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minority certification women-owned businesses

Government contracts why gender equality is still an issue

Did you see the recent article by Erin Andrew at the SBA regarding government contracts? It celebrated the federal government reaching their five percent women’s small business contracting goal. While they may have reached a new benchmark, it’s actually quite discouraging to see such a disproportionate figure of five percent, especially when women now own 36 percent of all businesses in the US.

African American business woman government contracts

An opinion on gender equality in business

A reader’s comment on the SBA article raises a very valid point:

“Can you help us understand why if women own nearly 30 percent of small businesses why the goal of five percent is one to celebrate? I realize not all women-owned small businesses would be qualified but isn’t five percent a low goal? What can be done to increase this percent at a faster rate?”

Why gender equality is still an issue at government level?

While the goal achieved is a positive step, it still highlights a lack of gender equality. Interestingly, the goal was set in 1994 and it’s taken over 20 years to achieve. So not only is this a small achievement, it’s also taken an incredibly long time to attain. The government must therefore take stronger action to work towards creating equality for female entrepreneurs and increase their contract opportunities for women.

Additionally, research highlights that women are 21 percent less likely to receive a government contract when competing against a business operated by men. That’s a significantly worrying statistic for female business owners. It’s important for the government to lead by example, as their leadership and policies are highly influential for businesses across the USA.

What are the solutions?

No matter how much we strive, female entrepreneurs are still at a disadvantage when competing at federal, state or local governments. With women 21 percent less likely to win a government contract, legislation and procurement processes need to be challenged.

Two potential solutions are certifications for EDWOSBs and a higher level of transparency at government level, offering increased opportunities for women in business.

minority certification women-owned businesses

We recently debated whether minority certification is beneficial for women. Certifications for economically-disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSBs) may be one solution for improving gender equality at government level. This allows female entrepreneurs to increase their likelihood of success when applying for government contracts, if they can offer substantial value. However, achieving the certification can be a time consuming and expensive process, which is not guaranteed to pay off.

Another solution may be to increase pressure on federal agencies by tracking minority success rates during the vendor’s registration process. This would increase visibility and transparency across the board for government contracts, therefore improving diversity levels. Higher rates of equality and gender representation is an opportunity for the government to increase opportunities for female entrepreneurs, while allowing them to compete on a level playing field with other businesses.

If you have any ideas about how to increase gender equality in government contracts, please let us know by commenting below.

certified women-owned business

Women-owned small biz federal contract program, friend or foe?

Maria_Contreras_Sweet_portrait

Maria Contreras-Sweet, SBA Administrator

Are you a certified minority or women-owned business? And what does the certification mean for your business? Is your business qualified for minority or women-owned certification just because you are a woman or a minority?

I have asked these and other similar questions to several Latinas business owners and few of them were indeed certified or knew the answers.

According to the Small Business Administration, President Obama’s signature of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2015 is a critical move for women-owned small businesses to earn their fair share of the federal marketplace and gain economic opportunities.

Although legislation existed since 2000, implementation has been a promise since President Obama took office. Finally, it was implemented in April 2011. Section 825 of the NDAA authorizes federal agencies to award sole-source contracts to women-owned small businesses eligible for the Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program, giving women the same level of access to the federal contracting marketplace as other disadvantaged groups.

“Women entrepreneurs are growing at an unprecedented rate.  More than one in four U.S. companies is owned or led by a woman, and these firms employ more than 7.8 million Americans.  Passage of the women’s small business provision in NDAA is a win for women entrepreneurs and a win for America.  This will help women-owned small businesses gain equal access to federal contracting as they add jobs to the U.S. economy.  A big thank you to the leaders of the Senate and House Small Business and Armed Services Committees for helping make this a reality,” said the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet.Our economy won't work

Currently, women entrepreneurs are receiving less than five percent of federal contracts.  This new provision will give the SBA a new tool to continue to open doors for more women entrepreneurs in the federal and commercial contract space.    SBA’s efforts include aggressively offering support for the Women-Owned Small Business Contract Program, which aims to expand federal contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses.

Tina Dante, CEO/President, The Metamorphosis Group, shared on the LinkedIn group Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), “This has been a long time coming, and I heartily applaud it! HOWEVER, I sure hope there is oversight on this, because this also brings out the worst in people. It already is a challenge to compete with other supposedly “woman” owned businesses in the federal market, when we all know that the ‘woman’ is nowhere to be found….the real front person is a husband or a close friend. Let’s hope that the SBA keeps tight reins on this program.”

Vilma Betancourt-O’Day, President at Women Wrule, also clarifies on the same discussion: “I am a Certified Site Visitor for the National Women Business Owner’s Corporation (NWBOC), an approved 3rd party WBE certifier, a WBE/Minority/Small Business Certification consultant and an experienced Government Contractor (Federal, State, Local Municipalities. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO)’s report on the WOSB Certification Program, two groups representing WOSBs stated that Contracting Officers prefer 3rd party certified WOSBs/EDWOSBs as the review process is less tedious for them. Fraud has already been an issue with this program as there is little to no oversight on the Self-Certified WOSBs/EDWOSBs,” she says.

And she continues: “Based on my experience as a Government Contractor, if a business entity does not have sufficient money to spend on marketing its services and/or products to the Government (and the WBE Certification is a huge marketing tool), they’re not prepared to sell to the Government. You must have enough cash to cover your payroll and other expenses incurred while working on the contract, until you get paid by the Government. It takes lots of money to get into the Federal arena. The Agencies want to make sure that you have enough cash in the bank so you don’t default on the contract.”

“Bottom line,” she adds, “Any WBE that wants to grow their business with Government or Corporate Supplier Diversity contracting, should invest in themselves and their businesses with a WBE/Minority/Small Business Certification. It must be part of their annual marketing budget.”

What is your experience regarding this topic?  Share with our community your story so we can learn form each other!

WOSB Program Third Party CertificationUpdated

The SBA has approved four organizations to act as Third Party Certifiers under the WOSB Program. The four organizations and contact information are:

Women Owned Small Businesses may elect to use the services of a Third Party Certifier to demonstrate eligibility for the program, or they may self-certify using the process outlined here on this website. SBA will only accept third party certification from these entities, and firms are still subject to the same eligibility requirements to participate in the program.

Please note, at the request of WBENC, SBA has approved WBENC only for the certification of WOSBs and not for the certification of Economically Disadvantaged WOSBs.

 

New America Alliance showcases the economic power of Latinas

Economic power of Latinas was the main topic discussed at the “American Latinas: Leadership and Economic Force.” For the first time, the New America Alliance (NAA) brought to the forefront an exclusive panel of powerful Latinas in recognition of the advances of Hispanic women in business.

economic power of Latinas

The American Latinas’ panel with Pilar Avila, NAA CEO

Opening remarks were addressed by Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar, NAA Institute Chair of the Board and Managing Partner at Victoriana LLC, who made a compelling overview of the milestones Latinas have conquered since NAA’s foundation. “Especially for U.S. Latinas, the future looks promising. Many of our NAA female founding members broke glass ceilings on their own,” she said.

Additional remarks were conducted by Lorraine Cortez-Vazquez, Executive Vice President, Multicultural Markets & Engagement at AARP and Jorge Ferraez, NAA Board Member and Founder and Publisher of Latino Leaders’ Magazine.

The panel showcased Latinas in key positions of the public and private sectors including The Hon. Alejandra Y. Castillo, National Director, Minority Business Development Agency at the US Department of Commerce; Alejandra Ceja, Executive Director, White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics; Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar; Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, Senior VP and Resident Sales Director, Aon Risk Solutions, Capital Region; and Alice Rodriguez, Executive VP, Regional Sales and Executive –Business Banking at Chase.

Moderator of the panel was Jackeline Cacho, NAA member and Founder, Finding Productions, who made a great introduction telling her personal story and recognizing the formidable headway Latino women are making in every industry.

The morning panel was followed by the traditional U.S. Mayors Forum and Luncheon with the presence of The Hon. Pedro Segarra, City of Hartford, CT , The Hon. Angel Taveras, Mayor of Providence, RI and Mayor Elect of Providence, RI Jorge Elorza.

Please click on any picture of our photo gallery to see some of the event highlights and share your thoughts on how NAA can increase the economic power of Latinas around the country to boost their economic and political potential. Enjoy!

 

Jackie Cacho Vme TV staging Latinas for leadership

Jackeline Cacho, award winning journalist and media producer

Jackeline Cacho, award winning journalist and media producer

The New America Alliance (NAA) meets again this October 27-29 at the 15th Wall Street Summit in New York City under the call “Building on American Latino Success to Forge a Stronger America.”

This year, the conference includes a special panel dedicated to the American Latinas Leadership Caucus with the participation of an exceptional Latina leaders’ lineup that includes Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar, NAA Institute Chair of the Board and Managing Partner at Victoriana LLC; Carmen Ortiz-Mc-Ghee, SVP and Resident Sales Director, Aon Risk Solutions; Solange Fernandez Brooks, CalSTRS Portfolio Manager; and Cynthia Rivera Weissblum, the Edwin Gould Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer.

Jackeline Cacho, the international award-winning journalist, producer and founder of the national TV Show “Jackeline Cacho presenta Triunfo Latino” on Vme TV is an incoming Board Director.

“I have interviewed Latinas from different ages and backgrounds, from different origins and levels of assimilation, and they all have Jackie Cacho in Perusomething in common: the passion for what they do and the hunger to succeed in life,” said Jackie. “You practically hear the same story from many of them: they come from humble origins –like myself- but they have inherited that power, that strength from their immigrant parents, the creativity, the persistence, the impulse, and the ability to reinvent themselves no matter the crisis they face,” she said.

Nobody can speak better to this journey than warm and vivacious Jackie Cacho herself. She was born in Peru and since an early age, she challenged her country’s status-quo by openly speaking about her indigenous roots. She became an advocate for native women who were usually relegated to menial jobs.

“When you see your parents suffer, their fight stays in your heart,” she said. Jackie believes many Latinas are born in hardship and they learn to become survivors within their own circumstances. “I always say that Latinas have this spiritual warrior inside that never consents to defeat.”

She recalls interviews with women such as Hilda Solis, former United States Secretary of Labor, with Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, or recently with Leticia R. San Miguel-Van De Putte, senator for the 26th Texas District, the oldest of a Mexican-Texan family who lived in the country for six generations. “They work hard at supporting and defending the rights of immigrant workers and their families because they had the best teachings from their parents and grandparents,” Jackie said.

From the world of international pageantry in her country of origin to an outstanding career in media and communications in the USA, Jackie overcame her circumstances not only to shine in her own right but also to stage the accomplishments and successes of Latino leaders in the country. Her program, “Triunfo Latino,” has featured the stories of the most important Latino figures in the nation, from business to politics, and from celebrities to scientists.

JCacho_L06In 2006, with her husband Mexican director Thene Mucino they found Finding Productions, a media and marketing company based in Los Angeles, California, but Jackie needed something else. She also founded Edutainment Revolution, an initiative to motivate and inspire young Latino leaders across the nation, which recently launched a 10-city project with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation.

Twenty years of excellence in media as well as her restless humanitarian efforts around education made her the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions. In 2014 alone, Jackie was named “Mujer Destacada del Año” by the largest Spanish newspaper in the US La Opinion, and was selected among the 25 most influential Latino women in the nation by Latino Leaders Magazine.

“My goal is to leave a seed of change among women who are now growing into the next generation of leaders. We need to learn from each other, to embrace each other, to gain knowledge and experience from those who were pioneers and opened doors for the rest,” she said. “Our work is very valuable, and we must learn to negotiate that value to our advantage in order to create economic momentum for Latinas. Not only we need to earn that first million but we also need to know what comes next!” she concluded enthusiastically.