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Diversity and inclusion at Marriott spurs innovation and helps companies grow

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By Laura Toraldo

For Maryland Chamber member Marriott International, diversity among their suppliers is not just beneficial—it is imperative to their success.

For well over 25 years, diversity and inclusion has been part of Marriott’s business model. Today, the company partners with over 4,000 diverse-owned businesses across the globe. Leading the charge is Marriott's Senior Director for Global Sustainability and Supplier Diversity Dominica Groom.

“We work to establish mutually beneficial partnerships, specifically to support diverse businesses and give them the leverage to grow,” Groom said. “Our ability to embrace small businesses and recognize their value creates mutual success.”

Groom explained that Marriott was built around the spirit of serving others. She said that for the female, minority, veteran, disabled, and LGBT populations she serves, this means exposure and access to opportunities comes naturally.

“Small business owners often aren’t aware of their access to corporate opportunities,” she said. "They often hesitate because they feel they can’t meet the business, insurance or scale requirements—we work to mitigate these misperceptions and identify distinct opportunities.”

Longtime Marriott partner and female business owner of Soft Stuff Distributors, Lois Gamerman, defined Marriott’s approach to supplier diversity as “providing us with a 'level playing field' in which to compete for business with their hotel properties against large, national distribution companies.”

“We would not be where we are today if established business people had not taken time to teach us, listen to us and advise us,” she said.

But the payback is mutual. As Marriott’s supplier diversity mission statement says, “When we partner with minority-, women-, LGBT-, disabled- and veteran-owned businesses—we all benefit. It helps to drive economic empowerment around the world, better supports our customers and expands our global footprint.” 

Groom explained that their initiatives go beyond basic business.

“We want to provide the opportunity for our partners to grow and thrive and be considered as a part of our Marriott family. Our infrastructure creates value, growth and job opportunities.”

Groom, an African American from Silver Spring, Maryland, developed a passion for diversity and inclusion while attending the University of Michigan and witnessing the affirmative action U.S. Supreme Court debate. This passion has continued throughout her professional career, with a focus around supporting, embracing and valuing differences.

“I saw a lack of understanding and became passionate about underrepresented groups having a voice and equal opportunity—not just locally, but globally.”

Along with her leadership position, Groom also mentors diverse business owners with their marketing strategies and bridges the connections with prospective capital investors. She volunteers with organizations like the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, WEConnect International, the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the National Black MBA Association and the US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce. Groom has been named one of The Daily Record’s top 50 Leading Women in Maryland, and a top influential leader in diversity by the National Association of Minority Companies.

“Everybody comes from different backgrounds and experiences,” Groom said. “It’s about embracing that.”

Groom has helped foster the rebranding of Marriott’s supplier diversity program, “Exchanges,” that will launch this March. Groom explains that the rebrand aims to incite increased interest and engagement, both internally and externally, through a more creative marketing approach and emphasizing that the exchange of ideas spurs innovation, helping everyone to do business better.

As it is Groom's job to empower, she said it is equally self-empowering.

“It has been so rewarding,” Groom said. “I’m very fortunate to have a paid profession in an area I am extremely passionate about.”