Press Releases

DelBene Bill Supports Women-Owned Small Businesses

At a time when women make up half of the workforce, women-owned businesses still face challenges.

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Washington, DC, November 17, 2015 | comments

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) today introduced legislation aimed at giving women entrepreneurs equal treatment when it comes to starting and growing their own businesses.

The Women’s Small Business Ownership Act would improve access to lending and increase business counseling and training services for women entrepreneurs, and give women-owned businesses the same level of access to federal contracts as other disadvantaged groups.

“We are making progress, but we know that many women-owned businesses still do not have equal access to economic opportunity,” DelBene said. “We need to do more to advance an economic agenda that supports women, both as business owners and as workers. As a former businesswoman and entrepreneur, I know firsthand that when women get the tools and the opportunity to succeed, America’s economy is stronger.”

The legislation, which DelBene originally introduced in 2014, adopts recommendations from the “21st Century Barriers to Women’s Entrepreneurship” report, which showed significant barriers for women looking to start or grow their own business. The report highlighted how women-owned businesses represent a $3 trillion economic force and support 23 million jobs, but still face significant barriers compared to their male-owned counterparts. Women entrepreneurs account for just $1 out of every $23 in small business lending, despite representing 30 percent of all small companies. They are also more likely to be turned down for loans or face less favorable terms than men.

To address those gaps, the legislation would:

  • Increase funding for the Women’s Business Center (WBC) program to expand and improve counseling and training services to reach more women entrepreneurs, especially in low-income areas. The centers assist 150,000 clients annually, and helped women access more than $25 million in capital in fiscal year 2013. The legislation would reauthorize the program through 2020 and nearly double the annual funding, to $250,000 per WBC.
  • Simplify the processes for program application and grants, reduce the paperwork burden on small-business owners, and increase transparency by requiring the creation of a peer review system in the accreditation program.

The Women’s Small Business Ownership Act has received strong support from key stakeholders including Women Impacting Public Policy, the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, the Association of Women’s Business Centers, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Venture Capital Association and 32 community development organizations from 20 states.

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