ChallengeHER 2015 Update … Fall Edition

A substantial part of Women Impacting Public Policy’s (WIPP) Federal Procurement Programming lies undoubtedly with ChallengeHER. ChallengeHER is an educational program, which provides women business owners with the guidance to better compete for federal contracts under the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program.

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In order to provide as much impact as possible and to get women business owners together with federal buyers, ChallengeHER events are being held in several cities and states throughout 2015. As the year is progressing toward the fall season, several events have already been held (e.g. Washington D.C., New York, Dallas, Atlanta, New Hampshire), but many more are still scheduled until the end of the year. And what can participants expect?

ChallengeHER provides women around the United States with the most important, standardized knowledge and guidance in the federal marketplace and an opportunity to:

  • Learn about the WOSB set aside program and how to market their business using this set aside.
  • Learn from experiences and best practices of successful WOSBs working as federal contractors.
  • Find out from federal buyers how to do business with their agency in Federal Buyer’s Panel.
  • Participate in one-on-one matchmaking sessions with federal buyers at most events.
  • Learn about the new Sole Source Authority rule! More information on SBA’s announcement integrating a sole source component into the WOSB procurement program starting October 14, 2015, can be found here.
  • Network with peer mentors and other WOSB and Economically Disadvantaged Women-Owned Small Business (EDWOSB) firms.

Some of the participants’ feedback:

BlogPost“I am glad I was able to attend ChallengeHER. The speakers were great and very informative.” – Attendee from New Hampshire event

“ChallengeHER provided me with pathway to applying for federal contracts and becoming a successful women business owner.” – Attendee from Atlanta event

“I truly appreciate the information shared. It provoked me to think differently about how I was running mBlogPosty business. I was so inspired I even recorded the speech.” – Attendee from Atlanta event

“As well as strong individual speakers, it was particularly helpful to have “panels” that provided different perspectives at once.” – Attendee from NYC event

Registration for upcoming events is available for:

More events to come will be held in Central New Jersey, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Orlando in Florida throughout November and early December 2015.

ChallengeHER aims not only to provide one time learning experience but also to build a standing long-term knowledge and support base for its participants. Therefore additional resources are available for attendees both before and after the event:

  1. To prepare and get ready for discussions and topics covered during the event by listening the following courses:
  2. To follow up on gained knowledge and sort out where to go from there, by following 10 Quick Steps for guidance to successful federal contracting.

For those of you, who are not familiar with the program, here is some basic information:

ChallengeHER, an initiative from the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA), WIPP, and American Express OPEN (OPEN), is designed to strengthen and promote the Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contract Program. ChallengeHER offers women business owners important information to established and new businesses on working with the federal government. Further, these events enable more women business owners to take advantage of contracting opportunities so they can boost their businesses and help propel the success of the WOSB Procurement Program.

For more information on upcoming events and news visit our website and connect with us online on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

“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.