Glass Ceiling or Sticky Floor? Obama Attempts to Clean the Mess Through Implementation of the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program.

This post was written by Leslie A. Peterson.

The government contracts community has long debated what steps, if any, the federal government should take to help women-owned small businesses break through the glass ceiling (or get off the sticky floor). Taking one of the last steps in a process that began in 2000, on October 7, 2010, the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) filed a final rule creating the Women’s Contracting Rule. The final rule establishes a procurement program for women-owned small businesses (“WOSBs”) in 83 industries where they are underrepresented. Under the WOSB Federal Contract Program (“WOSDFCP”), qualified WOSBs will be eligible for set-asides with respect to federal contracts of less than $5 million for manufacturing and less than $3 million for other goods and services.

Launching the overdue womens’ procurement program was a top priority for the Obama Administration.  In March of this year, taking into consideration various market analyses, draft rules, and public comments, SBA “started from scratch” and crafted a completely new rule. The end result is a program designed to achieve the statutory goal of awarding 5 percent of federal contracts to WOSBs.

To qualify for an award under the WOSBFCP, a small business must be 51 percent owned, controlled, and primarily managed by one or more women who are U.S. citizens. Further, WOSBs must self-certify their status or be certified by a qualified third-party.

Although the final rule is not scheduled to take effect until February 4, 2011, SBA and the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council have prepared for its success by implementing the rule in the Federal Acquisition Regulation and other federal procurement rules. Those interested in learning more about the WOSBFCP should visit the SBA’s website, www.sba.gov, for more details on the final rule and guidance on compliance with its provisions.