Number of Women Awarded Government Contracts Falls Short for 20th Year
Federally Mandated Contract Awards to WOBs Not Met Once in 20 Years
What is the Women-Owned Business Contracting Program?
In 1994 Congress passed legislation that requires the federal government to award a minimum of 5% of all government-wide contracts to certified women-owned businesses.
How Well Does the Program Work? Is it Helping Women?
Yes. But not nearly enough.
A United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) survey reported that most of the small business program guidelines and restrictions actually still divert attention away from women-owned goals.
In 2001, even after legislation was put into place to address the discriminatory practice against women-owned businesses, only 2.5% of contracts were awarded to women-owned businesses.
In 2007, six years later, the federal government was still falling short of this mandated requirement and had only awarded 3.8% of contracts to women.
In 2014 only 4.3 percent of total government contracts went to WOBs -- making 2014 the twentieth year in a row federally mandated quotas were not met. The Department of Defense falls shortest and on 2014 only 1.5 percent of contract awards went to WOBs.) (Source: Bloomberg Business)
Why Are Women Not Getting Awarded More Government Contracts?
There are a number of problems that contribute to the discrimination against women in awarding government contracts. One of the problems is that there are no incentives for awarding contracts to women and there are no penalties when the government fails to comply with the law.
According to survey results, the Government Accounting Office, reported, "Government contracting officials at all levels told us that they were generally overwhelmed by the number and complexity of the requirements of small business contracting programs and their related goals. These officials believe that the programs tend to crowd out woman-owned small businesses."
Is the Small Business Administration Doing Anything to Help Further Positive Change for WOBs?
Yes! The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced many new and exciting changes for WOBs. The new National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 enabled the SBA to make changes to its Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program to help women-owned small businesses get more federal contracts and help the federal government meet and exceed its statutory five percent women’s contracting goal.
The SBA reports that:
"Prior to the new law, the anticipated award price of a contract for women-owned (WOSB) and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSB) could not exceed $6.5 million for manufacturing contracts and $4 million for all other contracts. The new law removes these thresholds for WOSBs and EDWOSBs allowing them greater access to federal contracting opportunities without limitations or restrictions to the value of a contract."
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, which took effect on May 7, 2013, also required the SBA to conduct another study to identify and report industries underrepresented by women-owned small businesses. It is hoped that those study results will show how more eligible women-owned businesses may be able to participate in SBA’s Women’s Federal Contract Program and compete for and win federal contracts.
Who is Eligibile?
Eligibility requirements may change from time to time so be sure you check the SBA's website for the most recent udpates. However, as of October 2015, to be eligible, a firm:
- Must be at least 51% owned and controlled by one or more women, and
- Primarily managed by one or more women.
Additionally, the women must be U.S. citizens. The SBA also requires that the firm must be small in its primary industry in accordance with SBA’s size standards for that industry. In order for a WOSB to be deemed “economically disadvantaged,” its owners must demonstrate economic disadvantage in accordance with the requirements set forth in the final rule.
More Information About the WOSB Program
Doesn’t the Women-Owned Business (WOB) Contracting Program Discriminate Against Men?
No. The program does not discriminate against men, it simply assists women in being more competitive and visible within the central contracting registry.
The WOB Contracting Program does not require women to be favored over men, but allows contracting officers to use their own discretion for "restricted competition" to increase contracting opportunities for women-owned businesses (WOBs). This may sound like a fair approach to some, and an inequitable approach to others, but the programs were put in place because qualified women business owners were being passed over for less qualified male-owned businesses. The fact that the goal was only 5% of all government contracts is in itself telling of just how male-dominated the government contracting industry has been.