The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held its second public meeting of Fiscal Year 2019 on May 17, 2019. This meeting was hosted by Council member, Dr. Marsha Firestone, at the Women Presidents’ Organization Headquarters in New York, NY.
Nina Roque, NWBC Executive Director, officially welcomed the newly-installed Council members and the public to the meeting. Roque also outlined her role as the Designated Federal Officer of the Council and encouraged the public to provide comments and feedback on the Council’s work.
NWBC Chair Liz Sara then provided an update on the Council’s Fiscal Year 2019 events and engagement, including a recap of the Council’s October 25th public meeting in celebration of its 30th Anniversary. Chair Sara also outlined the Council’s three priorities for the year: Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship, Women in S.T.E.M., and Access to Capital & Opportunity. “Let’s face it: women entrepreneurs confront numerous challenges in starting and growing companies,” said Chair Liz Sara. “By concentrating our focus, energy and talent to only three areas, we have a greater chance at accomplishing needed change and making a noticeable difference. As an entrepreneur all my career, I’m interested in getting things done so we can see results that matter,” she added. She then officially announced the Council’s ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series’, which will convene women business owners from across the country and serve as a springboard for the Council’s policy recommendations.
Chair Sara then introduced the three subcommittee Chairs — Marygrace Sexton (Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship), Shelonda Stokes (Women in S.T.E.M), and Rebecca Contreras (Access to Capital & Opportunity) — and invited each Chair to provide an update on their subcommittee’s identified focus areas and upcoming initiatives. Council member Jessica Flynn presented on behalf of Ms. Sexton.
Access to capital continues to be one of the biggest barriers for women entrepreneurs. Women-led firms struggle to obtain mainstream forms of funding and compete for federal contracts. NWBC looks forward to tackling the potential benefits of alternative financing solutions, such as crowdfunding, and better tailored training for the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) federal procurement program. Last Tuesday, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced formal rulemaking to implement their statutory requirement to certify WOSB and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business Concerns (EDWOSB) participating in the WOSB program. NWBC plans to study and review SBA’s rule from now until July 8, 2019, when we will be taking the issue up to a full Council vote. We are requesting that the public provide feedback to NWBC by this date, so the Council can consider those comments when reaching a consensus on NWBC’s official recommendation to SBA.
The Council will also be engaging S.T.E.M stakeholders in discussions about the state of female participation in their fields of study. NWBC is committed to increasing opportunities and resources for women-owned and women-led businesses. This new Council is particularly interested in encouraging women-led businesses with high-growth aspirations and potential. Through the ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the Council looks forward to focusing on S.T.E.M Entrepreneurship and the impact that women have in these fields. NWBC will be hosting a S.T.E.M. Entrepreneurship Roundtable in Baltimore, Maryland, at the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s Annual Conference on June 25, 2019. With three Council members located in the area, this roundtable is sure to provide vibrant conversation and feedback surrounding the opportunities and challenges that women face in S.T.E.M.
The Council also hopes to gain further insight on the unique challenges faced by rural women entrepreneurs and identify untapped opportunities for growth. The Council’s ‘Rural Women Entrepreneurs: Challenges and Opportunities’ Report lays the foundation for sound policy and better tailored economic empowerment initiatives in these regions. The Council intends to update and modernize their ‘Grow Her Business’ resources page housed on the NWBC website to reflect new tools available for women entrepreneurs with a specific focus on those in rural regions. A key partner of the Council’s in increasing awareness of available resources is the Women’s Business Center network.
NWBC appreciates all who participated and made this meeting possible. Thank you to everyone on the call and in person, who was able to join in on the conversation. We look forward to reviewing your comments and continuing our advocacy on behalf of the estimated 12 million women-owned businesses in this country.
To provide any additional comments or feedback, or to participate in NWBC’s ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ please email Ashley Judah at Ashley.Judah@Sba.gov.
On October 25, 2018, the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) celebrated the 30th anniversary of the passage of H.R. 5050, the Women’s Business Ownership Act. Following just 103 days from introduction to passage, President Ronald Reagan signed H.R. 5050 into law on October 25, 1988. This unprecedented piece of legislation eliminated all individual state laws requiring women to have a male relative or husband co-sign a business loan, established the NWBC, the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO), and the women’s business center program.
Congressman John LaFalce (D-NY), Chairman of the House Small Business Committee in 1987, recently reminisced on the passage of H.R.5050, “I was so pleased to learn recently that the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 is now referred to as ‘The Big Bang of Women’s Entrepreneurship in America.’ That’s exactly what I set out to do when I became Chairman of the Committee – to give the economy the biggest bang I possibly could, by tapping an untapped goldmine – women entrepreneurs.” Chairman LaFalce could not have been more right. Today, there are 10 million woman business owners in the United States, accounting for nearly 40% of all businesses.
NWBC is thankful to all of the attendees who came to celebrate and commemorate the passage of H.R. 5050. The program included a reflection of the past 30 years of women’s entrepreneurship, and an impactful discussion on the future of women’s entrepreneurship. The morning began with breakfast and coffee with The Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC). Opening remarks were made by NWBC Executive Director Nina Roque and Assistant Administrator of the SBA’s OWBO Kathleen McShane.
The highlight of the program featured a ‘Fireside Chat’ with NWBC Chair Liz Sara and SBA Administrator Linda McMahon. The Administrator provided insights into her experience as a once small business owner, who spearheaded the expansion and growth of her company, before deciding to join the public sector. Administrator McMahon provided advice to audience members, “Know who your market is and what sets your product or service apart.” NWBC Chair Liza Sara, who is a small business founder herself, agreed, noting that “[women entrepreneurs] must think about what problem or what pain point in the market you are planning to solve.”
The passage of this legislation, and its resulting impact on women business owners, would not have been possible without the incredible and tenacious women who championed its passage. As the program went on, the audience heard from two of the trailblazers that were crucial to the passage of H.R. 5050: Virginia Littlejohn and Phyllis Hill Slater, both of whom served as Council members of the NWBC and have dedicated their careers to advocating for women entrepreneurs. Facilitated by Loreen Gilbert, Chair of The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO)’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Development, Littlejohn and Hill Slater shared their experience as delegates to the 1980 and 1986 White House Conferences on Small Business, participating in the congressional hearings, and then leading the charge for passage of H.R. 5050.
The final panel discussion ‘Blazing Trails for the Next 30 Years’, was moderated by current NWBC Council member and Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) board member, Rose Wang. Panel participants included Bonnie Nawara, President of AWBC and current NWBC Council member, Deloris Wilson, head of strategy and operations at BEACON: The D.C. Women Founders Initiative, Julia Westfall, CEO of Hera Hub D.C., and Kelly O’Malley, D.C. Chair of The Vinetta Project. The panel provided insights into programming and policies that allow local organizations to help develop thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems for the next generation of women entrepreneurs. Panelists emphasized the value and necessity of mentorship and collaboration.
Thanks to the passage of H.R. 5050, women in business have excelled, continually reaching new heights, and the next 30 years of women’s entrepreneurship is sure to be filled with momentous milestones for women founders. NWBC is committed to continuing to advocate for women in business and to providing a platform to expand and improve opportunities for women business owners and their enterprises.