Ceiling Shattered for Women-Owned Small Businesses

By: Edward T. DeLisle and Maria L. Panichelli

We’ve all heard about the “glass ceiling” experienced by women in the workplace. The term “glass ceiling” first appeared in an article published by the Wall Street Journal in 1986 and was used to describe the invisible barriers that women faced as they tried to climb the corporate ladder. While things seem to be better today than they once were, I think many would agree that barriers (in some cases substantial barriers) still exist. Certainly, the Small Business Administration agrees.

In October of 2010, after many years of delay, the SBA issued a Final Rule allowing for the implementation of its Women-Owned Small Business Program. The program was gradually introduced and, as originally constituted, was stricken with statutory caps that inhibited its intended effect. Ironically enough, for both Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Businesses (EDWOSBs) set-aside contracts were subject to “ceilings.” For manufacturing contracts, the ceiling was $6.5 million; for any other contract the ceiling was $4 million. Thanks to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, however, these ceilings are about to disappear.

On Tuesday, May 7, 2013, in accordance with directives set forth in the NDAA, the SBA issued an Interim Final Rule, removing the statutory cap on WOSB and EDWOSB set-aside contracts. As a result of this change, government agencies will now be able to set-aside contracts for WOSBs and EDWOSBs at any dollar level, providing WOSBs and EDWOSBs with access to much larger federal contracts. Hopefully, this change will also allow the federal government to better meet its statutory contracting goals for women-owned small businesses, which have been consistently missed.

Either way, the shattering of the WOSB “ceilings” promises to greatly increase the number of large-dollar WOSB and EDWOSB set-aside contracts. If you are a WOSB or EDWOSB, you will want to make sure that you are properly registered as soon as possible so that you can take advantage of these opportunities. We’ve posted the requirements in previous articles. For additional information on the SBA’s Women-Owned Small Business Program go to www.sba.gov/wosb.

Edward T. DeLisle is a Partner in the firm and a member of the Federal Contracting Practice Group. Maria L. Panichelli is an Associate in the firm’s Federal Practice Group.

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