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.