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Are there any new federal government contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses on the horizon?

May 17, 2010

Let's first consider what it means to be a woman-owned small business in a government contracting context.  The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), specifically FAR subpart 2.1, defines terms used in government contracting, and defines a “women-owned small business concern” as one:

  1. That is at least 51 percent owned by one or more women; or, in the case of any publicly owned business, at least 51 percent of the stock of which is owned by one or more women; and
  2. Whose management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more women.


For government contracting purposes, identifying where the control of the firm rests is crucial.  In determining control, several aspects of management are considered, including whether the woman is the highest officer, whether she is working full-time in the business, and whether she has the experience to manage it.


Women-owned firms may self-certify their status in the Central Contractor Registration and the Online Representations and Certifications (ORCA) database.  The Wyoming Entrepreneur PTAC can help you with this!

Are there any benefits for women-owned small businesses?  The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) of 1994 established a government-wide goal that not less than 5% of the total value of all prime and subcontract awards should go to women-owned small businesses.  However, this goal has never been met, perhaps because contracting officers haven’t had tools to “set aside” contracts for women-owned firms, which would limit the competitive pool and ensure that the award goes to a women-owned firm.  Congress passed the Equity in Contracting for Women Act of 2000 to create a framework for this program, and the SBA has been working to implement it ever since.


What's new with this program?  On March 2, 2010, the SBA issued a press release about a proposed rule to expand federal contracting opportunities for women.  The SBA accepted comments for 60 days, and once it considers them, it is expected to publish a final rule.  If and when that happens, contracting officers may begin setting aside contract opportunities for women-owned small businesses.  They will still be able to self-certify their status, but they will also need to submit supporting documentation to a new, not-yet-established online repository. 

If your firm is women-owned, there couldn’t be a better time to get started in government contracting.  If it's not woman-owned, don't even think about "putting it in your wife's name" to gain contracting advantages - that's fraud. 


Want to learn more?  The SBA has a great online training course Winning Federal Contracts: a Guide for Women Entrepreneurs, and the Wyoming Entrepreneur PTAC provides free assistance with government contracting.  We can help your firm get started, too!


Amy Lea


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