By Laurie Dowling, National Utilities Diversity Council
The world of diversity is dimmed by the passing of former California Assemblymember Gwen Moore, CA-49, on August 19, 2020.
She was a tireless fighter for her constituents and for California and served as the powerful Majority Whip during her tenure, representing parts of Los Angeles and Orange Counties in the California Assembly from 1978 to 1994. However, it is in the area of diversity and supplier diversity that she is most well known in California and nationally.
Assemblymember Moore’s positive impact on diversity in the utilities and communications industries cannot be overstated. In 1988, she was the author of the groundbreaking California General Order 156, which required the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to establish a procedure through which utilities and communication companies would report on their supplier diversity and which allowed the CPUC to set targets for this procurement. This was a game-changer for diverse enterprises and for the utilities and communication companies doing business in California, and its success helped influence supplier diversity engagement by state utility commissions around the country.
With prescience ahead of her time, Assemblymember Moore and her colleagues included not only women- and minority-owned enterprises but also service-disabled veteran-owned businesses. In 2015, GO-156 was expanded to include LGBT business enterprises.
Assemblymember Moore’s legacy in diversity continues robustly today.
On September 1, 2020, the CPUC reported that participating utilities and communications companies – including California American Water, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Sempra Energy, Southern California Edison, Suburban Water Systems, among others – spent $12.7 billion with diverse suppliers in 2019, representing 33.2 percent of the reporting companies’ total procurement dollars.
A highlight of this 2019 report was the work of SouthWest Gas, which spent 70.2 percent of its total spend with diverse business enterprises (DBEs). The report states that GO 156 sets the framework for the CPUC Utility Supplier Diversity Program and encourages each utility and telecommunications company to purchase, at a minimum, 15 percent from MBEs, 5 percent from WBEs, and 1.5 percent from DVBEs, for a total of 21.5 percent. GO 156 has made a lasting impact on diverse businesses in California and on the DNA of corporations in the Golden State and beyond.
Former CPUC President, Michael R. Peevey worked with Assemblymember Moore to bring an increased spotlight on supplier diversity in utilities and communications in California and nationally. He had this to say about her: “Assemblywoman Gwen Moore’s leadership on supplier diversity made all the difference. Before her dramatic efforts, the California Public Utilities Commission did relatively little. Her championing of supplier diversity in the State Legislature gave some of us the heft and muscle to get the utilities to lead the nation in fostering, promoting and achieving the most successful programs in the nation. We all owe her a great debt of gratitude. In former Congressman John Lewis’ memorable words, she caused ‘Good Trouble.’”
Assemblymember Moore was not only concerned with supplier diversity. Her public service record included over 400 bills signed into law to help Californians, especially women, children, and families. Her work for the community was known by her legislative counterparts nationally, and included the Moore Universal Telephone Service Act, which required the provision of affordable telephone service to low-income households, and legislation of special importance to the parents of small children, a bill requiring supermarkets to have a publicly accessible restroom.
Following her time in public service, she was founder and CEO of GeM Communications Group, a woman-owned enterprise designing public affairs, legislative strategies and community outreach programs for corporate and nonprofit clients. Gwen Moore also served on the state and national boards of the NAACP, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the California Black Business Association, among others. She is in the California NAACP Hall of Fame. Assemblymember Moore was a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Gwen Moore was a fearless champion of diversity and opportunity and a beacon to so many. Her loss diminishes our community, but we are all so much better for her time here,” said The Honorable Timothy Alan Simon, President, TAS Strategies, Commissioner Emeritus, California Public Utilities Commission, Chair, California Black Chamber of Commerce.