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. 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.
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. 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. Outreach for any disparity study should be well communicated in the area covered by the disparity study so that small businesses participate in the process and provide supporting anecdotal testimony. Disparity studies have consequences for all small businesses, especially women owned businesses. For that reason, groups, such as WCOE and other related organizations, must be engaged so they can assist in getting the message out to those underrepresented groups.
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/EDWOSB 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. The personal net worth requirement under the EDWOSB program further restricts the ability of a EDWOSB 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 EDWOSB would be hard-pressed to bid a contract for more than $2–$3 million. The NAICS code and net worth limit restricts the growth of WOSB and EDWOSB companies in the construction industry and should be eliminated.
Supports the Addition of a WOSB Subcontracting Goal
WCOE supports a component to encourage WOSB subcontracting opportunities. Increasing the goals to 10% for subcontracting will increase opportunities for women owned businesses.
WCOE Supports Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment
The Constitution does not guarantee equal rights to women. Most Americans would be surprised to find that it does not. Women deserve to be protected under our Constitution with an equality guarantee that cannot be undermined, taken away or disregarded. “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” It is time for passage of this amendment.
WCOE Supports Women’s Pay Equity: Equal Pay for Equal Work
Equal Pay for equal work. It is time to put the issue of gender-based pay discrimination to rest. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 and despite its passage, substantial pay inequities persist. Full time working women earn only 79 cents for every dollar a man receives. This gap increases for Latina and African American women (56 and 64 cents), respectively. Women make up nearly half the population and many are the sole providers for their families. This makes gender pay discrimination a family issue. The issue is real and negatively impacts women and families. Passing a federal Law like the Paycheck Fairness Act would help protect everyone in all states. But until that happens, each state will continue operating under antiquated regulations and piecemeal state and local laws to combat unequal pay. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a comprehensive bill that strengthens the Equal Pay Act by taking meaningful steps to create incentives for employers to follow the law, empower women to negotiate for equal pay, and strengthen federal outreach and enforcement efforts. The Paycheck Fairness Act is an overdue refresh to the 1963 law that will help to ensure that all working women get equal pay for equal work.
WCOE Supports the Construction of the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM)
On December 12, 2014, WCOE was present when Congress approved a commission to study and produce a plan for the creation of a plan for a privately funded national women’s history museum in Washington DC. This step took more than 20 years. The time for study is over. Women have been significant contributors to the American story and deserve to have those accomplishments recognized. Of course, WCOE would like to see it built using all women-owned firms!