New York lawmakers are pressing the U.S. Senate to pass a bill that would create more opportunities for women-owned small businesses seeking federal contracts.
On Monday, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside) were joined by Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows), state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) at Data Conversion Laboratory — a woman-run business.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the most powerful job creators we have,” Gillibrand said. “And the fact is, women are the primary income earner for a growing share of homes across America.”
According to the senator, while the number of women-owned small businesses continues to increase, they only receive 1.48 percent of all federal contract dollars.
In fact, 30 percent of Queens firms are owned by women, according to the latest Census data, and yet many have trouble landing federal contracting jobs.
“It’s time to knock down the barriers that for too long have blocked female entrepreneurs from doing more business with the federal government,” Meng, who is sponsoring a partner bill in the House, said. “Women-owned businesses have just as much right to federal contracts as all other businesses do.”
This is not the first time the federal government has made it a priority to promote contracting with women-owned small businesses.
More than 20 years ago, Congress set a goal of awarding 5 percent of federal contracts to women-owned businesses. Still, last year only 4.3 percent of contracts were awarded to those businesses.
If the 5 percent goal is reached, New York City women-owned small businesses would grow their revenue by $56 million, according to Gillibrand.
The legislation, called The Women’s Small Businesses Procurement Parity Act, would expand opportunities for women by providing greater access to sole-source contracts. It would also put women-owned small businesses in contact with groups that can help land them federal dollars.
“When we equip more Queens women entrepreneurs with access and opportunities to achieve their best in the economy, and their best for their family, that’s when America’s middle class will thrive again,” Gillibrand said. “Without a doubt, if given a fair shot, women-owned businesses will help grow our economy.”
According to Gillibrand and Meng, many federal contracts go to the largest companies in the country, which are overwhelmingly owned and operated by men.
The new legislation would promote using smaller businesses with an emphasis in partnering with women- and minority-owned companies.
Amy Williams, the chief operating officer of Data Conversion Laboratory, attested to the struggle women-owned businesses face when trying to obtain federal contracts.
“We have been given a few federal contracts, but never as the sole source,” she said. “This legislation will provide us with the tools to level the playing field.”