The Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering a new online training course that caters to women business owners. Entitled 'Winning Federal Contracts: A Guide for Women Entrepreneurs,' the course is designed to help female entrepreneurs learn about the federal procurement process.

Using the course's self-paced scripted and audio guide, women are educated about contract rules, given suggestions on where to find contracts, and offered proposals about how to sell to the government. This initiative is a byproduct of an August announcement by the Obama administration, which asserted that it would be committed to promoting federal contracting opportunities to women- and minority-owned small businesses.

According to Jim O'Connor, director of the SBA's small business training network, the course is designed to "enable women to better understand" the process of obtaining federal contracts. "It's designed not only to provide an overview, but also to provide links to resources," he said. "We covered all the basics in the procurement arena, with particular focus on how to win recovery-based contracts."

Though in 1994, the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) was established, which set a goal for federal agencies to award at least 5 percent of federal contracts to women-owned small businesses, the actual percentage has not risen above 3.4-percent (representing $14 billion in contracts in FY08).

Barbara Kasoff, who is the president, CEO and co-founder of the non-profit public policy advocacy organization Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), in addition to being a member of the National Women's Business Council (NWBC), said that she would absolutely recommend this training course to women entrepreneurs.

Kasoff explained that WIPP's members are women business owners, and her organization's focus is to work with them on economic issues, like business growth. "That's why this [program] is so critical to us," she said. "We have a vested interest in this, and we work closely with the SBA, and the women's centers, and corporations to put together these tools."

With over 2,300 participants in the first 14 days of the course, O'Connor said his organization is pleased with the positive feedback, so far. He affirmed that the SBA is committed to helping agencies achieve that 5 percent goal for this fiscal year. "We have a number of new outreach programs to help women understand the procurement process through our women's business centers, and we also have a training exercise that will be completed soon," he added.