Women Owned Small Business Rule: Finally Official

It’s been a long time coming, but the SBA has announced the finalization of its Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) rule to expand federal contracting opportunities for women.

In a previous article written in March titled, “SBA Proposes New Rule to Expand Federal Contracting Opportunities for Women” I wrote about the WOSB rule, proposed in February 2010, but this final rule has been far, far longer in coming. Congress first authorized creation of a rule to increase federal contracting opportunities for WOSBs in 2000.  Since then, the SBA has been analyzing the market and proposing various draft rules. During the Bush Administration, women’s business advocates were up in arms over a draft that identified only four industries where WOSBs were underrepresented in federal contracting. To get over some of the controversy, the Obama Administration used all prior studies, questions and public comments to draft a completely new rule.

The final rule identifies 83 industries in which WOSBs are underrepresented or substantially underrepresented in the federal contract marketplace. In addition to opening up more opportunities for WOSBs, the rule is also another tool to help achieve the statutory goal that 5 percent of federal contracting dollars go to women-owned small businesses.

The final rule removes a requirement included in a prior proposed version that federal agencies couldn’t participate in the program unless each agency certified it had discriminated against women-owned small businesses in the past.

It also established a $5 million contract ceiling for manufacturing businesses and a $3 million ceiling for other goods and services. (This amendment was part of the Fairness in Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Act of 2010, introduced by U.S. Senators Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), which I wrote about in more detail in an article titled, “New Act Introduced in Senate to Help Women Business Owners Get More Federal Contracts” in July.)

In announcing the final rule SBA Administrator Karen Mills said:

“Women-owned businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors of our nation’s economy, and even during the economic downturn of the last few years, have been one of the key job creation engines in communities across the country. Despite their growth and the fact that women lead some of the strongest and most innovative companies, women-owned firms continue to be under-represented in the federal contracting marketplace. This rule will be a platform for changing that by providing greater opportunities for women-owned small businesses to compete for and win federal contracts.”

What’s next? The SBA and the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council will begin a 120-day implementation of the WOSB contracting program, including building the technology and program infrastructure to support the certification process and ongoing oversight. The agency expects federal agencies’ contracting officers will be able to start making contracts available to WOSBs under the program in early 2011.

For more specifics of the final rule, read the SBA News Release (PDF) titled, “SBA Releases Final Woman-Owned Small Business Rule to Expand Access to Federal Contracting Opportunities.”

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

7 Reactions
  1. Women Owned Small Business Rules: Finally rules

    • Neal, my friend, I think you are reading more into the title of this than was intended. This post is literally about a new SBA Government Contracting Rule. Surely you know me well enough to know every person — male or female — has to stand on their own two feet, in my estimation. But it’s news, so we report it as news.

  2. Neal,

    Just couldn’t agree more. I am quite sick of this. My experience is people who look for unjust advantage instead of focusing on value proposition, talent development, and marketing never make it anyway. I would be very interested to know how many affirmative action businesses ever really make it. I’m willing to bet not many. Any successful owner, man or woman, will tell you the same.

  3. Fair enough Anita. I’ll back your word any day.


  4. My business is a majority woman-owned business and always has been, and we don’t need another program to institutionalize a new victim class by giving women-owned businesses a leg up simply because of biology.

    Neal and Bill are dead on. What we need is non-discrimination. There should be zero tolerance for discrimination of ANY kind against a women-owned business. But you do not solve the problem by creating an uneven playing field in the other direction and discriminating against men (or women) because of their anatomy.

    If we have to discriminate in order to solve discrimination than the world is upside down. Zero tolerance for discrimination and massive penalties for it – period. We only need one rule for that.

    By the way, I’m also a disabled veteran with a large minority position in this business. As a woman-owned disabled veteran business we should be jumping for joy at all the victim class opportunities in front of us. But I’m bald and left-handed and am holding out for when those become victim classes, too. All the scissors in the office are right-handed – it’s just not fair…

    We don’t play any of these cards. We’re not registered as disabled, veteran, woman-owned, bald, or left-handed. We’re registered as an S-Corp. May the best business get the business.

    And if I hear of anyone discriminating against a woman-owned business I will be the first to call the state and the feds – it’s unconscionable. As is any form of discrimination.

    Chuck Blakeman
    Live Well By Doing Good.

  5. I am a woman-owned business & I have lived in the states for 40 yrs. worked and payed taxes. Opened my office supply store after retirement. I decided I would look into getting on the CMBL and HUB on the govt. bidders list. I was quite excited aboout this prospect to grow my businessw. What a shock after reading all the material and getting to the application, which was at the back of all the information it states you must be a U.S. Citizen and Resident Aliens cannot apply.

    This is a real disappointment, when after all these years I have paid taxes, bought houses, cars, etc. and never was I told that you must be a U.DS. Citizen to do all these things.