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Knowing the Game Changers

Posted By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate, Wednesday, June 5, 2019

When I started representing WIPP in Washington some 17 years ago, Republican George W. Bush was in his second year as President and Senate Democrats held their majority by a very slim margin, while the House was controlled comfortably by Republicans. Women held 62 seats in the House and 13 seats in the Senate. No women chaired Congressional Committees and two women held Cabinet posts – Ann Veneman (Department of Agriculture) and Elaine Chao (Department of Transportation).

 

Things are a little different now— but maybe not as much as one might think. President Donald Trump is also a Republican, but this time the Senate is controlled by Republicans and Democrats control the House. But the game changer is women in power. As of January 2019, there are 106 women in the U.S. House of Representatives, including delegates, and 25 women in the Senate. Seven women head Congressional Committees—not to mention Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who is second in the presidential line of succession, after the vice president.

AnnSullivan

 

 Even though there were relatively few women in Congress, in those early days there were a few game changers—Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Senator Olympia Snowe. Senator Hutchison was the head of the Republican Policy Committee in the Senate and included us in her monthly meetings, even though we were the only women in the room. Senator Snowe supported women business owners from her position on the Small Business Committee highlighting our issues.

Today, women-owned companies in the United States make a much bigger impact than in 2002. Women owned 6.5 million nonfarm U.S. businesses in 2002, employing 7.1 million people and generating $939.5 billion in business revenues. The latest numbers, by contrast, show women own 10 million firms, generating $1.4 trillion in receipts and employing 8.4 million.

 

WIPP was founded because women business owners were not well understood and did not have “a seat at the table.” Routinely left out of important agency and Congressional meetings, women pressed for a bigger presence. Making a difference in public policy was, and is to this day, WIPP’s mission. WIPP’s first example of making a big difference was pushing for a federal program which set aside federal contracts to women-owned companies. The women’s procurement program rallied women all over the country who believed that resistance to implement this law was just plain wrong. The game changer was locking down Presidential candidate support for implementation and when President Barack Obama won – it was one of the first things he did. Our strategy of presenting our platform at both conventions attended by powerful women in both parties and our members worked.

 

With WIPP’s legislative and regulatory victories, our narrative started changing. We no longer asked for a “seat at the table.” We had it. Rather, we were seated at the head of the table. Congressional Members, staff and committees consult our organization and its members for views and testimony on every aspect of policies affecting entrepreneurs. SBA became our partner through ChallengeHER, educating women nationwide on working with the private sector. Lastly, we became an integral part of the small business community and worked diligently to build a cohesive coalition with all other parts of the community – another game changer.

Changing the game has been in WIPP’s DNA since its inception. In June, there are two additional opportunities to lead. First, the Senate will hold a hearing on contracting issues with an eye to making the small business programs more effective. WIPP will testify, addressing the disappointing performance of the WOSB/EDWOSB program and efforts to increase federal contracts to women-owned businesses.


The second opportunity is the 2019 WIPP Business Leadership Conference. Participation, just like those early days, requires everyone’s attendance. WIPP visits to Capitol Hill has never been more important. Our visibility helps all women entrepreneurs across the country, even though they may not even be aware of our efforts. Our attention to issues such as business growth requires action and this conference provides opportunity for engagement with Congressional Members and staff.

 

Unlike the early days, we are not begging for a seat at the table. But now that we have a seat, it is our responsibility to do something with that seat. Get involved. Add your voice.


Tags:  Advocacy  Congress  leadership  WIPP Annual Conference 

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