Ms. Magazine: How Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is Mixing Business with Feminism


Thank you to Ms. Magazine and Carmen Rios for publishing my article: “How Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is Mixing Business with Feminism.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti welcomed over 200 women into his residence that the Getty House in December for part of the Women’s Leadership Series & Engage LA event series. The Women & City Contracting event attendees had the chance to network and learn about how Los Angeles is supporting women-owned, minority owned and small businesses compete for city contracts.

Los Angeles is a city of four million people and 500,000 businesses, and with a budget of $10B, approximately $1B in funds are available for city contracts in Los Angeles—but when Mayor Garcetti took office, only one half of one percent of those contracts where going to women. Because gender equity is a core issue for his office, Garcetti’s office has been working to increase those numbers and change the game for women business-owners.

If more women can be competitive and win bids, the city benefits: There was over $7 million in savings, for example, with the recent lower bidders where small businesses won $91 million dollars of work on $220 million worth of contracts.

That’s why the Mayor’s Innovation Team—Claire Bartels, the first woman to ever be Director of Finance for the City of Los Angeles, and Shannon Hoppes, the City’s Chief Procurement Officer (CPO), a post created to maximize the value of City resources, protect taxpayer funds and ensure small and minority-owned businesses are met with opportunities and not obstacles—have been working to simplify, streamline and have the process of achieving these contracts function better. Bartels spoke to attendees about the GROW WITH event for Women in Business in 2017, which was an early step in un-complicating working relationships with the city, and the steps the government is taking in support of mentorship programs and networking.

In their own ways, each woman on the panel was a mentor to the women in the audience—offering tips, tricks and insight into how to build, grow and expand a business and take full advantage of all the city offers women business-owners.

Ingrid Merriweather, who runs her own LA-based insurance firm, instructed small business-owning attendees about how women-owned shops can become successful low bidders for city contracts.

The values of Garcetti’s administration are themselves a boon in this regard: Innovative contracting strategies on the city’s part where standards for achieving diversity and inclusion are included in RFPs, for example, shaped recent projects at LAX airport. Meeting this goal was 10 percent of the evaluation process—and the winning team raised the goal from 3 to 5 percent for local businesses, an increase of $80 million. Merriweather also recommended that everyone join organizations like NAWIC and NAWBO, which help members find like-minded people to collaborate with and secure contracting opportunities.

Andrea Keller, who taught architecture at both USC and Otis, opened up to attendees about the hurdles women continue to face in contract hiring due to their gender, and the strategies that they could take to out-maneuver sexist obstacles. Keller had nearly 50 percent female students, but 84 percent of women like them don’t go on to own their own firms. Keller decided to start an all-female architecture firm, AKA Architecture and Design, to employ her former students and help change the balance.

Trisha Murakawa, who runs Murakawa Communications, was one of 45 accepted out of 450 applications for LA’s small business academy (SBA) program, where she found five others to partner with in order to apply for a contract as a prime. She now has a contract as a sub to Tectra Tech and is helping the city as a communication expert on the sewer maintenance repair project.

It was an event that perfectly suited Bartel’s mission to help women business-owners thrive in the city—and help the city thrive, too.

“We are only a success as a city,” she reminded attendees, “when everyone succeeds.” 

Learn how the CITY of LOS ANGELES can help you grow your business!

Lisa Niver and Mayor Eric Garcetti at Getty House

Learn how the CITY of LOS ANGELES wants to help you GROW your BUSINESS:

The Los Angeles Business Assistance Virtual Network is the place to find commodities, professional services, and construction contract opportunities with the city. You can view current postings, create a profile to receive notifications for future ones, and find sub-contractors to work with. GROW YOUR BUSINESS FUNNEL, COMPETE FOR CITY CONTRACTS. Once you’ve won a contract, use the new Los Angeles Vendor Self Serve Portal to update account information, submit invoices, track payments, and more.

There are many types of certifications for your business, all of which can be assets and tools to pursue contract opportunities. Businesses can also use certifications as a way to qualify for social responsibility programs. VETERANS, WOMEN, MINORITIES, SMALL BUSINESSES, GET CERTIFIED.

Certification Program Description

The City of Los Angeles offers certification of Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE), Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (ACDBE), Minority Business Enterprises (MBE), Women Business Enterprises (WBE), and Small Local Business Enterprises (SLBE) . The main purpose of this certification program is to promote opportunities for disadvantaged, minority, women, and small, local business owners who want to participate in City contracting projects.

The Office of Contract Compliance (OCC), Centralized Certification Administration (CCA) is responsible for administering the City’s certification program. It certifies qualified firms for DBE, ACDBE, MBE, WBE and SLBE status for the City of Los Angeles. CCA maintains the City of Los Angeles Directory of certified DBE/ACDBE/MBE/WBE and SLBEs.

CCA is an active participant in the California Unified Certification Program (CUCP) as one of the DBE certifying agencies in the State of California. The CUCP was established in 2002 to offer a “One-Stop-Shop” for state-wide certification. CCA enters and updates certified DBEs in the statewide CUCP directory of certified DBE firms which is maintained by Caltrans and played a key role in the implementation of the CUCP Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).

DBE and ACDBE certification applications are processed following the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Code of Federal Regulations ( U.S. DOT), 49 CFR, Parts 26 and 23. Part 23 covers the regulations for Airport Concessionaires. The CUCP application form can be downloaded here Disadvantaged Business/Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Application.

The City’s MBE and WBE certification applications are processed following the same guidelines for ownership and control under 49 CFR, Parts 26. On February 1, 2009 OCC implemented a streamlined MBE/WBE Certification application and process. You can apply for the City’s Minority/Women Business Enterprise (MBE/WBE) by downloading the application form to your computer.

The SLB Program was established to encourage the participation of small businesses within Los Angeles County in the City of Los Angeles’ procurement opportunities. SLB certification applications are processed following the City Ordinance Number 174048. This ordinance amends Division 10, Chapter 1, Article 4 of the Los Angeles Administrative Code. Firms certified as an SLB are given a 10% preference applied to bid contracts of $100,000 or less. You can apply for the City’s Small Local Business (SLB) by downloading the application form to your computer. Certification is valid for two calendar years from the date of approval.  To maintain certification, firms must submit an SLB Biennial Affidavit of Eligibility to the Office of Contract Compliance, Centralized Certification Administration.  The affidavit can be downloaded here SLB Biennial Affidavit of Eligibility.

The Local Business Preference Program, established through Ordinance No. 181910, was implemented to encourage Los Angeles County-based businesses to participate in City contracting opportunities by giving them a preference on their bids or proposals. To apply for this certification, applicants should first register their company at LABVN. Applicants must download the Local Business Certification Affidavit of Eligibility, complete and sign the form, and upload the completed form to their company profile on LABAVN.

The Business Inclusion Program, established through the Mayor’s Executive Directive No. 14, was implemented to ensure that more small businesses can participate in City contracts. The program grants certifications as Small Business Enterprise (SBE-LA), Emerging Business Enterprise (EBE), and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE). To be recognized for any of these certifications, the business should currently be certified by the California Department of General Services (CA-DGS) in the respective certification. To apply for these certifications, go to the CA Department of General Services certification link. After being certified by the CA-DGS, the applicant should request for recognition through their company profile on LABAVN.

The SBE (Proprietary) program was implemented July 1, 2016 to consolidate the small business certification for the City’s Propriety Departments (DWP, POLA and LAWA). The program follows the size criteria set forth by the Small Business Administration 8(a) Business Development Program or the State of California DGS Small Business Program (whichever is larger). Firms already certified by accepted agencies do not have to complete the SBE (Proprietary) Application and will be recognized as SBE’s by the propriety departments.  The applicant should request for recognition through their company profile on LABAVN.

The Transitional Job Opportunities Program (TJOP), established through Ordinance No. 176959, was implemented to recognize organizations as transitional employers. These organizations provide job opportunities for the hardest-to-employ or long-term unemployed persons as a way for them to re-enter the mainstream workforce. A certified transitional employer will be granted a preference to contracts that do not exceed $100,000.00. The TJOP application form can be downloaded here, Transitional Job Opportunities Program Application.

CCA is located at 1149 South Broadway Street, Suite 300, Los Angeles, CA 90015. For Certification Assistance please call (213) 847-2684.

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

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