Yesterday the leaders of women’s business organizations gathered for lunch in Washington, D.C., with representatives from federal agencies, congressional offices, and hundreds of women business owners to celebrate a milestone that was more than a decade in the making: the implementation of the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program.
While I won’t go into the 10-plus years of legal wrangling and advocacy it took to see the program finally implemented on Feb. 4 of this year, this program better positions women-owned businesses (WBOs) to meet the government’s goal, signed into law in 2000, of awarding 5 percent of all federal contracts to WBOs. To date, however, the most WBOs have been awarded is 3.6 percent. The total amount of contract dollars the federal government is estimated to award each year is $536 billion. Five percent of that would be $27 billion. While the percentage difference between 5 percent and 3.6 percent may not seem like a lot, when you calculate the dollar value that lies in the 1.4 percent gap, you’ll begin to get a clearer picture of how much money WBOs are missing out on as a result of the 5 percent goal not being met.
Federal contracts awarded to small businesses, and women-owned businesses in particular, create a win-win. Only 2.6 percent of WBOs ever reach the million dollar mark in annual revenues; however, 63 percent of WBOs holding prime contracts reach that level. Federal contracts provide WBOs with the opportunity to grow their businesses, and that very growth means job creation, expansion of capital equipment, and other goods and services, ultimately resulting in an expansion of the economy.
All of us in the room yesterday had reason to “take a victory lap,” as some of the speakers acknowledged. However, we all knew that our real work has just begun. As Joe Jordan, the Associate Administrator of Government Contracting and Business Development for the U.S. Small Business Administration, noted: “The goal is to get the goal [5%]. The program is a tool.” He implored women business leaders, women business owners, government representatives and other s to “continue to advocate, continue to agitate, continue to lend your voice. Your work is not over.”
Getting the program in place is just the beginning, even though it took 10-plus years. Now it’s time for WBOs to get out and visit government agencies, learn about the contracts, and to take advantage of the outreach underway to help you understand and benefit from the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program.
Click here for an overview of the program, eligibility requirements, and eligible industries.