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NASA Talks Equity in Procurement at Inaugural LGBTQ+ Vendor Forum

The Office of Procurement at NASA Headquarters in Washington connected more than 220 industry stakeholders and businesses with federal procurement experts and other leaders during its first virtual LGBTQ+ Vendor Equity forum Aug. 30. As a follow-up to the agency’s Equity Action Plan, which provides a framework for removing barriers for underserved and underrepresented communities to participate in the space industry, the forum served as an opportunity to share key insights on doing business in the federal sector.

Karla Smith Jackson

“It is critical to our mission success to have the broadest and most inclusive perspectives and backgrounds as part of our team, which is why we are intentional about creating opportunities for more diverse professionals to have a seat at the table,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “NASA’s Equity Action Plan is a comprehensive effort to address the barriers and challenges that exist for communities that are historically underrepresented and underserved in the aerospace and STEM fields.”

The vendor equity forum included presentations from senior leaders from the agency’s mission directorates and headquarters offices, including the Office of the Administrator, as well as procurement. NASA’s associate administrator for Diversity and Equal Opportunity and deputy chief scientist also gave remarks on the occasion.

The Associate Administrator for the Small Business Administration’s Office of Entrepreneurial Development Mark Madrid, and the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce Special Advisor Jonathan Lovitz, provided insights on why diversity in procurement is essential and how businesses can leverage government initiatives, such as NASA’s Equity Action Plan, to gain access to a previously untapped market.

Speakers gave updates on mission and program activities and key initiatives. They also shared high-level overviews of the opportunities that exist and tips and best practices for businesses seeking to get involved and partner with the agency.

“The LGBTQ+ Vendor Equity Forum was the first of what will be many opportunities to demystify the federal contracting and grant process for those who may not be familiar due to a lack of access and information,” said Karla Smith Jackson, NASA assistant administrator for procurement. “At NASA we understand that there are challenges, and we are working to level the playing field so that diverse businesses with innovative offerings, expertise, and personnel will have just as much of a chance to compete and contribute to the aerospace industry as any other.”

Of those who attended the LGBTQ+ Vendor Equity Forum, 76% had never done business with NASA. The forum proved to be a prime opportunity for attendees to get their questions answered and participate in a knowledge exchange with other businesses on the same journey. Through its Equity Action Plan, NASA will continue to offer opportunities to connect by increasing outreach, training, technical assistance, and communications to underserved and underrepresented communities.

The NASA Equity Action Plan is the latest step in the agency’s Mission Equity initiative announced in response to White House Executive Order 13985, “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.”

For more information about NASA’s Equity Action Plan and Mission Equity initiative, visit: