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Obama’s Plan to Help Small Businesses: Women Experts Weigh In

April 26, 2010

A release from the White House Office of Media Affairs today announced that President Obama will take steps "to remove barriers to access and monitor goals for federal contracting with small businesses owned by women, minorities, veterans and those located in historically underserved communities." It’s about time the government caught up with the writing on the wall: the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce reports that the number of women-owned firms have grown at twice the rate as the number of male-owned firms. Progressive Women’s Voices alumna Margot Dorfman, CEO of The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, has been a leading advocate for women on economic and leadership issues, and is the vice president of the National Association of Small Business Contractors. It’s work like hers that has made this potentially groundbreaking change possible. We asked Dorfman for her input, along with other Progressive Women's Voices alumnae. What could this change really mean, and how does it reflect on President Obama's administration? MargotMargot Dorfman, CEO, U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce: "I am very pleased with the strong commitment President Obama has made today to improving access to federal contracts for women-owned small businesses.  Today, by Presidential Memorandum, President Obama established the "Interagency Task Force on Federal Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses" comprised of federal agency secretaries and directors, and the Chair of the Presiden'ts Council of Economic Advisors.  This most senior level task force is charged with providing to the President, in not later than 120 days, proposals and recommendations for using innovtive strategies to increase federal contracting opportunities for small businesses, removing barriers to small business participation, expanding outreach, establishing policies and reviewing existing policies, and using technology to improve transparency and accountability so as to allow the federal government to better collect, verify and confirm the accuracy of federal procurement data. This top down commitment is exactly what is needed to improve federal contracting opportunities for women-owned and small business contractors.  The U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce looks forward to working with President Obama and the Task Force to open the doors to opportunity for America's job creators - our small business community." Avis Jones DeWeever, Director, Research and Policy Center for African American Women at the National Council of Negro Women: "It is wonderful to see a firm commitment by this administration to inform and support small businesses owned by women and people of color.  Actions of this type are truly necessary to break the bonds of a persistent ole-boys network with new, fresh, innovative thinking relevant to the needs of expanding America's competitiveness in the global marketplace." Sally for blogSally Kohn, Founder and Chief Executive Agitator at Movement Vision Lab, mass movement expert and Huffington Post blogger: "How novel!  Democrats and Republicans have campaigned for decades on the backs of small businesses while lining their campaign coffers with big business donations and returning the favor through exclusive government contracts with giant corporate monopolies.  It's refreshing to see that the Obama Administration, which frequently touts small business as the 'engine of growth' in America is finally putting the pedal to the metal." Aimee Allison, Army veteran, political commentator and host of the daily Bay area KPFA Morning Show: "The White House has a special obligation to do business with veterans who have sacrificed their livelihood for extended tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This especially impacts women veterans, who bear the brunt of financial and emotional care of caring for their children.  Lip service isn't enough - the federal government must back up pronouncements of intention with real training, tracking, and businesses support to make sure federal dollars translate to an investment in our veterans." Christine_Trujillo2Christine Trujillo, President, New Mexico Federation of Labor-AFL-CIO: "I applaud the President's efforts to have government contract with women and minorities in pockets of poverty throughout the nation.  This will be a great opportunity to create jobs for many of our union members who have not been able to find construction jobs for over a year a half.  In addition, I would hope that these contracts include language that will ensure that those small businesses provide a living wage or allow for collective bargaining."