Whether They Need It Or Not, Women Business Owners Get More SBA Help

Last Updated Oct 4, 2010 9:33 PM EDT

Sorry, Mark.

On behalf of women business owners everywhere, I'm flattered -- I am! -- that you think we're a powerful lobby. (We do have the indisputable mom moral high ground.)

But here's a splash of cold water on your contention that women business owners have arrived: on Monday the Small Business Administration released year-to-date lending stats. Women-owned businesses got less than they did in 2008 -- a lot less. In 2008, women business owners got 18% of the approved 7(a) and ARC loans. In 2010 so far, they got 14%. Fewer women applied for loans: they accounted for 23% of the applications in 2008 and 18% in 2010.

You may think that women showed common sense as the economy crashed and took even fewer economic risks than usual. You could argue -- as I would -- that more women worked longer at their day jobs and with husbands laid off, gee, just didn't have time, energy or bandwidth to start a business too. You could also posit that gutted home equity wasn't there any more to collateralize SBA loans (though the total amount of SBA lending actually rose a little, to $12.4 billion.) But the fact remains: of the money doled out, women got less. While, as we all know, federal spending shot to the heavens.

Ensuring that women get a fair shot at contracts is a priority for the Obama administration, which actually made some progress on that point as stimulus money was doled out, as I reported in June. SBA execs I interviewed then said they were going to apply those lessons to the whole system.

Announced on Monday, here's what that looks like:
  • The new SBA contract compliance rules sweep in 83 industries in which women-owned small businesses are under-represented in federal contracts, both in dollars and the number of businesses
  • Set-asides are for manufacturing contracts worth up to $5 million and for other business categories, up to $3 million
  • Women-owned businesses can self-certify through an online site accessible to all federal contracting officers (Glad I'm sitting down. This sounds like efficiency.)
  • Every agency's compliance will be monitored by the SBA, replicating its success with stimulus disbursements.
So, Mark, there you have it. Your tax dollars at work...finally....for the women business owners you know.
  • Joanne Cleaver

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