Time to step up; realize the power we hold and balance out the inequality in contracting.
We know that women owned businesses make up less than 1% of all domestic and international suppliers to corporations and governments. But wait…Don’t women make up over 50% of the world’s population? What is happening here? Haven’t we made strides over all these years? Yes and No.
A recent American Express OPEN report states, woman-owned firms have increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011, a rate 1.5 times the national average. So, why has that fact not resulted in a corresponding increase in contracts with corporations and the government? I will get to that in a moment.
Ladies, do you realize that we control the purse strings of America? Women make 70% of the purchasing decisions in the USA but we’re barely a blip on the radar of contracting opportunities. We have immense power and corporations know we vote with our pocketbook. This is not to say that there aren’t awesome corporations who work very hard to identify and offer women in business a chance, they do exist. Do you know where to find these stellar corporations and consider purchasing their products and services?
You can look on the websites of WBENC and NMSDC to find their logos prominently placed. I make a conscious choice every day to support these organizations, as they have made a commitment to support us.
So why aren’t women getting a piece of the pie? I’ve been studying this dilemma and seen first- hand some of the key obstacles over the past 25-years. I would like to share my personal observations with you.
Many women think too small. They will say, “Oh, I just have a little business with 5 employees, I couldn’t possibly win a bid over my large competitors.” How do you think the “large competitors” got there? Reality check- all competitors started small.
Another reason women are having a hard time getting their foot in the door is a less than exemplary personal and professional record with 3rd party sources. A major corporation has a responsibility to assure that predictive indicators of your integrity & ethics are up to their standards. Your personal credit report, financial data, socio-economic information, business identification and references need to be free of negative information. Be aware, your social media activities can also be closely scrutinized. Nothing is secret on the Web!
Rapid growth is very challenging for women owned firms. Many times women are denied larger lines of corporate credit in comparison to their counterparts. Women need to develop a strong relationship with their banking institution and continue to increase their lines of credit. Rapid growth can be a company killer without proper planning, close compliance with regulations and liability prevention.
When a woman lands their first contract with a Fortune 1000 or governmental organization, ideally she should have a mentor to help her jump through the unexpected hurdles that occur. It’s also advisable to practice Supplier Diversity within your own organization. Implement a formal program and offer priority to other women and minority owned companies. Track each dollar and vendor. Many Fortune 1000 corporations require that you track your spend and report this information monthly. Start now to develop a track record.
With careful planning and utilizing tools like WBE certification, women owned firms are well positioned for exceptional growth. Woman owned business offer powerful benefits to corporations. We run our companies with lower cost structures, offer more creative approaches to situations, can adjust our company practices on a dime and we are extremely loyal customers to the corporations.
It’s time that we insisted on equality in contracting opportunities but we must step up to the plate as well. Corporations and the government are searching for quality vendors who have been properly vetted. That means applying for WBE certification and showing up for contracting events.
Only receiving one percent of contracting dollars is simply unacceptable. We have the power and abilities to make a huge difference in the lives of women and their families. You can help…even if it’s just making the decision to buy products from those who support women owned firms.