The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held its third public meeting of Fiscal Year 2019 on September 24, 2019, at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC.
NWBC Executive Director Nina Roque welcomed Council Members and the public to the meeting. She then outlined her role as the Designated Federal Officer of the Council and detailed the ways in which the proceedings would accommodate the rules and regulations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
Therese Meers, Counsel for Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD) on the Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee, then provided a brief overview of the Senator’s legislative priorities this Congress. She shared her personal story as a former small business owner and highlighted the programs and resources, including trainings at her local women’s business center, that helped her along the way.
Aneta Erdie, a representative from the U.S. Census Bureau, presented recently released 2018 Annual Business Survey results as they related to women-owned employer firms. As of 2017, there are 1.1 million women-owned employer firms in the United States – an increase of 100,000 from 2012. Erdie also provided an update on the Bureau’s pending project to develop statistics for non-employer firms.
Following the remarks from these key stakeholders, NWBC Chair Liz Sara provided a recap of the Council’s latest initiatives, including the ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the release of the ‘Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship: Challenges and Opportunities’ research report, and efforts to increase external engagement with the community. She declared, “Together, this new Council set out to engage with more women business owners than ever before; To reach out and listen to key stakeholders from across the country in locations that this Council has never visited before; To connect and collaborate with the Administration, especially the Small Business Administration and both Republican and Democrat members of Congress.”
Chair Sara then outlined the focus areas for each of the Council’s three Subcommittees and invited the leading Members to present their policy recommendations to the full body for approval. Council Member Rebecca Contreras spoke for the Access to Capital and Opportunity Subcommittee, Council Member Jess Flynn presented on behalf of the Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship Subcommittee, and Council Member Monica Stynchula spoke for the Women in STEM Subcommittee.
Contreras shared her subcommittee’s desired changes to the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWSOB) Certification process. These reforms pertain to outreach efforts, criteria, and timelines for agency determinations. She then outlined a proposal for a Federal Angel Investment Tax Credit and expressed support for the Women and Minority Equity Investment Act, which would allow women-owned firms to accept venture capital and equity investments constituting more than 50 percent of the ownership of a firm and still maintain ownership and control of the business for purposes of WOSB or 8(a) contracting program certifications, so long as the venture capital or equity firm is also woman-owned.
Stynchula began her presentation with highlights from the STEM-focused roundtables in St. Petersburg, FL and Baltimore, MD. She then shared her subcommittee’s interest in the application process for SBIR/STTR grants and urged more federal agencies to consider the value of an initial pitch phase for potential applicants to receive feedback. She also encouraged more comprehensive partnerships with HBCUs to increase overall participation in these valuable programs. Stynchula identified further areas of study for the U.S. Patenting and Trademark Office involving challenges for female innovators and expressed support for the Building Blocks of STEM Act, which pertains to the usage of National Science Foundation grants for underrepresented populations.
Flynn then shared her subcommittee’s recommendations to improve the Women’s Business Center program, including national market scans for the purpose of identifying new grant opportunities and the allocation of supplementary grant money for accessible, offsite trainings in underserved rural communities. She also encouraged improved data sharing between the SBA and the AWBC. Additionally, Flynn noted their desire to see the SBA and USDA develop an online playbook of case studies on rural entrepreneurial development. Finally, she expressed the subcommittee’s commitment to explore challenges surrounding rural broadband access during the next fiscal year.
Stay tuned for the complete list of policy recommendations in the Council’s 2019 Annual Report to Congress, the White House, and the SBA. NWBC appreciates all who made this meeting possible. Thank you to everyone on the call and in person who joined the conversation. We look forward to reviewing your feedback and continuing our advocacy on behalf of the nation’s female founders.
To provide any additional comments or feedback, please email Ashley Judah at Ashley.Judah@Sba.gov.