New Set-Aside Rules Benefit Women-Owned Contractors

Amid all the lunacy and frustration surrounding federal budgets, the near-miss with the fiscal cliff and looming sequestration, there is a very bright spot, even a miracle, as one observer called it, in regards to opportunities for government contractors owned by women.

The federal government has all types of purchasing plans that allow people access to lucrative public sector contracts. There are set asides for native Alaskans and the array of Minority Business Enterprises, for veterans, for businesses operated in economically depressed areas and for businesses owned by people who qualify as socially disadvantaged.

In 2011, Women small business owners also were given a preference (after more than 11 years of fighting, lobbying and negotiating). Yet, the preferences offered our women CEOs failed to mirror all the opportunities provided for other under-represented groups.

But last month a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act lifted caps on WOSB set-asides, previously set at a maximum of $4 million for most goods and services, and $6.5 million for manufacturing awards.

Why? Suffice to say the caps must have been for some illogical reason that weaves its way back through history, the suffrage movement and beyond.

And change is something Barbara Kasoff, president of Women Impacting Public Policy, called a “miracle.”

“This is a very important step toward bridging the gap for women entrepreneurs who wish to do business with the world’s largest customer – the federal government,” the head of the national non-partisan public policy organization said. “We would like to thank Senators Olympia Snow (R-ME) and Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) for their commitment to building a better partnership between government and the women-owned small business community.”

So, while uncertainty abounds, it’s important to understand where progress is being made and that plenty of opportunity continues to exist for small business.

Lourdes Martin-Rosa is a government contracting adviser at American Express OPEN. She is optimistic about the future of small contractors, woman owned and otherwise.

“Regardless of sequestration, the federal government has to function,” Martin-Rosa was quoted as saying in a recent Newsweek piece. “And it’s the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world.”

So, women, minorities, veterans and other preferred customers of the federal government, don’t fret. Just update your SAM profile and get bidding!

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