What Can Be Done to Help Grow Women-Owned Businesses?

By Neese, Terry | THE JOURNAL RECORD, May 5, 1997 | Go to article overview

What Can Be Done to Help Grow Women-Owned Businesses?


Neese, Terry, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Last week I presented testimony in behalf of the National Association of Women Business Owners before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business.

I addressed the bottom line issues facing women-owned businesses and then made recommendations about how the SBA and other federal agencies could be more productive and be held accountable.

It has been almost 9 years since the Women's Business Ownership Act was signed by President Reagan in October 1988. The Act created the Office of Women's Business Ownership, the National Women's Business Council, and called for the development of management and technical skills training so vital to business success -- the genesis of the OWBO demonstration projects. The Act resulted from NAWBO's vision and leadership of a coalition of women's business groups. The late Gillian Rudd, a past national president of NAWBO, led the drive for hearings that addressed the growing impact of women owned businesses on our country's economy. Despite enactment of the Act and the growth of women-owned businesses since 1988, little has changed. In fact, during the Bush Administration, the Office of Women's Business Ownership was at a senior executive level position. Today, the office has been downgraded to the lowest personnel level since it was created. In addition, the SBA has released preliminary figures for procurement with women-owned businesses, which were a grand total of l.8 percent in fiscal year 1996. This is a full percentage point drop from Fiscal Year 1995. This administration's enforcement of the 5 percent goals program for federal procurement contracting and subcontracting is negligible. The 5 percent goals for contracting and subcontracting by women suppliers, part of the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994, have been ignored by federal agencies. The research front is almost as daunting as the procurement front. This Congress can dramatically change this situation by holding federal agencies accountable, and establishing a working partnership with NAWBO. My recommendations to the Senate were: l I asked Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., to form a Congressional Advisory Council on Women's Business Ownership to work with the committee to set the stage for a new era of public-private partnerships. * The SBA reauthorization bill should require the SBA to develop a government-wide certification program to verify ownership and control of businesses by women. The bill would require that the certification program be implemented by private certifying agencies by the beginning of 1988. This was a top priority from the 1995 White House Conference on Small Business. * Fund SWOBE -- the census of women business ownership. Attention to data ensures accountability by all parties. We cannot understand small businesses in 1997 because we know little about almost 40 percent of its population despite the explicit demand by the Congress in the 1988 Women's Business Ownership Act that such new research be conducted. * I offered NAWBO's support for the Office of Women's Business Ownership and the National Women's Business Council and suggested that the Senate reauthorize these office's programs at the current funding level but only if specific objectives are set within the reauthorization time period and measurable results are reported. …

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