Women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) should now have greater access to federal contracts as a result of a long-awaited interim rule, published April 1, 2011, which provides guidelines for the WOSB program and allows contracting officers to set aside contracts for certified WOSBS and economically-disadvantaged WOSBs. To qualify for this new program, which helps agencies achieve the statutory goal of awarding five percent of federal contracting dollars to WOSBs, a WOSB must be more than 51% owned and controlled by women and must meet the regulatory definitions of a small business. In a March 31 web chat, Michele Chang of the SBA said that agencies are “teeing up opportunities” and the SBA expect contracts to be awarded in the fourth quarter, which is historically when the majority of small business contracts are awarded.

However, despite the momentum from these new regulations and the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) intent to provide WOSBs “with the oxygen they need to take their business to the next level,” until the SBA approves third-party certifiers, access to government contracts for non-8(a) WOSBs will be limited to a self-certifying entities and contingent upon the submission of a laundry list of corporate and other documentation for each procurement, thus imposing burdens on WOSBs and contracting officers.