As Ranking Member and former Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, one of my top priorities has always been to champion and promote the interests of our nation’s female entrepreneurs.  In fact, women-owned small businesses are the fastest growing segment of our economy, and these firms – now more than ever – will play a critical role in strengthening our economy.  As such, it is vital that the Federal government – one of the largest buyers of products and services in the world, purchasing over $500 billion annually – maximizes the participation of small businesses, including women-owned small businesses, in the Federal contracting process.

Regrettably, this is not occurring.  Fifteen years ago, Congress passed a five percent government-wide contracting goal for women-owned small businesses to ensure that they played a key role in the Federal contracting arena.  To date, that goal has never been met.  Indeed, the latest statistics showing the Federal contracting dollars awarded to small business through the Recovery Act tell an all too familiar story.  Every program except one – women-owned small firms – is exceeding its goaling requirement.  While service-disabled veteran-owned, HUBZone, and small disadvantaged businesses all have tools in place to help contracting officers award contracts to their businesses, women-owned firms do not.

We should not be facing this current predicament, however.  On December 21, 2000, a women’s contracting program (P.L. 106-554) was enacted into law to provide Federal agencies with critical tools that would aid them in meeting their women-owned small business goals.  Yet as of today – after three Congressional reports, numerous Congressional hearings, two proposed rules, one highly deficient final rule and nearly a decade – the necessary regulations to help women entrepreneurs remain unimplemented.  Year after year it seems my calls for leveling the playing field for women entrepreneurs have gone unanswered.

To bring this crucial issue back to the forefront, I recently sent a letter to Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Karen Mills urging the Obama Administration to quickly address this glaring inequity that exists for women-owned small businesses.  The Administration is missing a valuable opportunity to boost our nation’s economy by promoting women-owned small businesses, and it is my hope that they will act speedily in promulgating meaningful and effective regulations to once and for all put this program into place.

It is well past time we recognize the promise that women-owned small businesses hold for our future economic prosperity.  And to realize that potential, the SBA must swiftly develop a functioning procurement program that helps eliminate barriers and gives women-owned small businesses the critical tools they require to help grow our slumping economy.