A landmark week for women entrepreneurs just got better. Just a day after announcing that federal government had finally met their goal of awarding 5% of contracts to Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs), the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced a significant expansion of the WOSB procurement program. When the last disparity study was completed in 2007, women were found to be underrepresented in federal contracting in 83 industries, thus making them eligible for participation in the WOSB program. In addition to pressing for sole source contracts, WIPP advocated for a new study to update eligible NAICS codes for the program. The study, completed by the Department of Commerce earlier this year, found that 113 industries and their corresponding NAICS codes are now eligible for the program. The changes take place immediately.
The study, The Utilization of Women-Owned Businesses in Federal Prime Contracting, found two very disturbing facts. One, that women are 21% less likely to get a government contract after solving for factors such as age and size of the business. Second, the industries in which WOSBs are less likely to win contracts account for about 85% of both total contracts and dollars awarded.
Find out whether or not your business is eligible for participation in the WOSB procurement program by checking your NAICS codes. Even though the program has quadrupled since 2011, expansion of the NAICS codes will result in even greater gains for women-owned businesses to participate in the public sector.
The contracting rulebook used by most federal agencies embraced the new sole source authority for women entrepreneurs. In the final step of a multi-year effort – with WIPP at the helm – the government gave the final green light for contracting officers to award sole source contracts to women business owners.
Deciding that finalizing the sole source authority of the WOSB program was an urgent and compelling need, the FAR Council issued an interim rule on December 31, 2015, to immediately allow contracting officers to award sole source contracts in the WOSB program. While the Small Business Administration (SBA) already finalized their rules for WOSB sole source on September 14, 2015, the FAR Council needed to issue guidance to contracting officers on how to use the program. This rule provides that guidance and is effective immediately. Notably, the FAR Council determined that sole source applies to acquisitions at or below the acquisition threshold.
As a reminder, sole source contracts are allowed in the WOSB program when four conditions are met:
Contract falls in a NAICS code approved for the WOSB program.
The value of the contract, including options, is under $4 million ($6.5 million for manufacturing contracts).
The contract can be awarded at a fair or reasonable price.
The contracting officer does not have a reasonable expectation that two or more WOSBs/EDWOSBs will submit offers at a fair and reasonable price.
The interim rule is available here, with comment due February 29, 2016. While a final rule will ultimately be issued, this rule makes sole source effective in the FAR as of December 31, 2015.