Women Construction Owners and Executives, USA (WCOE) is a national association representing women owners and executives in the construction industry. Women business owners have historically been and continue to be disadvantaged in their ability to obtain contracts, capital, bonding, and access to market opportunities. This is especially true in non-traditional fields such as construction. WCOE advocates for laws and regulations that will create a level playing field for women business owners in the construction industry.
Opposition to Self-Certification
WCOE opposes self-certification of women participating in any federal program that promotes the use of women owned businesses. Self-certification exposes the programs to fraud and abuse. Without a required certification program, the Government is more likely than not to award contracts to ineligible firms. When contracting officers award contracts to firms that are self-certified, they risk undermining the purpose of the program which is By way of example, the WOSB program regulations do not require sufficient independent analysis to prove that WOSB firms are economically disadvantaged or primarily controlled by women. As a result, millions of dollars in WOSB program awards go to firms that are ineligible. This conclusion is supported by an evaluation report prepared by the Office of the Inspector General in May 2015. WCOE recommends that the SBA require certification of women owned businesses by a Federal agency, a State or local government certifying agency, or a national certifying entity.
Continued Support of DOT’s DBE Program
The Department of Transportation has been the premier small and economically disadvantaged business participation program. They have established a single set of guidelines recognized throughout the country and a serious and thorough certification process. Their DBE program focuses on building small companies and their capacity through an aggressive subcontracting program. It should be noted that while many federal agencies are unable or unwilling to focus on DBE contracting opportunities, DOT does an excellent job and frequently meets its goals. In the last year or so, it has been troubling that some recipient agencies of the DOT are attempting to exclude Caucasian women from the program. With the lack of contracting opportunities for women still a challenge in this country, we urge Congress to protect the DOT’s DBE program and ensure that all recipients of DOT funding also honor the requirements of that program.
Supports the Promotion of WOSB Procurement Set Aside Program
While minorities and veterans enjoy a status of small business programs without regard to NAICS codes, only the WOSB program is restricted to dollar amounts based on NAICS code. Personal net worth restricts the ability of a WOSB to ever bid on a project greater than 2–3 times their net worth as construction bonding requires personal indemnification for every contract. Thus, a WOSB would be hard-pressed to bid a contract for more than $2–$3 million. The net worth limit actually will restrict the growth of WOSB’s companies in the construction industry.
Supports the Addition of a WOSB subcontracting goal
The WOSB program is restricted to set-aside work to prime contractors only. WCOE also supports a component to encourage WOSB subcontracting opportunities. While every unrestricted competition has a requirement for subcontracting opportunities, we feel increasing the goals to 10% for subcontracting, will increase opportunities for women owned businesses. The WOSB program is restricted to prime contractors only. WCOE also supports a component to encourage WOSB subcontracting opportunities. The US DOT has a long-standing program of counting subcontractor participation in a large 10% goal which could easily be replicated within the WOSB program.
Barriers Continue to Exist to the Inclusion of WBEs in Government Contracting
The fate of WBEs and their ability to compete for government contracts rests on the results of properly conducted disparity studies that seek to represent all groups denied opportunities, including WBEs. Outreach for any disparity study should be well communicated in the area covered by the disparity study. An open, transparent and thorough collection of data for any disparity study is key to obtaining legitimate results regarding challenges identified groups still face when competing for government contracts. Opportunities for small businesses to provide supporting anecdotal testimony must also be provided as part of this process. The transparent reporting of the methodology used to collect and analyze data is key to the valid and reliable interpretation of this data. The outcome of the final data analysis will have far-reaching consequences for all small businesses, especially women owned businesses. For that reason, WCOE strongly supports oversight to ensure a transparent reporting of the data collection and analysis processes to ensure that any disparity found is accurate. Groups, such as WCOE and other related organizations, must be engaged so that it can assist in getting the message out to those underrepresented groups.