Leveraging Public Sector Procurement Policies to Expand Opportunities for Women in Engineering

In late 2021, OSPE was awarded funding from Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) to explore the potential to use public procurement policy to advance diversity goals in the procurement of engineering services, and to support increased career opportunities for women in consulting engineering and in the engineering profession in general.

Two reports have recently been published:

  1. Using Procurement Policy to Advance Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Literature Review and Environmental Scan
  2. Jurisdictional Scan of Social Procurement Provisions in Public Procurement Policies

The purpose of the literature review is to summarize the current state of thinking about the use of procurement policy to support equity, diversity, and inclusion goals. The particular focus of the review is on the potential for using public procurement of engineering services to support increased opportunities for women in engineering careers. 

The review suggests four areas where additional insight will be valuable:

  1. A better understanding of what leading engineering firms are already doing in the areas of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
  2. Additional insight into the types of third-party certifications that public sector organizations value in their procurement processes.
  3. Insight from experienced procurement experts on how equity, diversity, and inclusion criteria can be incorporated into the different types of procurement processes that are used to hire professional services providers and engineering service providers.
  4. Advice from Qualifications-Based Selection (QBS) experts on how equity, diversity, and inclusion goals can be integrated into QBS.

The purpose of the jurisdictional scan is to compile information on social procurement provisions by public sector organizations. The scan covers 40 jurisdictions in Canada, the Untied States, Australia, and the U.K. The scan also supports certain conclusions on how these policies apply, or do not apply, to supporting equity, diversity, and inclusion in the procurement of professional services, especially engineering services.  

The results of the jurisdiction scan suggest several questions that need to be explored with stakeholders, procurement specialists, and experts. These include:

  • What are the current best practices in the consulting engineering sector and how could procurement policy support the broader adoption of these best practices?
    • In promoting increased career opportunities for women in consulting engineering, what is the relative importance of the composition of an assignment team on a particular project versus the overall policies and practices of the engineering firm?
    • Given the complexity of procuring professional services, how can discretion be delegated to purchasing managers in a way that still preserves the intent of using procurement policy to advance diversity goals in the procurement of engineering services?
    • Should we be looking at a policy framework applicable to professional services in general, or should we be looking more specifically at a framework that is only for engineering services?
    • How would a policy framework deal with a situation in which an engineering firm is a sub-contractor rather than a prime contractor?
    • Is there a role for third-party certification similar to the quality certifications that already operate in some aspects of professional services?  If so, what might that look like?

These questions will form the basis for further research for this project so that engineering companies will be encouraged to embrace more diversity in their workforce, especially women.

To view all of OSPE‘s Research Reports, please visit here.

This project has been funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada.

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