Joy P. Crichlow
Postscript to a long career in diversity
By Renee Flagler
After a long and productive career advocating for the inclusion of minority vendors in big business, Joy P. Crichlow has relinquished her title as director of supplier diversity for Consolidated Edison Company of New York Inc. and Orange and Rockland Utilities Inc., a title she held for some 25 years. Crichlow retired at the end of November and was given a stirring sendoff at The New York/New Jersey Minority Supplier Development Council’s Partnership Awards Gala. “Although Joy Crichlow is leaving Con Edison, we are grateful she will remain as our chairperson emeritus. She was instrumental in teaching minority entrepreneurs on the importance of quality products and educating corporate America on the value of supplier diversity,” declared Lynda Ireland, the council’s president and chief executive officer.
Ireland’s words were no exaggeration. Crichlow witnessed the evolution of diversity programs across the country after she undertook to change the status quo. She helped to develop the basic principles of the supplier diversity program, instituting a series of seminars for purchasing agents and stressing the vital role the buyer plays in the program’s success. Her efforts became a catalyst for programs across the country and still serve as a model for various corporations. Under her direction, Con Edison’s program now exceeds $300 million a year in spending with minority and women-owned businesses in New York City and Orange and Rockland counties alone.
Crichlow’s leadership and dedication to supplier diversity has earned her numerous awards, including The New York and New Jersey Minority Supplier Development Council’s Advocate of the Year Award in 2010. But she remains modest about her success, saying “Con Edison gave me the opportunity to travel across the country as a member of Edison Electric Institute to encourage other utilities to engage in what we called The Minority Business Program. Con Ed is responsible for getting other utilities to have a sincere program and/or to have a program, period.”
Crichlow’s drive, success and the fact that she worked for one of the nation’s energy giants did not shield her from racism, sexism and the frustration of seeing minority vendors unable to secure lucrative contracts. Ultimately, “we were able to convince some of our large, prime contractors to give second-tier opportunities to small vendors and minority vendors who would not normally be able to bid a big job. We make sure large contractors give smaller companies a chance,” she says.
Although she predicts a bright future for diversity because American culture itself is so diverse, Crichlow says she would like to see more large corporations develop and carry out meaningful diversity efforts and programs. “In other words, just don’t say you have a program and put someone in place that can’t and won’t do anything. It has to be about the effort, the bottom line,” she says. “Ask, ‘how much did we spend with minority companies and women-owned businesses?’ We also need the sincere support of giving business — legitimate business — to minorities and women so that they can grow and employ other individuals.”
She concedes that she will miss the work, the successes, the challenges and the people who were part of her corporate career. Her advice to those still on active diversity duty: “Don’t let the job be about you. It’s about growth and development so that Blacks and Hispanics will have opportunities to grow. It’s about giving help helping minority business to become strong.”
Crichlow looks forward to the next chapter in her life. She is a board member of the Association of Minority Enterprises of New York, the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Flatbush YMCA of Greater New York, and recently was appointed to the New York City Small Business Services Advisory Board. She sees more non-profit activities in her future. Various companies have already approached her about joining their boards, but she is in no hurry to make a decision. She has a passion for architecture and housing development and may pursue opportunities in those arenas, she says.