Women-owned biz bill slashes dollar limit on contracts

The Fairness in Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Act of 2012 was introduced this week by seven senators.

The Fairness in Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Act of 2012 was introduced on March 7 by seven senators in a bipartisan effort to eliminate dollar-amount restrictions on contracts that WOSBs can compete for.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), speaking to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said the purpose of the bill is to remove inequities that exist in the women-owned small business contracting program, when compared to other socio-economic programs.

Sen. Snowe co-sponored the bill with senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

The proposed legislation would remove contract-award limitations as well as provide tools women need to compete fairly in the federal contracting arena by allowing for non-competitive contracts, when circumstances allow, the Congressional Record said.

"Women-owned small businesses have yet to receive their fair share of the federal marketplace," said Sen. Snowe. "In fact, our government has never achieved its goal of five percent of contracts going to WOSBs, achieving only 4.04 percent in fiscal year 2010. Our bill would greatly assist federal agencies in achieving the small business goaling requirement for WOSBs," she added.

The proposed legislation has received letters of support from the National Association of Women Business Owners, Women Impacting Public Policy and the U.S. Black Chamber, Inc.

"Women make this country run as business owners, entrepreneurs, politicians, mothers and more, but women-owned small businesses have yet to receive their fair share of federal contracting dollars," Sen. Mikulski said.

In 2010, the Small Business Administration rolled out the WOSB Procurement Program, but the sponsoring senators and many women's groups say it doesn't go far enough.

The biggest complaint is that it still contains barriers that prevent women-owned businesses from fully developing.

“For 11 very long years, we urged the Congress and the federal agencies to put the WOSB program into place. Now that it has been implemented, our work has turned to improving the program and making it a vehicle for business growth for women business owners,” said Barbara Kasoff, president of WIPP, a national nonpartisan public-policy organization that advocates on behalf of nearly one million women-owned businesses.

“Women-owned small businesses are the fastest growing segment of our economy but they remain woefully underrepresented in small business contracting,” added. Sen. Bennet.

The senators proposed the bill to coincide with National Women’s History Month.

It also comes out on the heels of the House Small Business Committee clearing the way for six pro-contractors bills.