Women's business organizations plan to attend a U.S. Senate hearing today, to protest the Small Business Administration's choice of industrial sectors eligible for set-asides for women-owned businesses.In 1994, a law was passed to ensure that women-owned businesses (of which there are an estimated 10 million in the U.S.) received 5 percent of all federal contracts. But after 10 years, the proportion was still only at 3.4 percent. So in 2006, under contract to the SBA, the Rand Corporation launched a study to determine which industrial sectors women were under-represented in. Based on the study, the SBA came up with four (out of 2,300) areas in which contract set-asides would be available to women-owned businesses: national security consulting, printing and engraving, cabinet making, and some vehicle sales.
These results, and the SBA's proposal, were met with scorn and opposition by women's business groups and their allies. "I am very surprised at the small portion of the market that Rand focused upon," said Erin M. Fuller, executive director of the National Association of Women Business Owners. And Margot Dorfman, executive director of the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, said, "We have no idea how the SBA came up with these four sectors."Fortune via CNNMoney
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