Tuesday, Dec. 7 U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced that the SBA intends to elevate its Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) to directly report to the Office of the Administrator. Under Administrator Guzman, the SBA has expanded the number of Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) to a record 140 locations nationwide. These WBCs offer a network of extensive on-the-ground resources that include free to low-cost counseling, training, business development technical assistance and are dedicated to assisting women entrepreneurs to start, grow, and expand their enterprises.
“In 1972, there were a little over 400,000 women-owned businesses in the United States. Today, there are over 12 million proving that women entrepreneurs have become the fastest growing and one of the most impactful segments of the business community,” said Administrator Guzman. “While there has been historic progress in women’s entrepreneurship, significant disparities still persist, impacting women entrepreneurs’ access to resources and opportunity, especially in the face of the economic challenges posed by COVID. That is why I am proud to advance the mission of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership and reaffirm our commitment to America’s women-owned small businesses.”
“Female entrepreneurs are integral to the American economy, starting new businesses at high rates and employing millions. But COVID dealt a severe blow to women-owned businesses, and we can’t afford to leave them behind,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee. “I’m pleased to see the Biden-Harris Administration prioritizing driving recovery for these small firms and addressing longstanding inequities for women entrepreneurs. I look forward to continuing to work with Administrator Guzman to eliminate obstacles for women in the small business sector and ensure they are in a position to thrive.”
As the fastest-growing entrepreneurial segment in the country, the high growth in entrepreneurship amongst multicultural women is particularly noteworthy. Data from the SBA’s Office of Advocacy found that between 2014 and 2016, the number of employer firms owned by women grew six percent, twice the growth rate of employer firms owned by men. This exponential growth was mainly driven by an increase in employer businesses owned by minority women, which grew 14 percent in that time.
“It is an honor to lead OWBO during this historic time of entrepreneurial growth for women, and when supporting them through recovery and ensuring that women small business owners are positioned for the future is so imperative. I look forward to working directly with Administrator Guzman to keep the concerns of women, especially those from underserved and disadvantaged communities, at the forefront of SBA’s executive leadership, initiatives, and programming, and I am grateful for her championship of this fast-growing and critical segment of American small businesses,” said Natalie Madeira Cofield, Assistant Administrator, Office of Women’s Business Ownership, U.S. Small Business Administration.
“I energetically join the Biden-Harris Administration and Administrator Guzman in full support of this monumental change and in recognizing OWBO’s demonstrated and results-driven support of women entrepreneurship,” added Mark Madrid, Associate Administrator of the SBA Office of Entrepreneurial Development. “The elevation of the Office of Women’s Business Ownership, when implemented, will align with this priority and our commitment to the enduring success of the Women’s Business Center network.”
This announcement comes after the release of the first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality commissioned by the White House outlining objectives and priorities for obtaining equity for women.
“Women entrepreneurs are key to spurring innovation and supporting local economies and families across the country. That is why it’s so important that we continue to invest in women-owned businesses and give them the tools they need to succeed and grow. The elevation of this office sends a clear signal of this Administration’s commitment to ensure an equitable economic recovery, putting women at the forefront of our efforts to build back better for everyone. The White House Gender Policy Council looks forward to an ongoing strong partnership with the Office of Women’s Business Ownership in the months and years ahead,” said Jennifer Klein, Deputy Assistant to the President and Co-Chair and Executive Director of the WH Gender Policy Council.
“We are thankful for the progress that our nation has made since the establishment of OWBO within the SBA in 1979 and the creation of the Women’s Business Center Program in 1988,” Corinne Hodges, CEO of the Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC) noted. “Women business owners are responsible for nearly $2 trillion in revenues and millions of well-paying American jobs. There can be no doubt that they deserve a seat at every economic table, and for that reason, we support elevating the Office of Women’s Business Ownership at the Small Business Administration to a direct report to the Administrator. We hope this realignment will enable streamlined access to information and communication for the WBC program, which in turn will benefit our network of 140 WBCs and the tens of thousands of entrepreneurs they serve.”
Women entrepreneurs play a key role in society and the economy. Yet, they remain underrepresented in a myriad of key factors, including access to capital, contracts, and connections. Led by OWBO, the SBA will lead the way in assisting women-owned businesses in leveraging government resources – including recently announced opportunities through an equitable federal procurement strategy, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Build Back Better Act - to level the playing field.
Currently, the OWBO is an organizational component of the Office of Entrepreneurial Development. The SBA emphasizes that the reorganization is still in the planning stages and likely will not be finalized until the close of fiscal year 2022; however, Ms. Madeira Cofield will begin reporting to Administrator Guzman effective immediately. As legislated by Congress, Ms. Madeira Cofield’s title will remain unchanged.
Established by Executive Order in 1979 and codified through the Women’s Small Business Act of 1988, OWBO’s mission has been to empower women entrepreneurs through advocacy, outreach, education, and support. Under the leadership of Administrator Guzman, the SBA now has a record 140 Women’s Small Business Centers located nationwide. Recently, four new centers were added, with two in Puerto Rico, along with one in Tulsa, OK, and one in Rochester, NY.
Each WBC tailors its services to meet the needs of its specific business community and provides one-on-one counseling, training, networking, workshops, technical assistance, and mentoring to women entrepreneurs on numerous topics, including business startup, financial management, marketing, and procurement. To find WBC locations and additional SBA resources in your area, visit www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance.
Beyond the WBC network, the SBA provides contracting assistance and counseling through the 8(a) Business Development Program, which helps small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the marketplace, free online training to instruct women on how to grow their businesses with the Ascent learning platform, and assists women-owned small businesses to better compete for federal contracts through the Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program. To learn more about SBA’s programs and services for women entrepreneurs, visit www.sba.gov/women.
The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality. As a go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov.