Questions and Answers

On Equal Opportunity Employment; Contracting With Minority, Women-Owned Firms

Trudy Tuan, director of the Office of Materiel Management, and Edith Ng, director of Staff Affirmative Action and Diversity Programs, discuss hiring and contracting on the Berkeley campus.

Berkeleyan: We are told that federal regulations on affirmative action prevent implementation of the regents' decision in campus hiring. Why?

Edith Ng: We are federal contractors and to continue to receive federal money we must comply with federal regulations. Also, in their own resolution, the regents said specifically that we would continue to comply.

Berkeleyan: Are there any jobs on campus not covered by federal affirmative action guidelines?

Ng: All are covered.

Berkeleyan: What does it mean to "give preference" to a woman or person of color for a specific job? Do we do that at Berkeley?

Ng: We don't give preference on this campus. What we do is ensure that women and people of color have the opportunity to apply. We aggressively recruit for them, so they are in the applicant pool.

Berkeleyan: Once they are in the applicant pool, is the unit employer obligated to hire them?

Ng: No. If underrepresentation of a particular group exists in a given job cluster on campus, and if the candidates are equally substantially qualified, then we encourage people to make the affirmative action choice. But they don't have to. To do so demonstrates that the campus is making good faith efforts to achieve equal opportunity.

Berkeleyan: How do you determine that a particular group is underrepre-sented in a particular job?

Ng: We use an eight-factor analysis that helps us do that. The factors have to do with determining, both on campus and in the outside work force, the availability of women and people of color who are qualified for specific jobs. Once we see who is available and compare that to our current work force, we can judge whether any gaps exist.

Berkeleyan: If affirmative action programs were to end on campus, could we still provide equal opportunity in employment?

Ng: I think we could, but it might be more difficult. Affirmative action is a set of regulations for achieving equal opportunity, which is the law in this case. If this program were to end, it might change what we do, but it wouldn't change our ultimate obligation. We still would have to ensure equal opportunity in employment.

Berkeleyan: How much of Berkeley's annual contracting is done with minority firms?

Trudy Tuan: Our goal is to award 15 percent of our contract dollars to disadvantaged business enterprises--black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American and multi-ethnic companies including some owned by whites. This is a race-neutral program which in practice means that 90 percent of the recipients within the disadvantaged business enterprise category are minority firms, because they traditionally have been socially and economically disadvantaged.

Berkeleyan: How did the awards break down for the 1994-95 year?

Tuan: From a contracting base of about $200 million, $2.8 million (1.4 percent) went to black enterprises; $17.9 million (9 percent) went to Hispanic enterprises; $10.7 million (5.3 percent) went to Asian enterprises; $1.9 million (1.08 percent) went to Native American enterprises; and $74,000 (.04 percent) went to multi-ethnic enterprises.

Berkeleyan: Do you set aside certain amounts or certain contracts for disadvantaged businesses?

Tuan: We do not set aside money or contracts to achieve our goal. In doing business, we keep the 15 percent goal in the back of our minds and when a disadvantaged company offers equal service and equal or better pricing, we award the contract to them.

Berkeleyan: How long did it take to achieve the affirmative action goals?

Tuan: About five years. In the beginning, we couldn't even reach a 15 percent goal. Now we have a very strong affirmative action program.

Berkeleyan: What if your business affirmative action program were dismantled?

Tuan: There would be no way to ensure equal opportunity.

Berkeleyan: What about female-owned firms?

Tuan: Our goal is to award 5 percent of campus's annual contract dollars to women-owned businesses. That goal could be affected by the regents' decision because it is gender-specific. A third goal is to award 3 percent to disabled veterans and that goal would not be affected by the regents' decision.

Berkeleyan: If the regents' decision were implemented and you could no longer consider race, ethnic origin or gender in awarding contracts, would that destroy your program?

Tuan: I think the impact of removing race and gender would not be so bad, provided we continue to have a well-thought-out program to provide opportunities to socially and economically disadvantaged companies. Women-owned businesses could qualify under those terms. But if we lose this kind of structured program to fight against discrimination, I think it could destroy equal opportunity and have a devastating impact on the business community in this area.


Copyright 1995, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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