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    GGBA Message from Leadership: Are You Certifiably LGBTQ?

    By Terry Beswick–

    A few months ago, when I took on this new gig heading up the Bay Area’s LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, there was a lot of industry lingo I’d previously been unaware of.

    “Supplier diversity.” “Procurement goals.” “LGBTBE-certified.”

    At first, I frankly found this last one amusing and often joked about it with friends and prospective members. “Are you certifiably LGBTQ?” I’d demand of them, and invariably they’d reply, “How does one go about getting certified as LGBTQ? Do I have to provide documentary evidence? Like what, video proof?? And what will that get me anyway? Discount theater tickets?”

    These are all very good questions, giving me an opening to explain what LGBTQ Business Enterprise certification is and what it could do for their businesses.

    Supplier Diversity

    Like many progressive queer San Franciscans, I’ve developed a somewhat jaundiced view of major corporations over the years. And yet, not all corporations are alike; some have sound environmental and employment practices, for example.

    But the thing is that large corporations are like small countries and have budgets of billions and billions of dollars that they spend on contractors and subcontractors around the world. They need to hire vendors to do everything just to function, from construction to catering, from marketing to IT, from travel to decorating, and everything in between.

    And many of these corporations, as well as government agencies, want to hire LGBTQ-owned vendors. In fact, all the corporations that sponsor the GGBA have supplier diversity procurement goals, in which they aim to contract with an increasing number of minority-owned, women-owned, disabled-owned, veteran-owned and/or LGBTQ-owned businesses.

    It’s Good for Business

    They’ve figured out that not only is it the right thing to do, but also that it’s good for business and they become stronger and more competitive as they become more diverse and inclusive throughout their supply chain.

    It’s actually an enormous focus within corporate governance these days, and progress in this area is commonly expected to be reported in annual reports to shareholders and on corporate websites. A few years back, the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index began requiring that companies make efforts to include LGBTBEs in their supply chains in order to receive a score of 100. And they rightfully love to trumpet those scores during Pride season.

    Like everything else, some are better than others, to be sure, in terms of setting and achieving supplier diversity goals, and oftentimes LGBTQ contracting is less than 1% of a corporation’s annual spend. But even 1% of a billion dollars is a lot of money.

    The 1.5% Rule

    This month, the California Public Utilities Commission is expected to finalize a new rule that would set a goal for public utilities of 1.5% in contracting with certified LGBT Business Enterprises, phased in over the next few years. This rule is now being hailed as an important precedent that can serve as a model for other state and local governments across the country, bringing LGBTQ-owned businesses more clearly under the umbrella of historically disadvantaged communities deserving of inclusive access to business opportunities.

    All these trends in corporate and government contracting offer a lot of hope for economic empowerment and greater equity for our diverse LGBTQ communities—but there’s a catch.

    Right now, even if 5–10% of the population is LGBTQ, there are not enough certified LGBTQ-owned businesses to meet the supplier diversity goals of all these corporations and government agencies. And for those that have been certified, it’s often hard to break into the procurement bureaucracies and get the contracts they want.

    Get Certified

    But the good news is there’s a lot of folks working on these issues, including the Golden Gate Business Association, and progress is being made every day. And you can help!

    If you are LGBTQ and you own a small business, get certified. If you join the GGBA, your certification fee is waived and you will also get all the benefits of being a member of your regional LGBTQ chamber of commerce. We’ll connect you with our national certifying organization to walk you through the fairly simple certification process. No video proof required.

    The statewide clearinghouse for diverse suppliers says that they want LGBTBE’s from every and any industry. If you make leather purses, get certified. If you make croissants, get certified. If you’re a florist, get certified. If you make websites, get certified. Corporations and agencies want your lesbian, gay, bi, or trans products and services, and the more of us who join this movement, the stronger our community will be.

    For more information about getting certified as an LGBT Business Enterprise, visit 

    Terry Beswick is the Executive Director of the Golden Gate Business Association.

    GGBA Calendar

    Wednesday, March 16
    DEI: Responding to Bias & Microaggressions at Work
    Noon–2 pm

    Did you know that unconscious bias can affect your business in many ways, from diversity and retention rates to undermining recruiting efforts and employee development? Microaggressions can also have a profound impact on your team. They justify inequality, reinforce stereotypes, and reinforce destructive power dynamics. Learn how to spot them and tackle them. Bring your lunch to this free online event hosted by Nancy Geenen, who is an accomplished entrepreneur, trial attorney, and strategic facilitator.

    Wednesday, March 30
    LGBTQ Real Estate Group Mixer
    5:30 pm–7:30 pm
    3092 16th Street, SF
    Free networking event in person for GGBA members and real estate industry professionals. Complimentary wine/beer and light refreshments. Hosted by GGBA and Garret Groenveld of Guaranteed Rate. Register in advance!

    Published on March 10, 2022