Bringing parity to women contractors has been a central focus of the US Small Business Administration this month. With updates to legislation and events specifically targeting women-owned businesses, the agency is helping this group increase its ability to access the federal market.
Why is this focus important? It’s important because a recent Government Accountability Office report shows that relatively few women-owned business were landing government contracts despite the existence of supportive programming since 2000.
Leveling The Playing Field
As part of National Small Business Week, Sean Crean, director of SBA’s Office of Government Contracting advised a group of women-business owners on making themselves know to the federal government. “Set-asides are nothing more than leveling the playing field,” Crean said, noting that the number of North American Industry Classification System codes for which women-owned contractors are eligible grew from four to 83 beginning in February 2011. “The categories are limited because it’s a constitutional issue—you can’t make a special category for a particular gender,” he said, so the criteria for eligibility for set-asides is industries in which women-owned businesses have previously not been competitive.
Crean noted that women-owned businesses also have new opportunities to qualify for sole-source contracts, and recent versions of the National Defense Authorization Act as of May 2013 lifted the cap on the dollar value of contracts on which women-owned businesses can bid on under the set-aside program. Though companies may “self-certify” to qualify as women-owned small businesses, he added, contracting officers find it easier to consider them for awards if the companies invest in a third-party certification.
Legislative Changes & What They Mean For You
Only months after legislation was passed, regulations proposed on May 1, 2015 add sole source authority to the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program will help women entrepreneurs access the federal market.
Two critical changes to this critical entry point for women-owned businesses were necessary to bring parity between this and other small business contracting programs. Congress lifted the dollar caps on contract awards in 2013 and allowed for sole source contracts in 2014. While SBA already implemented the removal of the dollar caps, today’s proposed regulations address sole source authority. The regulation also expedites a disparity study by the SBA, which identifies underrepresented industries for participation in the WOSB procurement program.
Simply, this means that there are now more opportunities for women-owned business who want to enter the government market. Many government contract opportunities will now be set aside to be awarded to women-owned firms.
The Take Away!
The message is this – get certified as a women-owned business and get educated about entering this market. The opportunity just got bigger!