Public Meeting – September 13, 2023
The National Women’s Business Council held an in-person public meeting on September 13th from 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM EDT in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. National Arboretum in the Administration Building Auditorium. The meeting provided Council Members the opportunity to recap engagements from the past year and deliberate policy recommendations before a public audience. SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman opened the meeting by answering the Council’s questions, and the Council closed the meeting by answering questions from the public.
Public Meeting Recap
Executive Director Tené Dolphin
- Tené Dolphin, Executive Director and Designated Federal Officer (DFO) of the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), welcomed guests and called the meeting to order at 1:30 PM ET.
- She shared that the goal of the meeting was for Council Members to deliberate and vote upon the policy recommendations created by the Council’s three subcommittees: Access to Capital and Opportunity, Women in STEM, and Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.
- Executive Director Dolphin uplifted the engagement opportunities and collaborations that led to the creation of these recommendations.
- She then took roll, before opening the floor to remarks from representatives of the National Arboretum, and the Friends of the National Arboretum. The following Council Members were present:
- Samantha Abrams
- Brandy R. Butler
- Karen Clark Cole
- Selena Rodgers Dickerson
- Jaime Gloshay
- Jenny Poon
- Pamela Prince-Eason
- Katica Roy
- Leslie Lynn Smith
- Executive Director Dolphin concluded her remarks by noting the presence of special guest SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, and ceded the floor for her introduction by Council Member Karen Clark Cole.
INTRODUCTION OF SBA ADMINISTRATOR
Council Member Karen Clark Cole
- Council Member Karen Clark Cole introduced Isabella Casillas Guzman, 27th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
SPECIAL GUEST REMARKS
SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman
- SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman gave a brief welcome before introducing Christina Hale, the newly appointed Assistant Administrator of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO). She then introduced the Council’s newly appointed Chair Sima Ladjevardian.
Chair Sima Ladjevardian
- Sima Ladjevardian, Chair of NWBC, presented her vision for the Council and reiterated the value of the Council’s work in advancing women’s business enterprise before returning the floor to the Administrator.
- Key points in her remarks included:
- Women, especially women of color, have been a driving force behind our nation’s post pandemic economic recovery, leading in new business ownership, returning to the workforce in record numbers, and opening doors for other women to follow in their footsteps.
- Her own journey to business ownership as a women of color and an immigrant has not been an easy one, but through her service on the Council, she believes it is a privilege to work to make the entrepreneurial journey a little easier for the next Sima who tries to walk this path.
- For the American dream of business ownership to be a reality for any woman who seeks to achieve it, women entrepreneurs must be empowered with the resources, access, opportunities, and connections needed to start and grow their businesses, especially those who have historically been excluded from the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
SPECIAL GUEST REMARKS (CONTINUED)
SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman
- Administrator Guzman continued her remarks, touching on the following points:
- There are a growing number of reasons why women need to be uplifted through the work being done across the federal government.
- It is a pleasure to advance the President’s vision of building back better and growing the economy from the middle out and bottom up through her work.
- She is interested in aligning the recommendations and efforts being pursued across each of NWBC’s subcommittees with the work being done by SBA.
- Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. This year there were 13.1 million new business applications, and it has been a priority of the President since his first day in office to elevate America’s small businesses.
- Access to resources and capital are critical to support women business owners. That is why she is proud of SBA’s work to expand the women’s business center (WBC) program to 160 centers across the country, focusing on historically Black colleges and universities and minority serving institutions in particular. She is also proud of the bolstering of SBA’s Ascent learning platform.
- Shifting focus to what SBA is known for (capital), the Administration is dedicated to expanding access to capital and opportunity by ensuring more women are positioned to compete for federal contracting opportunities, expanding supply chains, and supporting the clean energy economy.
- Access to capital is critical as it drives economic growth. Therefore, SBA is working on expanding access to capital by simplifying lending and underwriting requirements through rulemaking. SBA is also broadening the reach of its lending platforms through the expansion of the small business lending company (SBLC) program and establishing permanence for the Community Advantage program. Finally, SBA is working to increase representation on both sides of the lending table through the creation of a new type of small business investment company (SBIC): the accrual debenture SBIC.
- SBA is also dedicated to increasing opportunities for women in STEM through America’s Seed Fund and the programs that fall under it. Likewise, SBA is interested in creating more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems in support of the Invest in America initiative, through the WBC program, and by ensuring business owners have the knowledge and technical assistance needed to seize opportunities presented to them.
TRANSITION TO Q&A PORTION
Executive Director Tené Dolphin
- Executive Director Dolphin thanked the Administrator for her remarks and opened the floor for Council Members to ask the Administrator questions.
SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman and NWBC Council Members
- Question 1 – Council Member Jenny Poon asked Administrator Guzman, “In 2023, we have celebrated 70 years of the Small Business Administration and will celebrate 35 years of NWBC. What have we as a nation learned from the past when it comes to supporting women business owners and what must we consider for the future?”
- The Administrator responded that in the early rounds of COVID-19 relief, women were left out as a result of institutional barriers to inclusion. Those who knew the ins and outs and had existing relationships with larger lending firms had an advantage in receiving funding. Women got left behind and must have the networks needed to support building relationships and learning the tricks to accessing capital. Women were often hesitant to take on debt, which is a challenge worth unpacking. She also raised women’s resilience, where they are willing to take ten no’s before getting to a yes. Women’s business growth has been increasing but has also been limited. If there is a hope of seeing the small business boom continue, it comes down to increasing access to capital markets.
- Question 2 – Council Member Brandy R. Butler asked Administrator Guzman, “There has been some major rulemaking and administration-level changes to programs related to access to capital this year, including the permanency of the Community Advantage program and the expansion of the SBLC and SBIC programs as two examples. What do these changes mean for women business owners and what other changes do you see as needed to ensure women have adequate and equal access to capital?”
- The Administrator responded that when the agency had to expand during the COVID-19 pandemic, two best practices were loan forgiveness and expanding the lending distribution network by relying on different lenders and providers. From this, the Administration has worked to meet business owners where they are when it comes to lending, to simplify requirements and underwriting, to broaden the distribution network, and to better leverage technology. This includes through greater use of community development financial institutions (CDFIs), expanding the SBLC program, and altering the SBIC program to ensure lenders look like the business owners they engage with.
- Question 3 – Council Member Leslie Lynn Smith asked Administrator Guzman, “The Biden Administration has invested billions of dollars in the rollout of programs supported under CHIPS and Science Act (CHIPs Act), the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the Bipartisan Infrastructure law (BIL), and the Justice40 Initiative, just to name a few. How are women business owners being connected to new opportunities created thanks to these investments? Where are we already seeing wins and lessons learned?”
- The Administrator responded that this year, over $28 billion dollars went to women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) through the WOSB federal contracting program. Recent investments such as through the CHIPs Act, the IRA, and the BIL show the power of the federal purse to level the contracting playing field. The BIL has created contracting opportunities for WOSBs and SBA is continuing to work to get WOSBs contract and capital ready and increase the representation of women in infrastructure industries. She emphasized the point about getting businesses contract and capital ready when discussing how America’s manufacturing field, which is mostly made up of small businesses, can be prepared for opportunities related to supply chain resilience under the CHIPs Act. Finally, for the IRA, SBA is invested in supporting disaster assistance and strengthening the clean energy economy, both of which will involve connecting to business owners through resource partners and technical assistance providers.
- Question 4 – Council Member Katica Roy asked Administrator Guzman, “During your time at SBA, you have worked to expand the NAICs codes eligible for the WOSB contracting program. SBA’s Office of Government Contracting and Business Development has also renewed its connection to resource partners and the acquisition community and has served as a leader for this program. And while the dollar amounts going to WOSBs has gone up, the goal for five percent of federal contracting dollars to be awarded to women business owners has only been met twice. What do you think it will take for the federal government to meet the goal and do you think one day we can set our sights on a 50% goal?”
- The Administrator responded that she was gratified to have served in the Obama Administration in SBA when the five percent federal contracting goal was hit for the first time. She has seen that less businesses are interested in engaging in federal contracting. However, women are a part of the President’s equity in procurement strategy. This strategy has involved giving new guidance to procurement offices, making alterations to Tier 2 category management, tackling contract bundling, and working to simplify certification. For example, the VetCert program is the gold standard and as SBA works to develop the mySBA program to streamline the certification process, this as well as the measures above will go a long way in creating more contracting opportunities for women.
- Question 5 – Chair Sima Ladjevardian asked Administrator Guzman, “Many of SBA’s recent Administrators have been women, and specifically women of color. Why do you believe women might be uniquely suited to lead this agency? What legacy are you interested in leaving for any women interested in one day filling your shoes?”
- The Administrator responded that she is proud to be a part of the most diverse Presidential cabinet in history and is proud to see women in leadership roles across SBA. Having come through SBA herself, being able to see the agency roll out programs in an equity-driven fashion has been a priority. Women are already known for being excellent collaborators, something she has seen throughout her work at SBA. She is hopeful that through her work, she has made it easier for the next Isabella or the next Sima to follow in her footsteps.
TRANSITION TO POLICY PORTION
Executive Director Tené Dolphin
- Executive Director Dolphin thanked Administrator Guzman once again.
- She then shared that the format of the Council’s policy recommendations may look somewhat different this year to ensure alignment with best practices from across the entrepreneurial stakeholder spectrum. The actual recommendations themselves will be slightly more high-level and objective/outcome-driven than they have in the past. However, when the Council’s Annual Report is published this December, each recommendation will be accompanied by a selection of policy levers, any one of which can be utilized to ensure the implementation of the recommendation presented.
- She then used the opportunity to thank the Council for their diligence, adaptability, and compassion throughout this past year and handed the meeting over to Council Member Pamela Prince-Eason, President & CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.
ACCESS TO CAPITAL AND OPPORTUNITY
Council Member Pamela Prince-Eason
- As a member of the Access to Capital and Opportunity Subcommittee, Council Member Pamela Prince-Eason presented the following policy recommendations on behalf of the subcommittee to the full Council for vote.
- Focus Area 1: Equitable Access to Diverse Sources of Business Financing
- Recommendation 1: Expand capital pathways for more BIPOC women business owners and increase support for community-based incubators, accelerators and resource partners.
- Recommendation 2: Protect women entrepreneurs from predatory lenders and raise awareness about unfair financing terms.
- Focus Area 2: Increasing Federal Contracting Opportunities and Awards for WOSBs
- Recommendation 1: Adequately resource and empower SBA’s WOSB Certification Program and OSDBU offices across the federal government to meet and exceed WOSB program goals.
- Recommendation 2: Identify and highlight winning agencies, successful OSDBUs, and best practices.
- The vote for these recommendations was unanimous. Council Member Prince-Eason then gave the podium to Council Member Selena Rodgers Dickerson, founder of SARCOR, LLC and Selene, LLC.
WOMEN IN STEM
Council Member Selena Rodgers Dickerson
- Council Member Selena Rodgers Dickerson presented the following policy recommendations on behalf of the subcommittee to the full Council for vote.
- Focus Area 1: The Future is Female – Women Entrepreneurs & High Growth Industries
- Recommendation 1: Ensure equitable advancement through women’s STEM entrepreneurial education, investment and outreach.
- Recommendation 2: Foster equitable opportunity for women entrepreneurs to lead 21st century industries by leveraging ongoing community development investments.
- Focus Area 2: (Best) Practice(s) Make Perfect – Apprenticeships, Grants, and the STEM Pipeline
- Recommendation 1: Bolster workforce (re)entry and development efforts to get and keep more women in the STEM entrepreneurial pipeline.
- Recommendation 2: Improve the incubator and accelerator system to help women advance more successfully through the STEM entrepreneurial pipeline.
- Focus Area 3: A Bright Idea – Promoting and Protecting Women’s STEM Innovation
- Recommendation 1: Maintain a viable pathway to commercialization for women innovators.
- Recommendation 2: Connect women innovators with the resources and information needed to claim ownership of and develop upon their innovations.
INCLUSIVE ENTREPRENEURIAL ECOSYSTEMS
Council Member Samantha Abrams
- As a member of the Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystems Subcommittee, Council Member Samantha Abrams presented the following policy recommendations on behalf of the subcommittee to the full Council for vote.
- Focus Area 1: Bridging Service Gaps in Underserved Communities – Improving Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) Options, Addressing Lack of Reliable Care Economy Services, and Connecting to High-speed, Affordable Broadband
- Recommendation 1: Champion state PFML efforts and a bipartisan national solution.
- Recommendation 2: Ensure accessible, reliable, and affordable child- and long-term-care services for women entrepreneurs in rural and underserved communities.
- Recommendation 3: Bridge the women-owned small business digital divide by improving broadband access, speed, and affordability for more underserved women entrepreneurs.
- Focus Area 2: Positioning More Women-Owned Small Businesses to Compete – Improving Underserved Women Entrepreneurs’ Financial Acumen, Access to Back Office Support, and a Skilled Workforce
- Recommendation 1: Connect women entrepreneurs to accessible wrap-around services, back-office resources, and affordable professional support.
- Recommendation 2: Provide dedicated support for women-owned small businesses and ecosystem builders offering onsite assistance to diverse women entrepreneurs.
- Focus Area 3: Strengthening Federal Coordination Efforts at the Ground Level – Connecting Tailored Federal Resources to Local Governance Entities and Trusted Community Partners
- Recommendation 1: Reestablish and authorize the Interagency Committee on Women’s Business Enterprise.
- Recommendation 2: Enhance coordination of local, state, and federal entrepreneurial development and funding resources.
- The vote for these recommendations was unanimous. Council Member Abrams then passed the mic to Council Member Jaime Gloshay, co-director and co-founder of Native Women Lead, for the public comments portion of the meeting.
Council Member Jaime Gloshay
- Council Member Jaime Gloshay led the public comments portion of the meeting. She directed the Council to respond to the following questions and comments, which have been roughly paraphrased:
- Dottie Li: What is the Council’s role in supporting 8(a) certified business owners in light of the recent court ruling?
- Council Member Prince-Eason: We were also surprised by the ruling. Each Council Member understands that 8(a) certified business owners should not have to relive the trauma of being discriminated against all over again in submitting their social disadvantage narrative. We hear you and it is something we are looking into.
- Mariana Martinez: As the Council discusses PFML, I am new to government working for the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, and am excited to see the energy around PFML, because strong women-owned businesses lead to strong women-led workforces.
- Executive Director Dolphin: This is exciting to hear. We have previously discussed this issue with the Department of Labor, the National Association of Women’s Business Owners (NAWBO) and through a previous roundtable. When it comes to connecting women business owners with PFML, the Council believes more education can be done so that women business owners can be aware of the benefits of PFML policies and what their options might look like.
- Shenita-Ann Grymes: I appreciate the Council’s efforts. We really need to be investing in women, and I look forward to staying connected with the Council’s work in the future.
Executive Director Tené Dolphin
- Executive Director Dolphin thanked attendees, the Administrator, and the U.S. National Arboretum for supporting the meeting. She encouraged attendees to stay connected to the Council’s work such as research, events, and the upcoming Annual Report by following the Council online before adjourning the meeting at 3:08 PM.