RICHMOND -- Businesses often embrace diversity among their employees, customers and suppliers for compliance reasons, ethical reasons or to help fuel innovation.
Those are all good reasons, but businesses should also look for ways in which an emphasis on diversity can help drive growth, a University of Virginia professor told attendees at a professional gathering last week in Henrico County.
“There is opportunity in disparity,” said Gregory B. Fairchild, an associate professor of business administration at UVa’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.
Speaking at medical products supplier Owens & Minor Inc.’s eighth annual health care supplier diversity symposium, Fairchild urged businesses to look for “pockets of opportunities” in finding and solving health disparities among racial and ethnic groups.
The rates of diabetes, cancer and heart disease are higher in the minority population, for instance, and breast cancer mortality is higher among black women than white women, he said.
“These are things that can be managed,” he said. “The management of disparity is about to become an economic reality and opportunity,” especially under the Affordable Care Act.
“The question now is, who is going to deliver the best way of going after these numbers?” Fairchild said. “Who is going to figure out how to drive those numbers down?
“There is about to be a flood of data that is going to come in on health,” he said. “Those who figure out how to do big data projects … are going to win. The game will be better data, better metrics and better prescriptive, strategic steps.”
The event focused on ways to improve supplier diversity in the health care supply chain. Hanover County-based Owens & Minor is a Fortune 500 distributor of medical supplies.
Fairchild noted that growth in health care employment has outpaced job growth in most other sectors during the sluggish economy. The industry has a relatively high percentage of minority- and women-owned small firms and employees.
As further evidence of the significance of diversity, Fairchild noted that the combined revenue of women-owned firms amounts to the world’s 15th-largest economy.
The revenue of minority-owned firms amounts to the world’s 18th-largest economy, he said.
Combined, the revenue of women- and minority-owned firms equals the world’s ninth-largest economy.