Mentor-Protégé Programs exist in many federal agencies to help small businesses gain technical and business skills from large
prime contractors, and to build networks and experience that will help them compete and succeed in the federal contracting
landscape. Started by the Department of Defense in 1991, there are now many versions of Mentor-Protégé Programs that share
similar objectives but have different programmatic and incentive structures. The National Women’s Business Council conducted a
research initiative to learn how well Mentor-Protégé Programs are serving women-owned businesses and how they might be
strengthened to help women-owned businesses become an even greater engine driving economic recovery.
NWBC’s study focused on Mentor-Protégé Programs in six agencies: the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, National Aeronautics and Space Agency, and the Small Business Administration. The project involved extensive literature research, a questionnaire sent to 130 women-owned business protégés, and follow-up interviews with protégé CEOs and Agency program staff.