February 7, 2008


Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) and Committee member Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) introduced today the Small Business Women’s Procurement Improvement Act, which would provide enhanced contracting opportunities to women-owned small businesses across the nation.  By reversing a long overdue proposed rule that the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued in December 2007, the legislation will ensure that the Agency properly implements the Women’s Procurement Program that Congress mandated in 2000.

“Regrettably, despite being given more than seven years, the SBA has failed to implement the Women’s Procurement Program that Congress enacted into law back in 2000,” said Senator Snowe.  “The rule proposed by the SBA in December is highly deficient and unlikely to have any practical effect in helping the Federal Government satisfy its 5 percent women’s contracting goal.  The legislation we are introducing today will make certain that women-owned small businesses can finally have a procurement program that makes a real difference, not just a 2 percent difference.”

According to the Central Contractor Registration, the proposed rule would benefit roughly 1,238 small businesses across the entire nation, or 2 percent of all women-owned small business contractors, and just two small firms in the state of Maine. 

“Businesses owned by women play a significant role in the overall economy,” said Senator Dole.  “This legislation rightly removes caps for contracts and puts the Women’s Procurement Program on equal footing with similar programs.  I am proud that this will provide more opportunities for current and future women-owned businesses.”

By making a congressional finding that women are underrepresented in substantially all major industries, the Small Business Women’s Procurement Improvement Act would substantially broaden the range of business industries eligible for set-asides as part of the Women’s Contracting Procurement Program.  Under the SBA’s proposed rule, women-owned businesses in just four industries could participate in the program.  Moreover, one of the industries the SBA selected does not allow for any private business participation.  Additionally, the bill would also preclude the SBA from promulgating a final rule that requires individual agencies to admit to past discrimination as a prerequisite for involvement in the set-aside program.  Under the SBA’s proposed rule individual Federal agencies were required to publicly admit to a history of gender discrimination. 

“The 5 percent government-wide women’s contracting goal was established in 1994 but has never been met,” said Senator Snowe.  “The SBA must develop a functioning procurement program that will cultivate women business, so that they, in turn, can help grow our nation’s economy.  I take great pride that women-owned firms generate $1.1 trillion in annual sales and employ 7.2 million people nationwide, and I will not rest until the SBA finally implements a workable procurement program truly provides new business opportunities.”

The Small Business Women’s Procurement Improvement Act has gained the support of major women’s organizations, including the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Women Impacting Public Policy, the National Women Business Owners Corporation, the Women’s Business Development Center, the Women Presidents’ Organization, and the Women Presidents’ Educational Organization.