: Beyonce, Winning Proposals, Mentors, 2014, Your Own Business

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