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One of the best panels at #HRTech: Supplier diversity and The Power of Yes for women-owned businesses in HR tech

Reading Time: 7 minutes

There’s a lot of energy and discussion around diversity, and hiring women-owned businesses as suppliers. But recent statistics show that they are not advancing or growing at the rate other organizations do. 

  • 3 percent of U.S. venture capital goes to all-women founding teams 
  • 17 percent of U.S. venture capital goes to founding teams with at least one woman*
  • Of the 13 unicorns at HRTech, only one has a female CEO
  • Zero of the company winners of the 2021 Top Products in HRTech have women as co-founders

For these reasons, and more, a panel consisting of women founders and corporate HR tech buyers convened at HRTech. Stories Inc. co-founder and partner Lauryn Sargent was a participant on the panel, along with Allyn Bailey, Head of Talent at the Genius Group and a co-founder of the Talent Rebel Alliance; Molly Weaver, Senior Director of Talent Acquisition for Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, Missouri; and Athena Karp, Founder and CEO of HiredScored. 

These women leaders were brought together by Tracey Parsons, founder and CEO of WORQDRIVE, who facilitated a discussion on what’s preventing women businesses from further permeating supplier lists in HR Tech. 

Over the course of just one hour, they delved into: 

  • Effectiveness of supplier diversity goals 
  • New data that breaks down supply chain diversity representation + actions
  • A majority of companies have women making the HR tech buying decisions … but they’re not buying from women
  • Why saying “yes” to women-owned businesses is important
  • Ways to support women-owned HR tech companies 


The Effectiveness of Supplier Diversity Goals

Yes, companies have supplier diversity goals. While it’s clear that companies are collecting the data of women-owned businesses competing for RFPs, there’s no evaluation or reflection of this information when companies select vendors. Instead, companies are publicly committing to diversifying their supplier base, but in reality they are going through the motions by collecting the data. They’re not using the data to inform a more diverse vendor selection process, or even using it as criteria in the selection itself. 

“It’s like taking the reservation, but not holding the reservation,” Tracey Parsons joked, in reference to Seinfeld

Diving Into Data

Co-panelist Athena searched for recent HR Tech supplier diversity data. Finding little information, HiredScored conducted their own survey, led by Chief of Staff Alex Hornick. 85 HR tech buyers responded, and their responses were discussed throughout the panel. 

Women Buyers, What Gives? 

Most of the HR leaders responsible for HR Tech buying decisions are women themselves. Tracey said, “The last data I saw, 67 percent of CHROs in the Fortune 2000 are women. And I have heard from a lot of them on discovery and sales calls that buying from a ‘boutique’ firm like mine feels risky.”

There may be a perceived risk to buying from small women-owned companies. That is a total myth.

Buying from women-owned businesses is a better return on investment. When you say yes to women suppliers, you can realize a better ROI. A study conducted by the Hackett Group demonstrates that working with a certified business can increase profitability with as much as 130 percent return on investment.

And it’s not just your return on investment for your companies, according to the Kauffman Foundation, private, women-owned, tech companies achieve 35% higher ROI than their male counterparts.

The Power of Saying “Yes

It’s important to say yes to women. Take a chance on a woman-owned company. Be the “yes” that makes it possible for women-owned businesses to succeed. By saying yes, more opportunity is created for women overall. 

If you promote inclusion in your business, in your hiring, in your personal values, it’s important that you are who you say you are. Showing up for women through hiring women-owned companies gives proof to your promises, such as your company’s public pledges about gender inclusion. It’s an outward action that reflects your inner values of gender equity and equality. It’s an action that earns the trust of your customers, employees and communities who are looking to see how you’re making progress towards greater inclusion. 

Ways to Say “Yes”

Buying from women-owned businesses is the best way to support them. But there’s ways to get creative if you’re a buyer who is struggling to diversify your supplier base. Some advice from our panel:

“You can start with a pilot,” recommended Allyn. “They just need a foot in.” 

“Realize buying from small businesses is not a risk,” advised Molly. “Some of the best vendor experiences I have had are from small businesses. They can actually give you better service and more attention, more willingness to try new things in pursuit of making both of us successful.” 

And, in the case when women-owned businesses are not selected, there’s still ways you can help. Give feedback on why they weren’t selected, and what they can do to win next time. 

Interested in starting with “yes” now?

Stories Inc. is woman co-founded and co-owned. We expertly uncover employees’ stories that bring company values to life. When you need a culture content agency partner, we’d love to be your “yes.” To learn more, contact us or book 15 minutes on our calendar.


* Crunchbase: Global VC Funding To Female Founders Dropped Dramatically This Year