Why You Should Celebrate the Women’s Procurement Program Even If You Are Not A Federal Contractor

Why You Should Celebrate the Women’s Procurement Program Even If You Are Not A Federal Contractor

I was having dinner with a friend recently and she said “enough already” about the women’s procurement program.  She doesn’t want to be a federal contractor and so all of WIPP’s attention to this program seems a bit much to her.  Not at all surprising, but I would submit this “case study” is applicable to every woman business owner even if you never plan to be a contractor.  Below is a list of lessons learned from this 11-year journey, which I hope you will find helpful in your business or policy organization.

  • Women Business Owners Won.  If there is ever any doubt in your mind whether the Congress listens to women business owners, think no further.  Women business owners are the sole reason behind this program from passage of the law to implementation by SBA.   If you are a woman business owner, this victory is yours.
  • The Importance of a Strategy.  While passion is required for good advocacy, strategy makes the difference between success and failure.  In the case of this program, we had to know how to play the Congressional rules to our advantage.  We had to build a record, know when to mobilize, when to push and put in place a program to increase the number of women interested in contracting.
  • A Lesson In Perseverance.  It took eleven years to make this happen.  This goes to show that even though making changes in government are not necessarily fast, persistence will result in change.  This lesson applies to anyone running a business.
  • Mobilizing Many Voices Works.  If you want to affect change in your community, state or national level, assemble a large coalition of supporters.  While one or two people can make inroads, a coalition will make change possible.  In this case, millions of women spoke out and many, many organizations registered their support.
  • Take Criticism With A Grain of Salt.  Someone once wisely stated that if you are an effective leader, you will be criticized.  In this case, while we did everything we could to minimize animosity, pushing for change subjected us to criticism within the government.  But that just comes with the territory.  Don’t let it derail you.
  • Find Your Champions.  In the case of this program, women Members of Congress really stepped up to the plate.  A majority of women in the House supported implementation of a good program and every single women Senator supported us.  Even though women are not the majority in Congress in terms of numbers, they pack a mighty punch.  There were also many unsung heros that worked behind the scenes to help. Elected officials are not the only ones who will step up to be champions.
  • Repeat Your Message Often.  Even though you think the whole world knows your message and can recite it word for word, think again.  Studies show that it takes in the range of 25-40 repetitions to learn.  WIPP and its coalition partners repeated the message that women needed this program to succeed in government contracting and we kept repeating it to Congress, federal agencies, and the White House for 11 years.
  • It Takes Leaders Are You One?  There is no question that without leadership within the women’s business community, this program would simply have died due to unanswered opposition.   Women who head women’s business organizations provided leadership at the national level. Individual women business owners who are influential in their communities provided leadership at the local level.  Hundreds of thousands of women business owners responded to action alerts, sent letters when asked, visited their legislators and supported organizations like WIPP who provided the united voice.

Now That We Have the Program, We Need Your Help To Make It Work.   Getting this program in place is just the first step although it took 11 years.  Now the challenge lies ahead- making it work.  That will require visits to the federal agencies and local SBAs to promote the program.  It will require identification of contracts which could be utilizing this program.  It will require educating women on the specifics of the program.  If you don’t want to become a contractor, consider supporting the women who do.  They will be there for you when you need their voice on your issue.  And don’t forget to celebrate- you won.

Barbara Kasoff is the President and CEO, and Co-Founder of Women Impacting Public Policy, Inc., a non-profit, nonpartisan public policy advocacy organization with over half a million members including 54 business organizations, educating and advocating on economic issues for women in business.  For more information visit www.wipp.org.

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