WBE Hall of Fame honors entrepreneurs, leaders, mentors
During its brief but distinguished existence, the Women’s Business Enterprise Hall of Fame has illuminated exceptional businesswomen and those who support them. In December, the class of 2011 was inducted into the Hall of Fame during a ceremony at Fair Park Hall of State in Dallas that honored the best and brightest in entrepreneurship, leadership and mentorship. Operational excellence is not the only quality consistent among the WBE inductees; the integration of philanthropy into the vision and culture of their companies also sets them apart, helping them to build their brands by building goodwill. Some WBEs are providing scholastic opportunities in their communities, while others are helping women launch new businesses or strengthen existing ones.
Few businesses make it without a little outside intervention, however. Shining examples of WBE advocacy and guidance were inducted into the Hall of Fame as well, showcasing six individuals and three Fortune 500 companies committed to boosting WBEs with wisdom and contracting opportunities. Those companies are:
Palisades, N.Y.-based IBM is a founding member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and has been the presenting sponsor of the Tuck-WBENC Executive Program. The firm has generously hosted the week-long intensive training course for WBEs at the IBM Palisades Executive Conference Center in New York since the program’s inception in 2003. Big Blue’s support of women’s business development groups has made it possible for WBEs to access IBM’s experts in all areas of business operations.
Michael Robinson, IBM’s program director, global supplier diversity, accepted the honor on behalf of the company. “We utilize diverse suppliers in every geography and every commodity we procure,” he said. “We will continually seek out qualified diverse suppliers who can bring value to our supply chain because it makes good business sense for our clients, our bottom line and the communities in which we live.”
Cincinnati-based The Procter & Gamble Co. has developed a progressive and innovative program so successful that one-third of its top 50 suppliers are woman-owned. The company’s supplier diversity initiative was built on the premise that successful, progressive and innovative WBEs and other diverse suppliers not only enhance the company’s products, but also its competitive standing in the global marketplace.
“We pursue diversity across all of our product lines,” explained Richard Hughes, P&G’s vice president, global purchases, who accepted the award. “It’s part of our corporate culture and benefits our bottom line.” The company has ranked 25th among DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity and is a corporate member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
New York City-based Ernst & Young was honored for its Entrepreneurial Winning Women program, which not only offers a springboard to help women already in business accelerate the growth of their firms, it provides them with connections to advisors, resources and networks to do it in a careful and thorough way. Accepting the honor on behalf of E&Y was Fred Scott, a recruiter in the firm’s office for minority recruitment and retention.
“Through a diversity structure that values different perspectives, unique experiences and distinctive backgrounds, we bring benefits to our clients,” Scott said. The firm regularly spotlights successful WBEs that have overcome significant obstacles. In its“Groundbreakers” reports, E&Y provides private and public organizations with essential steps and tools to close the gender gap in supply chains.
Women ascending Jarilyn Fox, who emceed the event sponsored by Cadillac, PepsiCo and American Airlines, said the inductees represent the best of the best. “We honored those women entrepreneurs who have used their experiences, talents and skills as tools to transform their dreams of a better life into successful businesses and, in the process, helped others have better lives too.” Fox is the president and publisher of Women’s Enterprise magazine, which helped coordinate the ceremony that honored the following WBEs:
Nina Vaca-Humrichouse launched Pinnacle Technical Resources from her living room in 1996. It is now the 32nd largest Hispanic business in the country with 4,000 consultants across 50 states in the United States and Canada. Most recently, Pinnacle completed the acquisition of Provade, one of the leading enterprise vendor management software providers.
“Induction into the WBE Hall of Fame is very motivating,” Vaca-Humrichouse said. “We welcome opportunities to give back to the community. It’s exciting to create needed jobs, serve clients well and provide business intelligence and insight to the organizations we respect.” She is a founding director of the Startup America Partnership, a group focused on accelerating entrepreneurship in America, and currently serves as chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Gail Warrior is CEO of the 14-yearold Warrior Group of Dallas, a leading authority on permanent modular construction, and has earned a reputation for completing projects on budget on accelerated schedules. The contractor has overseen the construction of more than 4 million square feet of public and private projects in the last four years alone.
Warrior launched the Warrior Small Business Academy in 2010 to offer courses free of charge to entrepreneurs in construction and Heart of a Warrior Foundation in 2007 to provide academic programs for underserved children. “Giving back is important to me,” Warrior said. “To be recognized for community involvement is an honor I take great pride in.”
Pamela Chambers O’Rourke, president and CEO of Houston-based ICON Information Consultants, built an IT business that has never experienced a single quarter without a profit, despite turmoil in the markets. “I learned early to set the bar high,” O’Rourke explained. “You always need to be reaching.”
ICON has been listed among the Houston Top 100 Fastest Growing Woman- Owned Businesses for five years in a row. The U.S. Small Business Administration named O’Rourke the Women in Business Champion of the Year for her efforts in assisting WBEs as they pursue their dreams. She sponsors the participation of WBEs at business development events and serves on the boards of several women’s entrepreneurial groups.
Sometimes, entrepreneurial aspirations come up against bleak market forces, negative cash flows and bad timing. A kindred spirit who dispenses generous helpings of guidance, encouragement and reality checks now and again can soften the harshest of blows. The following boosters, who also have the standing to foster opportunities for WBEs within their organizations and industries, were inducted under the executive leadership category:
Edward Whitacre, chairman emeritus of AT&T and former chairman and CEO of General Motors, has been a leader and pioneer in supplier diversity spending and development. He used his considerable influence and platform to advocate for women business owners and other diverse suppliers. While CEO of the two global companies, policies were adopted that not only advanced inclusion in supply chains and the workforce, but also set an example for corporate America. Under his leadership, AT&T made a $10 million contribution that was instrumental in establishing The Women’s Museum in Dallas.
Lynn Scott, executive director of supplier diversity at Alcatel-Lucent, was honored for her role in establishing supplier diversity programs at Rockwell International, Xerox and Wang, in addition to Alcatel-Lucent. Today, she leads a team that works with commodity managers around the world to identify and develop diverse suppliers to meet regional and global needs. Scott, who retired at the end of 2011, said, “It has been an honor and a pleasure to be involved in building relationships with WBEs. The experience has been invaluable to me.” Last year, Scott was a featured speaker at the United Nations Conference on Gender Equality. She is the chairman of the Women’s Business Council – Southwest and serves on the board of directors for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
The inductee in the government advocate category was: U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison who, in addition to helping advance initiatives to increase federal contracting opportunities for women, is a model of what women can accomplish when they set out to make a difference. She is the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate by the state of Texas and the first Republican woman to be elected to a statewide office in Texas. Hutchison has additionally documented women’s contributions in her books, “American Heroines: The Spirited Women Who Shaped Our Country” and “Leading Ladies: American Trailblazers.” Inductees in the community advocate category were: Hedy Ratner and Carol Dougal are the founders and co-presidents of the Women’s Business Development Center in Chicago, the largest, oldest and most comprehensive women’s business center in the United States. Ratner has been an advocate and activist for women’s issues for more than 40 years. She was appointed by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to the Illinois Economic Recovery Commission and by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the Blue Ribbon Council on Minority and Women’s Business programs. Dougal is a founding board member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. Her lifelong devotion to civil rights, women’s equality and economic development has earned leading roles with the Chicago Institute for Economic Development and the Private Industry Council of Chicago.
“Being selected for the Women’s Hall of Fame means a great deal after four decades of involvement in women’s empowerment issues,” Ratner stated. “It has been a labor of love for us to work to improve public policy at the international, national, state and local levels. This is our time for growth and success!”
Margo J. Posey is the president and CEO of the Dallas/Fort Worth Minority Supplier Development Council, which serves more than 800 minority-owned enterprises and more than 150 corporate members. Under her leadership, the D/FWMSDC created the Buy Those That Buy Us™ program, a capacity-building initiative that provides recognition of companies that are committed to the patronage of diverse businesses. Additionally, the council’s entity partners have purchased some $2 billion worth of goods and services from the suppliers certified by the council. “Initiatives to build diversity into corporate supply chains ultimately help build better businesses and that helps to build better communities,” Posey noted. “It’s a privilege to be a part of that.”
“This was an evening of recognizing leadleaders,” said Don McKneely, co-founder of the WBE Hall of Fame. “The WBEs have gone above and beyond not only in conducting business operations, but also in sharing their success with their communities.
“The advocates honored tonight have helped to foster more and better contracting opportunities for WBEs, and our mentors have generously provided their time and wisdom,” McKneely continued. “It is fitting that we have a means for honoring all of them. Working together, all of our inductees are building better lives for so many.