With Boost from Cantwell’s Women’s Small Business Procurement Parity Act, Federal Contracting Reaches Five Percent Goal for Women-Owned Small Businesses for the First Time in History

Senator: ‘today more women entrepreneurs are helping grow their small businesses and creating jobs’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the former Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, applauded today’s announcement that for the first time in history the federal government has achieved its five percent women-owned small business (WOSB) contracting goal. The announcement follows the enactment of provisions of Cantwell’s Women’s Small Business Procurement Parity Act which aims to encourage women’s business ownership, give WOSBs more opportunities to win federal contracts, and provide tools available under other contracting programs to help federal agencies meet the goal of awarding five percent of all federal contracts to WOSBs.

“By giving women equal treatment in access to government contracts, today more women entrepreneurs are helping grow their small businesses and creating jobs,”said Cantwell, a former Vice-President of a Seattle-based technology company. “I fought hard to make sure women had a more level playing field to compete for federal contracts. We now need to make sure the government meets its goal every year and to make sure more women entrepreneurs know what they need to do to win federal contracts through counseling at Women’s Business Centers.”

Although women make up more than half of the U.S. population, only about 36 percent of businesses are owned by women. Cantwell’s 2015 provision aims to support additional contracting for WOSBs by removing the sole-source authority restriction on the WOSB procurement program to give it parity with other small business federal contracting programs—helping the federal government meet the five percent contracting goal that lawmakers set two decades ago for businesses owned by women.

“The Association of Women's Business Centers is pleased that the 5% goal has finally been met, but we should not be satisfied with 5%. I am confident that women-owned businesses have the ability to grow their share of procurement dollars well beyond 5%", said Antonella Pianalto, President and CEO.

"We could not be more pleased regarding the announcement that the federal government has finally met their 5% goal of contracts to women-owned small businesses," said Kristie Arslan, Executive Director of Women Impacting Public Policy. "This has been the culmination of years of education and advocacy efforts to implement, improve, and utilize the WOSB Procurement program. We thank all the policymakers, organizations and women business owners who have made this program what it is today.”

Cantwell has been a champion of increasing opportunities for women entrepreneurs. As Chairwoman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Cantwell released a2014 report, “21st Century Barriers to Women’s Entrepreneurship,” which discovered that women entrepreneurs account for just $1 out of every $23 in small business lending and are more likely to be turned down for loans or receive less favorable terms than men.

To address the barriers uncovered by the report, Cantwell has repeatedly introduced the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act, legislation that aims to help women start and grow their businesses through increased business training and counseling opportunities and improve women entrepreneurs’ access to the global market. The legislation was marked up and reported out of committee in October 2015