Not Getting Our Share 2: Federal
Government Fails to Reach Goals for Women-Owned Small
Richmond WOMAN, Vol.
2, Issue 13, January 2005, pp. 16-17
small businesses (WOSBs) in Richmond and throughout the Commonwealth of
Virginia not only face discrimination in contracting at the state level
Not Getting Our Share: The State Disparity Study and Next Steps,
Volume 1, Issue 3, pages12-13), they continue to struggle to receive
share of business from the federal government as well.
Small Business Administration (SBA) reported recently that contract
women business owners were up 22% in FY 2003 - a jump of $1.5 billion
billion to $8.3 billion. That sounds
pretty good until you realize that the $8.3 billion in awards to WOSBs
FY 2003 continues to represent only 2.98% of the total federal spend.
continued failure of women business owners to obtain their fair share
federal contracts is particularly discouraging given that the federal
government first began taking steps in 1988 toward full recognition and
effective elimination of discrimination against women-owned businesses
federal procurement. During that year,
Congress passed the Women’s Business Ownership Act, HR 5050, which
gender equity to business banking. It promised to develop awareness of
problems faced by women business owners in the marketplace by
National Women’s Business Council. It
required the collection and dissemination of Census data on women owned
businesses, and it appropriated money to the SBA for business
women-owned businesses. Unfortunately, neither increased awareness of
issues faced by women business owners nor advocacy on their behalf by
Women’s Business Council brought fairness to the procurement process.
recognizing that little progress had been made in assuring equal
for WOSBs in federal procurement, Congress passed the Federal
Streamlining Act (PL 103-355; FASA) that set a goal of 5 percent of
contract dollars to be awarded to women owned small businesses.
later, acknowledging that the federal government was far from achieving
contracting goal, Congress authorized a "restricted competition" or
set aside program specifically for women-owned businesses, the
Small Business Federal Contract Assistance Program, codified in the
Business Act, 15 U.S.C. S 637(m).
set aside program authorized in 2000 was intended as a tool to help
agencies meet the 5% contracting goal established in 1994. As
written, the set aside program would
allow (for the first time) federal agencies to "restrict competition"
to WOSBs in certain circumstances. Unfortunately, more than four years
Congress authorized the new set aside program, it has yet to be
The SBA has
failed to complete two tasks required by the law that authorized the
program. It has failed to complete a
study of the disparity between availability and utilization of
businesses in federal contracting in order to identify industries where
were underrepresented (like the one recently completed by the state)
and it has
not issued regulations implementing the program.
The SBA has
acknowledged that drafts of the study and the regulations were
2001. The SBA decided, however, not to formally issue the study or the
regulations because of unspecified concerns about the study
methodology. Now, almost four years later, the SBA
continues to await the results of a study by the National Academy of
on the methodology to be used to complete the study with no timetable
for completing the study once the methodology is ready.
Why is this
important? It is important because the
federal government’s failure to complete the study, to implement the
program, and to achieve the 5% contracting goal is costing women
owners almost $5 billion annually in
lost contract dollars and economic opportunity.
delay and lack of commitment in implementing the WOSB set aside program
stark contrast to the efficiency and energy brought by the SBA to the
implementation of the new program for Service Disabled Veteran Owned
Business Concerns (SDVOs). Less than six months elapsed between passage
Veterans Benefit Act in December 2003 and publication of the SBA’s
final rule implementing the program on May 5, 2004. The SDVO program
authorization for set-asides and sole-source procurements and requires
meet eligibility requirements. Like the WOSB set aside program, the
the SDVO program is to help federal agencies meet a statutorily
government-wide goal for procurement from SDVOs.
29, 2004, the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce filed suit in federal
seeking an order requiring the SBA to issue the disparity study and
implementing the WSOB set-aside program within 3 months. In
its complaint, the Women’s Chamber
alleges that SBA Administrator Hector V. Barreto told its
“the Administration has no intention of implementing this [WSOB
program.” (Download the complaint at http://www.sblink.us/html/uswcc-sba-claim.aspx]
business owners should not have to wait any longer for real equity in
contracting. The SBA’s action on behalf
of veteran-owned businesses shows what can be done when leaders want to
something accomplished. Write the SBA
Administrator, the White House and the Virginia Congressional
tell them that you don’t think it should take a federal lawsuit or a
order to get the SBA to do its job.
Women deserve better.
the leaders responsible for implementing the Women Owned Small Business
write the SBA Administrator at:
Honorable Hector V. Barreto
US Small Business Administration
find out who your Congressman is and send an email at: http://www.house.gov/writerep/
find addresses and email forms for our two US Senators at:
find information on Senators and Congressmen at: