The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) just announced that the federal government has met the 5% government-wide prime contracting goal for spend with women-owned small businesses (WOSBs), defined as those that are at least 51 percent controlled by women, for the first time in fiscal year 2015. Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the SBA, along with Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Ranking Member of the House Small Business Committee, will share the news at the National Press Club this afternoon. Amanda Brown, Executive Director of the National Women’s Business Council, will be on the stage as well.

“In Fiscal Year 2001, only 2.50% of the federal government’s annual spend went to women-owned small businesses; we have come a very long way in the last fifteen years,” said Amanda Brown, Executive Director of the National Women’s Business Council. “It’s projected to be more than $17 billion dollars that went to women-owned small businesses in Fiscal Year 2015. The government has been inching towards this goal, and we’re so excited by what this milestone means for the women that have successfully secured contracts, and for the many more women that will be inspired and encouraged by this news.”

As long time champions of women’s access to federal government contracting opportunities, the National Women’s Business Council is thrilled — and commends the federal government for finally achieving this important goal. This is the first time that the 5% WOSB procurement goal has been meet since the goal was originally set in 1994. In 2000, the Equity for Contracting for Women Act provided the backbone of the WOSB Federal Contracting Program, reiterating the 5% goal. The WOSB Federal Contracting Program was implemented in 2011, which allowed agencies to set aside specific contracts for bidding only by companies owned by women.

WOSB 5%  Goal

Fiscal Year   % Goal Met

FY 2010              4.04%

FY 2011              3.98%

FY 2012              4.00%

FY 2013              4.32%

FY 2014              4.68%

For too many years, the federal government has fallen short of its minimal procurement goal, and that’s been a huge loss for the government and women-owned small businesses in terms of number of awards and the size of those awards. The U.S. Department of Commerce has analyzed the industries eligible for the WOSB set-aside program and reported that businesses owned by women are 21 percent less likely to win government contracts than otherwise similar companies. The federal government is the largest buyer of goods and services; this level of women’s access is government contracting opportunities is long overdue.

The National Women’s Business Council commends those agencies that met the goal for the first time in FY2015, as well as the agencies that have consistently met the goal throughout the years. The National Women’s Business Council recognizes the U.S. Small Business Administration’s commitment to achieving the 5% goal – and is excited by the increased efforts in recent years by the different agencies to contract with women business owners and by the legislation efforts to make contracts more accessible to women business owners. It is the Council’s hope that the goal is not only consistently met, but is consistently surpassed in the years ahead.

“This is a huge accomplishment for the U.S. Small Business Administration, and all of the agencies that have worked to increase their spend to women-owned small business years,” said Carla Harris, presidentially-appointed Chair of the National Women’s Business Council. “The federal marketplace is a tremendous opportunity for women – and we will continue to champion their access and participation, removing barriers to open more doors. Now that we know the 5% is possible, we have a challenge to maintain, and dare we say, increase the goal.”

The National Women’s Business Council is optimistic about the impact that the newly implemented sole source authority for the WOSB Federal Contracting Program will have in the future. The first sole source contract was awarded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to AttainIt, a certified economically-disadvantaged, woman-owned small business (EDWOSB), small disadvantaged business, and certified HUBZone firm, earlier this year. The National Women’s Business Council is eager to see the full results of the recent analysis of the NAICS codes eligible for the WOSB set-aside as well; an increase in the number of industries means more doors open to women that are seeking contracting opportunities with the government. The National Women’s Business Council will continue to advise the SBA on their efforts to issue and implement new certification guidelines, as well as other efforts to modernize & improve the WOSB Federal Contracting Program.

As a diverse council of women business owners and members of women’s business organizations, the National Women’s Business Council is uniquely positioned to provide independent and non-partisan counsel based on rigorous research of issues regarding women’s entrepreneurship and economic participation.