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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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And...We’re Off to the Races

Posted By Elizabeth Sullivan, WIPP Advocacy Team, Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Senate Small Business Committee holds first hearing of the year with Small Business Administration Administrator Linda McMahon

 

The first Committee hearing in a new Congress sets the tone for the two years ahead—priorities, attitudes and bipartisanship (or lack thereof) are on display. The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held their first hearing on February 13 by hearing from Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Linda McMahon.

Three areas of focus bubbled up during the hearing. Challenges facing women-owned small businesses, access to capital and issues around the workforce. 

Committee Members repeatedly mentioned challenges facing women-owned small businesses. Issues from access to capital to access to contracts were raised, signaling the Committee’s dedication to implementing policies that help WOSB’s succeed. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) raised two important questions for WOSB federal contractors. She addressed the delay in a report that was commissioned by Congress to the SBA to look government-wide at small business participation on multiple award contracts (MACs). This legislation was in direct response to WIPP’s report, Do Not Enter: Women Shut Out of U.S. Government’s Biggest Contracts (October 2016). The data is desperately needed to understand the landscape of small business contracting and create future policies that ensure fairness in the federal marketplace. 

Senator Ernst also raised the importance of ensuring small businesses are not shut out of opportunities as the government continues to buy through large contracts. The Administrator pointed to small business goals as a mechanism to hold agencies accountable. WIPP has partnered and participated in roundtables with other business organizations to determine the best path forward to safeguarding small businesses during this shift in acquisition policy. Furthermore, the Administrator shared that the SBA will be launching an innovative interactive digital platform to provide resources for women entrepreneurs, which they predict will expand their outreach capabilities from 150,000 to one million users. 

Another common thread throughout the Committee Member’s questions was access to capital. This is nothing new – women-owned firms still only get 4% of all commercial loan dollars and about 2% of venture capital funding. Additionally, only 18% of 7(a) loans in FY2017 went to women-owned firms and 27% to minority-owned firms. In response, the Administrator expressed the importance of SBA’s Capital Access programs and utilizing them to the fullest extent possible. Senator Duckworth pointed to the need for enhancement of SBA’s micro loan program as a possible solution. Furthermore, in her testimony, the Administrator highlighted that SBA was able to reduce loan processing times by half and provided $60 billion in loan guarantees. Despite this success, the Administrator committed to working to increase awareness of SBA loan offerings and resources for acquiring capital. 

Issues around workforce dominated many questions posed to the Administrator. This aligns with WIPP’s pillar-- rethinking workforce development. Questions centered around the plight of low-wage federal contractor employees and protection from future government shutdowns. Additionally, Senator Coons asked the Administrator what she saw as workforce challenges for small businesses as she traveled around the country last year. Administrator McMahon identified access to a skilled workforce and expressed SBA’s commitment to tackling this problem through its resources around the country.  

The Committee’s priorities align with several of WIPP’s six Policy Pillars. We look forward to continuing work with the Senate Small Business Committee and the SBA around these issues.

Tags:  Advocacy  Congress  hearings  SBA 

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