Last November, the NFL and the nonprofit group tasked with staging the 2016 Super Bowl invited LGBT-owned businesses to a workshop aimed at small suppliers that might profit from the massive sporting event. It was the first time the league had done such a thing, and as the AP reports, it represents just one of the diversity initiatives underway across the country that’s giving LGBT business owners a boost.
The NFL joins one-third of Fortune 500 companies and various federal agencies in trying to contract out more work to LGBT-owned companies, the AP reports. For years, these types of programs have existed to encourage bids from firms owned by racial minorities, veterans, and women, and Los Angeles-based consultant Sonia Luna says laws like in a new one in California requiring utility companies to report on how much spending they allocate for LGBT contractors are a step in the right direction.
“It allows me to be even prouder of who I am,” says Luna, who runs a company called Aviva Spectrum. “And it allows the marketplace to acknowledge a class that has been denied recognition as a minority group.”
Over the last decade, the AP reports, more than 700 companies have gone through the process of becoming designated “LGBT-owned.” Certification comes through the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which has been working increasingly with major corporations and the federal Small Business Association (SBA).
Companies like PepsiCo, American Airlines, and IBM have begun tracking how much they allocate for LGBT-owned companies, and hotel juggernaut Marriott International reports that 1 percent of its 2014 “diversity spend” — $450 million — went to gay-owned suppliers of everything from flowers to tech.
While federal law doesn’t recognize LGBT-owned companies the same way it does firms operated by, say, ethnic minorities or women, the SBA has been doing its part to encourage diversity. For the last three years, it’s held contracting fairs wherein LGBT firms have had access to officials responsible for awarding contracts for various federal agencies, and in 2014, it served as co-sponsor of an “economic empowerment tour” aimed at both gays and ethnic minorities.
“What we can do is educate the federal government and local government that this community makes up the very communities they are trying to reach,” says SBA deputy associate administrator Eugene Cornelius Jr.