On October 29, the Small Business Administration released a statement touting its progress in helping women business owners borrow money and secure federal contracts. It was the third such release the SBA had issued in less than a month. That same day, however, a group of women's business advocates released a statement of their own that detailed why they're suing the agency for not doing nearly enough. In the lawsuit, the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce alleges that the SBA has failed to comply with the Equity in Contracting for Women Act of 2000. That law pledges the government to raise the level of contracts it awards female contractors to 5%. As of now, only about 3% of federal contracts go to women, according to the National Women's Business Council. The Chamber's lawsuit focuses on one particular provision of the bill, which requires that the SBA identify industries in which women-run businesses are underrepresented in federal procurement. The SBA has not met its statutory obligation to set up a program to do this, Chamber CEO Margot Dorfman charges, even though a similar program for war veterans has been launched. Though SBA spokesperson Jennifer Foley says her office does not comment on litigation, she notes that the total value of contracts awarded to women increased by nearly 3% in fiscal year 2003, to $8.3 billion.
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