Recently, the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) amended regulations to the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program that enabled women-owned businesses greater access to federal contract opportunities. Basically, this gives the government the authority to set aside more contracts for women than previously allowed through the removal of certain caps, or contract thresholds, that previously limited the size of allowed contracts. This means that contracting officers will be able to set aside specific contracts at any monetary level for women-owned small businesses (WOSB) and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSB). Previously, contracts had to be comparatively small to qualify ($6.5 million for manufacturing contracts and $4 million for all other contracts).
In order to qualify for one of these set aside contracts, the firm must be established as a WOSB. Essentially, a female U.S. citizen (or multiple women) must have at least 51 percent ownership in the company, the company must be be primarily managed by one or more women, and it must be considered a “small business” by the SBA’s standards. In addition, the firm must be certified ahead of time, before making the bid. There are currently 4 approved third party certifiers: El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
This is a significant amendment, as women-owned small businesses landed around $16.4 billion in federal contracts in 2012, which was down 5.5 percent from $17.3 billion in fiscal year 2011. In contrast, men-owned firms (although they also saw a 4.1 percent drop) captured $80.9 billion in contracts in 2012.
This SBA amendment represents a shift in direction established in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. In addition, the SBA plans to launch an education series for women-owned businesses. The government also formally sets aside small business opportunities for companies run by economically or socially disadvantaged groups, disabled veterans, and businesses located in underprivileged geographic areas.
Murphy, Bill Jr. “This New Rule Means More Government Contracts for Women.” Inc. 5/8/13.