Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Mark Pringle, vice president of procurement for Dell.

Mark Pringle, vice president of procurement for Dell, photo courtesy of Dell.

Dell spent $4 billion on goods and services from small, minority and women owned businesses last year.

And the computer giant wants to increase that number and further diversify its supplier network, said Mark Pringle, vice president of procurement for Dell.

“Diversity is tremendously important to Dell,” Pringle said.

Dell spent $350 million on women owned businesses in 2014 and it’s looking to grow that business, he said.

And Pringle is heading up that mission. The youngest of six children raised by a single mom in Topeka, Kansas, Pringle has seen the struggles women face in the workforce. He has four sisters including one who is a small business owner farming 3,000 acres in Kansas. His mother in law, who is from Colombia, is a small business owner in Austin. And his wife is also a strong business leader.

Pringle spoke Thursday afternoon at the Women’s Business Enterprise National Conference, known as WBENC, at the Austin Convention Center. Pringle is what WBENC refers to as a “He for She” or a man who advocates for women. He also spoke with Silicon Hills News following his talk about Dell’s focus on doing business with small, minority and women owned businesses.

In 1950, women working in the same job as a man earned 59 cents for every dollar a man earned, Pringle said. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor reports it’s on average 78 cents to a dollar, he said. There is still a gap and that needs to close, Pringle said.

Entrepreneurship is one way to help close that gap. And Pringle says education is key for women businesses to advance in the workplace. And it’s not just education through a university, but taking a lifelong approach to learning new skills and information, he said.

But already, the data shows women passed men in the number of bachelor, masters and PhD degrees from universities in 2007, Pringle said. And those statistics are going to continue to rank upwards, he said.

Dell has a supplier diversity group with five people to reach out to women owned businesses to help them do business with the company, Pringle said. It also has supplier diversity ambassadors throughout the world.

“If someone is trying to engage with Dell, our supplier diversity group is set up so they can reach out to us,” Pringle said. “Our goal is to understand what services and products they are offering.”

Pringle’s organization reaches out to the different business units in Dell to find out their needs to determine if the products and service offerings they have if they match up to its needs.

“Our job is to help them,” Pringle said.

In particular, Dell sees opportunities for women-owned business in the area of sustainability, which is important to Dell and the computer industry as a whole, Pringle said. Whether it’s in packaging or asset recovery, there are a lot of opportunities for small businesses; minority and women owned businesses in that area, Pringle said.

And sustainability not just about recycling products, but also about reducing energy consumption and water usage, Pringle said.

WBENC, one of the largest conferences to connect women-owned businesses with large corporations, is a great opportunity to engage with women-owned businesses, Pringle said. He has met several women-owned businesses at the conference that he plans to follow up with as potential business partners, he said.

The three-day conference and exhibition fair ended on Thursday. It included keynote speeches and presentations, panel discussions, matchmaking sessions, networking receptions and a business fair with more than 300 exhibitors.

For more information on Dell’s diversity efforts please visit its supplier diversity webpage.