New York Times: Study Shows Women Owned Businesses Less Likely To Win U.S. Contracts

WASHINGTON — The odds of businesses owned by women winning a federal contract are about 21 percent lower than for otherwise similar companies, and years of effort to increase those chances have barely made an impact, according to a new report from the Commerce Department.NY Times Article Blog

The report is being released as the federal government is beginning to change a Small Business Administration program that is five years old this week, yet has never met a goal of helping companies owned by women win at least 5 percent of federal contract dollars.

The changes, which were required by a 2014 law that also mandated the report, now make such businesses eligible for no-bid contracts so they can gain the experience needed to win other, competitive projects.

The percentage of federal contract dollars going to companies owned by women rose to 4.7 percent in the 2014 fiscal year, the most recent year that the report examined, from 4 percent in 2011, when the Small Business Administration program to help such companies began, according to the report. Businesses owned by women, which are defined as companies that are at least 51 percent owned by one woman or more, account for about 30 percent of American companies.

“These are sobering statistics that show a real, unfair disadvantage for women entrepreneurs,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, who sponsored the 2014 law, with Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, and Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York.

“We’ve made good progress with the recent expansion of the women-owned small business contracting program, but this data clearly shows that this program should be expanded to more industries,” Mrs. Shaheen said.

Economists at the Commerce Department examined recent years’ data for 304 categories of industries and more than 600,000 companies, about 20 percent of which identified themselves as owned by women. Winners of federal contracts tended to be the older and larger companies, the report said.

Businesses owned by women generally are “smaller and younger than other businesses,” the report said. Yet that accounts “for only part of the disparity in the likelihood of winning contracts,” it added. “Even when controlling for firm characteristics, including firm size and age, women-owned businesses are less likely to win contracts than otherwise similar businesses not owned by women.”

The report did not suggest other explanations for the disparity or ways to alleviate it. The changes mandated in December 2014 are too recent to show in the data.

The 2014 law allowed companies owned by women to qualify for no-bid “sole source” contracts, like those long available to minority-owned businesses and to those companies designated as economically disadvantaged. Federal officials have discretion to award such contracts to a single qualified small business after negotiating terms, thus avoiding prolonged bidding with multiple companies.

In sponsoring the law, Mrs. Shaheen drew on the experience of women like Sue Sylvester, the majority owner of Absolute Resources Associates, an environmental service company in Portsmouth, N.H., who struggled to get government contracts.

“I think what my experience shows is that if the sole-source option is available for women-owned firms, it’s going to change the odds,” Ms. Sylvester said. That option — which she first qualified for as an economically disadvantaged business because of her company’s small size — “allowed us to get our foot in the door and show what we can do compared to the big boys.”

Four years ago, her company won its first contract with the United States Military Academy at West Point to provide air monitoring and protection against lead, asbestos and mold contamination as West Point renovates old buildings, she said. Since then it has received others for handling hazardous wastes, monitoring water quality and cleaning lead from a firing range at West Point, and for monitoring drinking water at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Extending sole-source contracts to companies owned by women should give them “an opportunity to get that experience and get ready to compete” for the more numerous and larger contracts bid competitively, she said.

“It’s just difficult to get your experience shown,” she said. “That’s the hard part.”

Thinking about retiring?

Thinking about retiring?  There are a few things that can put a business owner’s dream of retirement into jeopardy.  Check out this animated video to learn what entrepreneurs should know when it comes to creating retirement savings strategies for the future, for themselves and their employees.

For more information about AXA Equitable call a Retirement Program Specialist at 800-523-1123.

Social Engineering Fraud

As an employer, you seek smart, helpful, and trusting people with which to grow your business.

Unfortunately, this means you or one of your employees may be more susceptible to being targeted and tricked into releasing confidential information that could be used to hack into the company’s network by someone who has manipulated them into helping them commit fraud–otherwise known as social engineering fraud.

Think this couldn’t happen at your company? Think again. In 2015, the FBI warned that scammers had stolen nearly $180 million from U.S. companies–and over $214 million total worldwide–in little more than a year through a social-engineering fraud called the business e-mail compromise.

Through their guest blog entry, the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies shares that by becoming more aware of the different types of encounters that could be socially engineered, as well as practical tips and preventative measures, you can make sure employees within your company are never unwittingly helping the wrong person.

* Thank you to our sponsors and friends at the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies for their guest blog entry, Social Engineering Fraudsters Bait Small Business.



Noises Off


If you believe that silence is golden, take a look at a recent New York Times story (“Soundproofing for New York Noise” – December 11). It features acoustical consultant and WPO member Dr. Bonnie Schnitta, whose company SoundSense is helping New Yorkers sleep more soundly through noise abatement. Read more here.

Call it… The Tipping Point!

“2015 was a transformational year for women entrepreneurs and their businesses. Women are starting 1,200 new businesses per day – they are inventing products, solving problems, creating jobs and supporting their communities. The impact is undeniable and the growth is unprecedented, but we have a long way to go before reaching parity. Women continue to lack access to some of the most crucial assets, capital and markets, necessary to launch and grow their businesses. We are at a tipping point. It’s a time for celebration, but also a call-to-action to effectively sustain this momentum.” – National Women’s Business Council

Read more from NWBC’s 10 Million Strong report here.

The State Of Women Entrepreneurs In The B2B Space

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WPO Member, Phyllis Newhouse is a U.S. Army veteran, a single mother, a tech entrepreneur who founded Xtreme Solutions, Inc., and winner of WPO’s 50 Fastest Women-Owned/Led Companies ranking. She is among a growing number of women entrepreneurs powering major innovations in the business-to-business space. Read more from Fast Company who profiled Phyllis in October for their Strong Female Lead series.

This op-ed written by Marsha Firestone, Ph.D.  originally appeared in Fast Company.

Reflection and Refraction

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Rebecca Armen Lyman, Principal and Cofounder, The Garrigan Lyman Group

After 14 years, my final Seattle WPO Chapter meeting was the last Thursday of October. I flew to Maui shortly after the meeting, and as I sat overlooking the ocean between Maui and Molokai, I saw the most miraculous rainbow—end-to-end, beautiful, color-full spectrum, arcing through the rain clouds and off the sun. Rum and tonic aside, it felt like an almost magical manifestation of my journey with the Seattle Chapter of the WPO.

Rainbow: an arc or circle that exhibits in concentric bands the colors of the spectrum, and that is formed opposite the sun by the refraction and reflection of the sun’s rays in raindrops, spray, or mist
I am (or was) the last remaining founding member of the chapter, along with Mary Jane Pioli and Christy Martin, our wonderful co-facilitators. In 2001, the Seattle reception for new members was just several days after 9/11, and the world was full of a new uncertainty. Marsha Firestone joined us by video conference because she was unable to fly out of NYC. What did this mean to the future? How would this affect our businesses? Then, more than ever, I felt I needed a forum to test ideas, to get support, and to ask questions. It took a while to get the chapter on stable footing, but soon a group of amazing women was assembled, and together we laughed, cried, admired, validated, commiserated, nurtured, listened, and learned from one another. We saw ourselves reflected in each other’s eyes, and that reflected truth gave us the courage to go on no matter how many clouds were on the horizon.

Reflection: an image that is seen in a mirror or on a shiny surface; something that shows the effect, existence, or character of something else
Five years ago, I was in the first meeting of the Platinum Chapter IV, and I shared that day with the amazing Kathy Long Holland and an unbelievably talented group of women. These meetings added something different to my personal and business journey, and every quarterly meeting has taught me something new to try: it might be a different way to tackle a challenge, or a bolt of insight about making choices and taking control of those choices.
I had truly reached that pot of gold—an embarrassment of riches—with my local and national chapters. September came around again, and this year, after much consideration, I chose to vacate my Seattle Chapter seat and allow another woman on her journey to have that privilege. Oh, I am still a Member-at-Large and a Platinum-IV member, so I haven’t gone far, but my journey has refracted along another pathway, as the challenges grow and change in their shape and velocity.

Refraction: reflection from a straight path undergone by a light ray or energy wave in passing obliquely from one medium (as air) into another (as glass) in which its velocity is different
So just as the raindrop refracts the light of the sun’s rays to make a rainbow, so my life has been colored by my experience in the WPO. I want to say thank you and celebrate the gift that is the WPO. I hold Marsha, Camille, Kirsten, Mary Jane, Christy, Kathy, and all my WPO sisters in great appreciation. We are all on a lifelong journey, and we will pass through many mediums, many prisms. For me, the WPO has helped light the way.