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Women, minority-led businesses to get leg up in city contracts

Mayor Marty Walsh during the State of the City speech in January.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Women- and minority-owned firms bidding on work for the city of Boston will get greater consideration under new hiring protocols announced Wednesday by Mayor Martin J. Walsh. The city also plans to conduct a study analyzing gender and racial bias in the process of awarding contracts in construction and other services.

In the meantime, in an attempt to work with more companies that reflect the diversity of marketplace, the city is putting spending goals in place. For architectural and engineering subcontracts, for instance, 15 to 20 percent of spending is to go to businesses operated by people of color and another 15 to 20 percent of spending to women-led companies.


In addition, 10 to 15 percent of primary construction contracts under $500,000 should be awarded to minority-owned firms, and between 25 and 30 percent of primary professional services contracts under $500,000 should go to women-owned businesses.

The goals are based on a 2003 study that identified several areas in which the city was not using enough local firms owned by women and minorities.

“These tend to be smaller businesses in the city landscape and what we want to do is offer some training and support so they can compete in larger city contracts,” said Karilyn Crockett, the city’s director of economic policy and research.

The city plans to streamline the bidding process and help these businesses “navigate the bureaucracy” of public contracts, she said. One step already has been taken: The city recently partnered with the state to give a single certification that allows businesses to bid on contracts with both the city and the state.

The new study examining bias in city contracts will be launched by the end of the year and is expected to take just under two years to complete. When the new data are available, the city will update its hiring and contracting goals accordingly, Crockett said.


Katie Johnston can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.