28 February 2008 | Paul Snell
A group of major firms have joined together to help women-owned businesses gain access to and win more contracts.
Pfizer, Microsoft, New Technology Steel, Accenture, Bank of America and Hewlett-Packard are among the first corporate members of the Women in Enterprise Connecting to Contracts (WEConnect) group, designed to help encourage supplier diversity.
It is based on a similar successful group in the US, the Women's Business Enterprise National Council, which links about 250 corporate members with some 6,000 female-operated businesses.
Although 16 per cent of companies in the UK are owned by women, they account for just 3 per cent of contracts in the private sector and 5 per cent of contracts in the public sector.
WEConnect intends to put purchasers in touch with female-owned businesses and to help procurement improve its supplier diversity. But the group stressed that it does not advocate "preferential treatment" for women.
Gwendolyn Turner, director of worldwide supplier diversity at Pfizer, said: "We have a duty to ensure our procurement processes enable a diverse range of suppliers to bid for and win contracts."
The group has also been endorsed by the government's Women's Enterprise Task Force.