At Last: Progress for Women-Owned Federal Suppliers

md-withnameI am excited to announce that Congress is now poised to vote to improve the WOSB/EDWOSB Set-Aside Program by:

  1. Protecting women-owned firms from competing against ineligible firms
  2. Adding Sole Source Authority
  3. Re-Assessing the industries included in the program more frequently (hopefully opening more industries to the program)

The U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce recognizes that the actions of our members and supporters in Congress have set the stage for real progress for women-owned businesses.

The U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, our members, our attorneys at Covington & Burling, LLP (who provided pro bono services for our successful claim against the SBA) and our supporters in Congress have been working for more than a decade to assure women-owned firms receive fair access to federal contracts.  It hasn't been easy -- and the fight is far from over.  But, for today -- for the latest fight. . . we finally see progress.

I want to also extend my personal thanks to Congresswomen Nydia Velazquez, Ranking Member of the House Small Business Committee for being the champion for women in business in the U.S. Congress.  Congresswoman Velazquez authored the original legislation that established the WOSB/EDWOSB set-side program, fought tirelessly - and against great odds - to get the regulations for the program written and implemented, authored an amicus brief (co-signed by over 70 Members of Congress) in support of the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce successful claim against the SBA for failure to implement the WOSB/EDWOSB program, brought improvements to the program, authored legislation to lift the caps and finally authored HR 2452 (well before the Senate began action) to add Sole-Source Authority and bring greater accountability to the WOSB/EDWOSB program to assure true women-owned firms are securing the set-asides.You can send your thanks to Congresswoman Velazquez here.

We've seen mighty forces work against us -- including the Small Business Administration who first fought implementation of the program (during the George W. Bush administration) -- and then fought against taking on the much needed discipline to assure women-owned firms are not competing against firms falsely claiming to be women-owned to secure WOSB/EDWOSB set-asides. We understand: The SBA is driven to produce strong women-owned goaling results -- which is easily achieved when there is less scrutiny in the system for the firms awarded set-aside contracts; providing oversight requires the SBA to allocate the appropriate resources to the program -- something that, to date, has not been done.

Over the past year, the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce notified the public, Congress and the SBA of the SBA's failure to provide proper oversight and the alarmingly high number of ineligible firms securing set-asides intended for WOSB/EDWOSB firms. The SBA told us and told Congress there were no problems -- but a recently released Government Accountability Office report found differently. The GAO found SBA's gross lack of oversight resulted in millions of dollars going to ineligible firms.

We remain hopeful that the earnest, new leadership of SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet coupled with the GAO report and this new legislation will begin to "right the ship" and deliver billions of dollars in contracts to women-owned firms.

We thank Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, we thank you -- our USWCC members -- for your continued outreach and support to Congress and the media - and we thank the Members of Congress who have stepped up to support women.

It is interesting to note, the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce established I Vote for Women this election season and included the commitment of candidates to support the passage of HR 2452 as part of the Women's Economic Priorities survey for candidate ratings and endorsements. Through this process, dozens of women candidates pledged their supported for HR 2452 -- and, now we see the components of this legislation about to become law. Working together, remaining independent of external political and financial influencers who would curb our independent voice, focusing our efforts and working strategically to let candidates and Congress know where we stand has made a real difference for women.

The U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce -- your chamber of commerce, will continue to do what's right for women in business.  We look forward to working with you over the coming months to improve access to contracts for true women-owned firms.

Margot Dorfman, CEO
U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce®

When we focus our power, we shape our world.

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