A long delayed move to boost federal contracts for women-owned businesses comes up far too short, critics say.
The Small Business Administration's long awaited plan to boost federal contracting for women-owned businesses will help only a fraction of the nation's women entrepreneurs, lawmakers and business groups say.
The proposed plan, which was unveiled last week after seven years of studies, allows federal contracting officials to give preference to small businesses owned by women in a handful of industries identified as "underrepresented" in the procurement process. The contracts would only be available to economically disadvantaged women.
The move is aimed at achieving a legislated target of awarding five percent of all federal contracting dollars every year to women-owned businesses.
"This proposed rule provides a constitutionally-acceptable means to address the identified underrepresentation. This is progress," the SBA said in a statement.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), the chairwomen of the House Small Business Committee, said the plan will benefit "only a tiny fraction" of women business owners. "To suggest that the only women who deserve support are in industries as small as kitchen cabinet manufacturing is downright insulting," Velazquez said in a statement.
"The Bush Administration's proposed rule is a slap in the face to women business owners," said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
According to Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, women make up 30 percent of the nation's business owners, but receive just three percent of federal contracts.