Harriet R. Michel - 2022 Global Supply Chain Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Hall of Fame

Q: When and why did you become a supplier-diversity and minority-business-development champion?

A: I spent my entire career advocating for equity, parity and justice for people of color — especially African Americans — including my 22 years leading NMSDC. I strongly believe that communities of color can solve many of their own problems if they have sufficient financial resources. 

That [statement] doesn’t relieve the government or other public agencies of responsibility. But as we’ve seen, people are better at solving their own problems if they have the means to do so. The best way to increase financial resources — in my belief — is from business ownership. 

Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for MBEs?  

A: The greatest challenge is for MBEs to try to stay relevant as corporations continue to expand the meaning of diverse. Initially, diverse meant Black and brown people. Next, women were included, then as other groups demanded recognition, in some instances the definition grew to include everyone except straight white men.  

Diverse corporate spend is seen by many as a zero-sum game; a growing number of diverse companies competing for essentially the same amount of dollars. There should be less of a struggle about which groups are worthy and more demand that companies exponentially expand the pool of dollars spent with diverse suppliers.  

The other great challenge to MBEs is to anticipate and respond to corporations’ rapidly evolving priorities. Yesterday’s sustainability has morphed into ESG. MBEs must consider partnering for breath and scale to meet these evolving needs.  

Regarding MBEs’ greatest opportunities, the George Floyd effect is still in play and, unfortunately, given today’s political climate, we should assume that there will be other race-based crimes against Blacks and other racial groups.  

In response, some corporations have created initiatives to mitigate societal guilt and address the wealth disparity gap by targeting minority economic and business development.  

The Business Roundtable’s Racial Equity & Justice program is an example. I urge MBEs o take full advantage of any and all programs of this type when and where they exist. They don’t define your business but can propel it. My position is you get in the door, however you can, as long as it legitimate.

Q: What is your vision for supply-chain diversity over the next five to 10 years?  

A: I’m a first-generation civil rights baby, I was active in the civil rights movement, and at 80 years old, I am alarmed at any thought of going backward.


Thankfully, today there are more capable, driven and determined MBEs than ever ready to meet corporate America’s needs. If they are to be fully integrated into supply chains, their diverse status must be viewed as additive not definitive.

Q: What would you like your legacy to be as a champion of supplier diversity?

A:  It is my leadership of NMSDC and during my tenure, I took a band of competing regional councils and we built it into a national and international organization. We gained the respect of both corporations and minority businesses. I hope that my legacy is my reputation for truth-telling — that I call it as I see it. 

To learn more about National Minority Supplier Development Council Inc., visit nmsdc.org.


Harriet R. Michel MBEs ESG supplier-diversity NMSDC minority-business-development Business Roundtable’s Racial Equity & Justice program National Minority Supplier Development Council

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