Rethink Red Tape with WIPP and Women Entrepreneurs

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Earlier this week, WIPP partnered with the National Association of Manufacturers, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council and International Franchise Association to launch a project advocating regulatory reform called Rethink Red Tape.

Nearly 10 million businesses across the United States are owned by women. These businesses employ eight million workers and drive $1.2 trillion in sales. With women-owned businesses growing at a rate one and a half times that of other small businesses, women entrepreneurs play a critical role in our economy and our laws need to support their ability to sustain and grow their businesses.

Unfortunately, regulations are getting in the way. Too many of today’s regulations are duplicative, inefficient and the result of a process that listens least to the people it burdens most. Government rules directly impact the ability of businesses to pay wages, create jobs and grow. In fact, America’s smallest businesses pay more per employee to comply with regulations than medium and large companies. And since they lack the money and manpower to absorb higher compliance costs, the impact of these regulations can mean the choice between cutting staff, scaling back operations and even shutting off the lights.

But there is a solution: Making sure small business owners have a seat at the rulemaking table.

In partnering with Rethink Red Tape, we at WIPP are calling for smarter regulations and a more transparent regulatory process—one that will hold policymakers accountable to produce better, fairer rules. We want to have confidence that the rules government creates are thoroughly vetted, the products of careful cost benefit analyses and impartial science. We are advocating for elected officials from both parties to prioritize regulatory reform as a win-win for everyone.

The first step in making this happen is to make sure your voice is part of the national dialog about regulatory reform.

Hearing from small business owners, particularly women small business owners, will help bring to life the very real impact of federal regulations. Rethink Red Tape will use your stories to put a face and a name to those paying the price for our country’s broken regulatory process. Our perspectives and unique experiences as women entrepreneurs can drive reform forward in a substantive way.

Take a look at the principles guiding our effort, and consider joining us at www.RethinkRedTape.com, Facebook and Twitter.

Remarkable Advances For Women Business Owners

By Jake Clabaugh, WIPP Government Relations

Annual Mtg 2014 - #2The U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Business Owners (SBO) showed impressive expansion for women-owned businesses. The survey’s latest data, released in August, showed nearly 10 million women-owned firms in the United States. This represents a 27% improvement from the survey’s last results in 2007. In the long term, the number of women-owned companies has increased over 50% since the survey showed 6.5 million firms in 2002.

This growth in women-owned firms is an encouraging economic indicator. Just as important, this progress occurred during the largest recession since the Great Depression. It stands as a testament to the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit of our country’s female business owners.

The SBO is an important tool for assessing the state and growth of businesses, particularly women-owned. The Census Bureau describes this survey as providing “the only source of detailed and comprehensive data on the status, nature, and scope of women-, minority-, and veteran-owned businesses.” While only the preliminary findings have been released, it provides an important preview of the more comprehensive data that will be made available later this year. The complete dataset will include more specified demographic breakdowns of firm ownership characteristics, including women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses as well as revenues, size, industry-classification data, and geographic information.

It is imperative to use the most complete, comprehensive, and timely data to structure reasoned, directed policy initiatives and make informed decisions, thus, we are looking forward to having the complete survey data later this year. It will be an invaluable tool for guiding our policy direction moving forward, educating government entities and providing useful comparisons for individual firms. We whole-heartedly expect the full dataset to reveal many more successes.

The Lack of Mentorship for Working Women

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by Annie Wilson, Intern

In today’s modern business world, it is widely accepted that mentorship relationships can be beneficial, especially in the context of career mobility. Young professionals can benefit from mentorship as a way to elevate their career status and attain high level positions in their company or obtain a second opinion for their career strategy. For entrepreneurs, mentorship can help a company thrive immensely by just having the benefit of vetted experience and advice that a mentor can provide. This advising can be crucial in the startup phase of a business as mentorship advice is an incredible asset to tap into in the preliminary stages of business development. With more and more startups and entrepreneurial activity in today’s modern world, mentorship is as crucial as ever for eager young business owners who are looking to start their own business.

However, historically it has been more difficult for women to have accessibility to mentors as opposed to men and this trend has been made clear in a number of ways. Peggy Drexler, a gender and business blogger for Forbes, outlines the current state of female mentorship in her recent article, “Can Women Succeed Without a Mentor?” In her findings, she reports that according to a 2011 McKinsey Report 53% of entry level positions are occupied by female employees but, as the jobs increase in caliber, female representation starkly declines at 37% for mid manager positions and 26% for vice president positions and above. This decline leaves a disproportional ratio of potential mentors to mentees and purports that with fewer women occupying higher level positions, there are fewer women eligible to mentor. Another factor in female mentorship is that women often feel as though they cannot allocate the appropriate time and effort to mentor somebody due to familial time constraints. In fact, a study from the American Psychological Association reported that the female figure that young women wanted to emulate the most were working executives who balanced their professional and family lives. However, this was the group that had the least time to mentor. An additional explanation to the lack of female to female mentorship sources from the problem that mentorship benefits are not being made readily apparent to mentee candidates. According to networking organization Levo League, 95% of millennials have never sought out a mentor. Perhaps this trend stems from the generational attitude towards self-sustainability in the workplace that is commonly associated with the millennial generation or that workplace environments are not making an effort to forge these relationships. According to the 2010-2011 World Economic Forum Report assessing gender diversity in 20 countries, only 59% of companies said they led internal mentoring programs and only 28% of companies had programs specific for women. Even if one of these factors holds truth in a working environment, female mentorship can clearly be difficult to obtain.

A mentor-mentee relationship can be a mutually beneficial for both participants. Mentees gain the benefit of learning from the mentor’s own processes in their early stages and the lessons and learning opportunities can be extremely impactful for a developing young professional. However, the mentor benefits in a very clear way as well. Mentors are often forced to change their way of managing and teaching to best communicate with their mentee, especially if there is a generational difference. The mentor may become more confident and efficient in working with younger professionals in general and their management skills as an aging professional are given an added dimension of flexibility. Not to mention, working with a mentee opens up a whole new professional network that a mentor can have better access to. Many mentors also see mentorship as a way to give back to the industry they invested their career in and as a way to perpetuate their work ethic and methods into the generations to come.

Barbara Corcoran, co-founder of Corcoran Venture Partners and investor on the hit show Shark Tank, reveals 3 traits to look out for when finding a mentor:

  1. “Choose a mentor you want to be like, not just someone you like. When you choose a mentor, pick someone you wish to emulate. It’s their “know-how” you wish to learn, and you learn more when you respect who’s teaching.
  2. Look for a mentor who is brutally honest. Compliments are always nice, but they won’t propel you to greatness. You need a mentor who won’t hesitate to give you difficult feedback—someone quick to call out your strengths andyour weaknesses.”
  3. Choose a mentor who has also failed. I fail often and fail well, and I’ve learned how to sniff out great success in the midst of failure. Sharing that belief can keep your company bold and motivated and miles ahead of everyone else afraid of failing.”

If you’re interested in becoming a mentor or finding one, ask around in your work environment to see if there are any ongoing programs that your company offers. If not, check out this great article giving advice on how to find a mentor or these mentorship organizations:

“Fair Pay” Rules Just Aren’t Fair

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By John Stanford, WIPP Government Relations

Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP) recently submitted comments on proposed regulations that would require federal contractors to disclose labor violations from the past three years. This blog accompanies those comments as a summary of WIPP’s position. For more details or if this impacts your business, I encourage you to read the full comment here.

Last summer, President Obama issued an Executive Order with the goal of barring bad companies from winning federal contracts. WIPP, along with most in the contracting community, agrees that companies that follow the rules should not have to compete against companies that break them for federal contracts.

In May, the Labor Department and the FAR Council (overseers of contracting rulebook, “the FAR”) proposed how the President’s order would be implemented. It turns out, as with most things, the devil is in the details.

The proposed regulations require federal contractors and subcontractors to disclose violations of 14 federal labor laws and equivalent state laws from the previous three years. Exemptions were provided for companies with contracts valued less than $500,000. As proposed, prospective federal contractors would need to declare if they had labor violations in the previous three years when submitting an offer. During an initial evaluation, contracting officers would see that declaration (a simple “yes” or “no”), without any additional detail or explanation.

Later, if a contractor were likely to win an award, the contracting officer would have to decide if the contractor is a responsible company (a requirement of all government contracts already). It is in this phase that details like appeals, remediation, or mitigating factors could be explained. Contracting officers will attempt to identify companies with “serious”, “willful”, “repeated”, and/or “pervasive” violations and not award them contracts. Companies with minor violations could still be considered responsible and win contracts.

WIPP responded to the regulation during the public comment period expressing concerns with the new system and how it could negatively impact women-owned businesses, including those who had no history of unsafe or unfair work practices.

Notably, the proposals were incomplete as the Labor Department and FAR Council chose not to include what state labor law violations must be reported. It is impossible to gauge the impact of a regulation – the reason for comments– when missing significant portions.

What was in the proposals, however, was equally concerning. WIPP’s comment discusses how, in some cases, violations that require reporting will not be be fully adjudicated. That is, companies would have to report decisions against them that may ultimately be overturned – as nearly a third of NLRB decisions have been.

This is compounded by WIPP’s worry that simply having violations on record will “blacklist” companies without providing any opportunity to offer explanation. With limited resources and time, contracting officers may elect to avoid companies with any disclosed violations, despite the intent of the order to only bar violations of a certain severity.

The comment also considers burdens on subcontractors who similarly must report violation history, and the lack of resources the government may face to answer questions about weighing different labor violations. Moreover, the onus to collect and judge subcontractor violations falls to primes, a strategy the Labor Department itself questions.

WIPP’s final concern is that this rule is one of many in a disconcerting trend of new regulations that specifically target federal contractors. Earlier this year, regulations raised the minimum wage solely for workers on federal contracts. New requirements regarding sick leave are expected to come later this year. These make contracting with the federal government more onerous, particularly for women entrepreneurs seeking to enter the market.

Without question, WIPP supports efforts by the federal government to rid the contracting environment of businesses with a history of abusive and neglectful violations. In doing so, the government levels the playing field for the millions of businesses playing by the rules. But the proposals commented on will not achieve this goal. Instead, they will make it harder to be a contractor – pushing the innovative products and services of women-owned businesses out of the federal market.

NWBC Survey Analysis Shows Women-Owned Business Growth Soars

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The National Women’s Business Council has released its analysis of the 2012 Survey of Business Owners and while the growth rate for new businesses has slowed down, that is not the case for women-owned firms. The rate of growth of women-owned businesses is almost FOUR TIMES the rate of businesses owned by men. The results show that there were nearly 10 million women-owned small businesses in the US in 2012, a 27.5% increase since 2007. There is also a huge spike in minority women business ownership. The analysis also shows that In 2012, women-owned firms with employees paid their employees $290.5 billion- a $75.8 billion or 35.3% increase since 2007.

For more information, check out several articles written on the analysis:

Click here to view the National Women’s Business Council Fact Sheet.